Monthly Archives: October 2008

Plotting in tandem

Everyone knows you dream up a plot, write it down and then check it works afterwards. Where it doesn’t, you tweak it till it’s okay.

That’s fine with one author, but as I said before, the author of Scordril – Kelsey Drake – is two of us. That halves the trouble sometimes and doubles the trouble at others. Let me explain.

When you’re desperately thinking up what could happen next that would be interesting and exciting, being one person can be hard. But with two of us working together, I can tell you it was the most fun possible! 

This is how it worked. We threw suggestions at each other and then made them twice as good by altering them. After that, we wrote reminders of these events on pieces of card, labelled 1, 2, 3 etc. When we’d worked out the detail of each event, we wrote it as As and Bs and Cs between the main numbers. This helped us keep track of the story, so that it wouldn’t matter who ended up writing that section. We both kept a copy of the cards and it worked fine.

So what was the trouble that doubled?

Well, this was really logistics – the “getting it written” bit. When one of us finished writing, we had to send the new work (not often a whole chapter, just a few thousand words till we felt like stopping) via email to the other person. 

Easy? Not at all. The second person might read and disagree with some words or phrases, and then they’d mark up their suggested changes in red or green to stand out. Then we’d have to meet up somewhere for coffee (with a print-out) and go through it until we agreed. Next, someone had to record the final version in the master copy. And that was all before the second person could start writing their own section! 

It sometimes felt that we did more electronic faffing than writing. It was twice the trouble – but believe me, it made the book stronger and better.

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The Great Chamber at Traprain

So what does a dragon Great Chamber look like? Even Scordril was curious to find out after all they’d been through to get into Traprain Law, so we’ll take a peek with him as he goes in:

There, before Scordril, was the entrance to the Great Chamber. An ornate wooden door covered in jewels and metal stood open. His dragonsight was dazzled by copper and silver swirls shaped into dragons, with stones – dragonblood-red – as eyes. This was the place he had read of in the Chronicles. The door even smelled of ancient dragon magic. Scordril almost ran forward, his eyes whirring, to see what it was like inside, just stopping himself at the last. You are older than an eager youngone! And a mage! he told himself, but his excitement was real.

The leading dragons had entered the chamber, down several wide steps. He could see over their heads. He let his breath out in astonishment, as a flickering stream of tiny golden flames…

A curving hall, carved from the rock by dragonbreath, spread out before him, like a bigger version of the Great Hall at home, but otherwise as unlike Musselburgh as a fish is to an eagle. Scordril had never seen anything like it. The walls and floor were coloured! Even in the poor, flickering light from three golden torches hung on the wall opposite the door, he could see that much.

The floor was more vibrant than the colour of the soil in the fields between Musselburgh and the Law. It was a warm red-brown, worn with years of treading claws, and trailing tails, deepening to a rich orange-red around the fire-pit sunk in the middle of the floor. Scordril slowed to a standstill at the foot of the steps, barely noticing that other Musselburgh dragons did the same. The colour ran up the walls and changed in shade, paler in places, then richer like a mix of autumn leaves, blending into the contours of the melted rocks. But the section of wall with the torches was darkest, vivid, blood red and sparkling with specks of gold, a shimmering metallic dust of real gold. 

It wouldn’t do to tell you what happened next. But it was far worse than anything they’d been through so far. If you want to know what Traprain Law looks like from the outside, you can see pictures on the main website here.

Author visit and book signing

We have arranged two events that will let people get to know Scordril better. 

The first is an author visit to a mixed class of Year 5/6 at St Mary’s Primary School in Haddington, East Lothian (lucky people – they can see Traprain Law from their windows and have already bought books for their library and are reading the story to the class in question). This is on Wednesday 12 November, so we’d best get started working on a plan for this. We’re really looking forward to it.

The other event is a book signing at Borders in Team Valley, Gateshead. Their children’s department is huge, so we are looking forward to meeting lots of families there. That date is Saturday 13 December. Scordril would make a wonderful Christmas present so the timing is spot on. We’re dreaming up an activity that can run at the time of the signing. There are so many things we could organise that we’re a bit spoiled for choice. If you’re around in Gateshead that day, do drop in and say hi.

Do books need themes?

Some people would say no, and that’s fine. Some authors want to write about hope or hate, for instance, so they think up a plot that shows their ideas.

What did we do in Scordril? We started with a plot idea and then realised that emphasising the themes would make the plot better. So our book shows up:

distrust and the damage caused by it 

courage to do what’s right 

getting on with others who are different

loyalty. 

Our lead dragon, Scordril, has to go to a cavern where the chronicles are kept and read through the relevant entries from 100 years before, in order to work out what happened at the Great Split, when some dragons from Traprain Law layr went off to start a new layr at Musselburgh. The Split involved Jarl and something he’d done, and also a threat from nightdragons and wingriders.

These bits of information help the Musselburgh dragons to decide how they should respond when Gylning from Traprain Law arrives asking for help. The plot then grows and develops from here and the themes become “illustrated”.

My favourite is, of course, dragons getting on with humans (“others who are different”) and trusting them. Without the help of Morris and Flick, Scrodril couldn’t have solved the very great problems the two dragonlayrs were facing.

Someone asked me if dragons really exist. I can’t truthfully answer for all the dragons in the world, since I’ve not met them, but the Lothian Dragons certainly do – and if you want to read what happens when Gylning arrives, you can access the first pages here.