Writing is but one way of playing connect-the-dots. Sometimes you get lucky and your ideas take form. Sometimes you fail and you fail so terribly.
Sean has his own addendum:
Writing is connecting the dots...without the numbers.
These sentiments express how I've been feeling with my own little side project right now. It's a non-revenue-generating writing challenge which I feel I just have to try to meet, though it'll likely get shot down again.
I have the plot in mind, but getting the approach was a bit hard to pin down. After several false starts, I ended up with the following:
Bartok the One-Eyed was, by and large, a simple and good-natured fellow. However, there were two things that he hated with a fierce passion.
First on the list were dragons. Bartok and dragons did not mix well, yet it seemed that they had been fated by the stars to cross paths again and again.
It started early on in Bartok's life: Bartok's mother and father, settlers on the frontier, were killed by a green dragon while they were tilling their fields. His uncle, who took him in, was eaten by a ferocious pack of brown dragons while hunting in the forest.
With this run of bad luck, it came as no surprise that Bartok felt about dragons the way he did. If he had his way, he would have left the frontier and been done with dragons forever. But an orphan in the frontier did not have too many options and he soon found himself indentured to a band of dragon hunters. Still, he took to his new career as a dragon hunter quite well, because it allowed him to vent all his frustration and anger on the creatures themselves.
In time, Bartok became a dragon hunter of some renown. His knowledge of dragon lore was without peer. He devised various tricks to lure the beasts. He led other hunters on expeditions to seek out the bigger dragons. And he knew well enough when to leave them alone. In a profession notorious for pitifully short life spans, Bartok thus became one of the rare exceptions.
However, after rambling on for a few more paragraphs without getting to the meat of the story, I decided to abandon the that beginning. Ultimately, I ended up with the following:
As everyone knows, the only thing a brown swamp dragon likes better than corn beetles is roasted corn beetles coated in honey. A swamp dragon can single out its sickly sweet aroma over the effluvium of its natural habitat and come bolting out of its nest.
That was the case with one such swamp dragon. Having caught a whiff, it dashed towards the treat, taking only a cursory look at its surroundings to see that no other predators were about. It snapped the caramelized insect into its mouth and munched greedily, unmindful of the steel trap that dropped over it.
"That about makes it an even dozen, Master Bartok," said the lanky youth. "Look at the size of her. She'll probably fetch five dinaari at the fair, don't you think?"
The young hunter reached into the cage and held the swamp dragon by its neck. The dragon stared dumbly at its captor, made a feeble attempt at a puff of methane, and promptly gave up. Its eyes rolled stupidly. Swamp dragons were about the size of a turkey but only half as smart. Catching them was easy.
"Time enough for a couple more, Pelias," the grizzled old master grunted at his apprentice.
"Awww, master! We've had a good run with the fat ones all day. We're laden enough, we'll have a hard time bringing them out of the swamp. Besides, we'll miss the opening of the fair."
Bartok relented with a gruff nod, and Pelias gleefully began disassembling the trap. Having finished that, the master and the apprentice lifted their respective loads of captured swamp dragons. The dragons were strung upside-down by their feet, wings bound so they wouldn't struggle, and mouths clamped so they wouldn't belch their smelly emissions.
The trip to the village would ordinarily have been filled with the excited chatter of Pelias, but his enthusiasm this time around was severely dampened by heavy thoughts. Bartok, unused to the silence, finally brought to surface the matter that weighed heavily on his apprentice.
"So is it final?" Bartok said. "Ye'll be taking your leave after the fair?"
"Aye, sir," Pelias said heavily. "Father's been more vocal in his objections. Says dragon hunters are a joke nowadays. So he'll be apprenticin' me to Marius the Blacksmith. Says I need to learn a proper trade."
"Can't say I blame him," Bartok said darkly. "No respect bein' a dragon hunter anymore. Not like the old days when the giant beasts roamed free. Now they're mostly dead, and so are we."
"Do you wish for the old days back?" asked Pelias innocently.
"No, no, no!" Bartok said vehemently. "Hunting dragons was dead serious business then, more danger than you can imagine. I'd rather be safe in my old age. Though I can't say that I wish for a little more respect and gratitude from folks."
"All the same, I'd much rather be with you, Master Bartok," Pelias said. "You've taught me a lot. Lessons I'm not likely to forget. I...thank you."
Still in search for the right one, though. Back to the keyboard.
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