From Harry Potter to Singing Dragons

I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter movies lately. I don’t really want something to watch as I have to concentrate on it and I have the focus of a gnat lately. Hence listening to the Lord of the Rings trilogy every day for two months. However, the background noise makes the apartment feel a bit less like a tomb.

While listening to the Potter movies, I’ve been quite astounded at the true genius of the story. I’m not sure if she knew exactly where the story was going to go, but the plotting is impeccable, both in the individual books and the complete storyline.

She does things I try to do in my stories because I am not a fan of the big coincidence. Now, granted from my last post, sometimes there is a plan in the works and you are just a pawn in the game, but mostly I don’t like the MC suddenly realizing their grandmother taught them magic when they were three and they remember a spell so they can fly out of the trap.

There isn’t a lot in my stories that isn’t there for a purpose. In the opening chapter of FAR RIDER, Gen wishes she could wear the dusk perfume her mother, Amanda, sells to wealthy women. Amanda thinks the perfume has a seductive power nearly as strong as a love potion. She doesn’t realize it, but she’s right. One of the noblewomen who buys it from her has been tinkering with it and has discovered it indeed does have an almost narcotic effect on men. She’s been trying to buy the formula for years so she can perfect it for her female spies.

Amanda refuses to sell it because it’s a very rare perfume and difficult to make. It’s the one thing of value she really has besides the small family farm.

So, anyway, Gen wandering around smelling the perfume might seem like a waste of words, but it’s just a few sentences and it sets up a very important event later.

In THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS by Rowling, Ron breaks his wand. He tries to cast a spell on Draco and it backfires, and Ron is puking up slugs instead of Draco. Later, at a time of crisis, the fraud teacher Gilderoy is going to betray Ron and Harry and steals Ron’s wand. Harry has to be far enough away that Gilderoy can’t steal a wand that works. Harry also has to be far enough away that when the wand does backfire and wipes out Gilderoy’s memory instead of Harry’s, the resulting rock slide separates Ron and Harry so Harry has to go on alone to face the evil in the chamber.

Excellent plotting and layering.

There are a few things that irk me, but so it is with everything.

Someone once said, the best way to break a writer’s block is to take a book you admire and retype a few paragraphs or pages from the book. It does a few things. It gets your mind in writing gear. Subconsciously, you begin to see why certain things work for this author. The cadence of the writing. The way they structure their sentences. Their dialogue. The plotting. Foreshadowing. Things that we much understand as writers. It doesn’t mean you should try to imitate the writer, but rather learn from them.

At the end of the exercise, your mind is in writing mode and you should be able to continue on with your project.

FAR RIDER is done, as most of you know. I’m still struggling with the query and synopsis, but that will come also. I haven’t been overly concerned about it, but I am going to get them done and off my mind this month.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about the next project.

How do you choose your next project?

FAR RIDER is meant to be a series. Do I start on the next one? No. There are no guarantees it will sell anytime in the near future, if ever. I have faith in the story and it’s probably the best writing I’ve ever done, but timing is everything. It will sell, if it’s supposed to, when the time is right.

SONG OF ILWEN? I thought about that strongly since it is pretty much outlined, or was. There are several chapters missing. Even so, it’s a good start. There are 23,000 words that just need to be fleshed out and finished.

SONG is the story of a young elf who just wants to be a bard, but for unknown reasons, the warrior trainers are driving her hard to learn to fight. Battle bards are rare. Even in families that carry the lines, only one is born to a generation. Her sister was a battle bard, so Jhia knows her songs won’t have the coveted magic armies look for. There is no reason for Jhia to learn to fight aside from the standard training because she has no intention of joining the army.

Then she learns she does possess magic and her dead sister is actually her mother. She has to go back in time to solve the murder her sister was blamed with and prove her sister didn’t commit suicide. If she succeeds, her sister will be released from serving as a spirit guardian and she can live out her interrupted life. If she fails, her sister will not only remained doomed, but Jhia will die also.

DRAGON VALLEY gets completely away from the young MC and moves to a middle-aged woman who is a respected army commander with a fairy dragon friend. Maija married a Norlander, a barbarian, and he mysteriously disappeared, leaving her pregnant and alone. She felt his death, but his mourning bells, which are only supposed to last for the year of mourning are still intact sixteen years later, meaning he still has unfinished duties and cannot move on.

She feels betrayed by his abandonment, but she’s still hopelessly in love with him and longs to join him when he spirit comes to her in the night.

Against this backdrop of grief, she needs to learn who has sent the wraiths to destroy their horse herds and steal their young people. Her daughter has narrowly escaped capture twice. It’s just a matter of time before all their young people are gone, their horse herds, which make them formidable fighters, are destroyed, and the dwindling singing dragon population is extinct.

Against her will, Maija is sent out to seek allies among the humans before her people are destroyed. The Norlander bard and a renowned erotic dancer are not what she had in mind to help her solve the mysteries.

So, what do I go with? Once again, DRAGON VALLEY should be part of a series, but it’s dangerous to assume one can sell a series. Yes, it will stand alone, but the rest of the story is so magical to me, I would hate to leave it untold.

Logically, I would go with my little time-traveling elf detective.
Illogically, I am drawn to the haunting story of a woman bound by love to a ghost.

I think it’s time to change writing gears and do the story of a woman in love instead of another young girl just discovering what love is.


  1. I think I might love you. I do the same thing with background movies, especially The Lord of the Rings. There’s something about having seen films enough times that they can be your soundtrack, and you know when to look up to check out your favorite parts or actual action.

    Jaws (original) would be my second choice for this, but I also do it with the Potter films and a few others.

    Bookmarking you so I can come back when I’m awake.


  2. I loooove Rowling’s plotting – nothing is ever wasted, and you find new things even after many many reads. And it’s not just in the scope of one book. Like the womping willow, which came up when Ron and Harry hit it with the flying car in the second book, but became imperitive in the third book when they find out why it was planted and the whole story of James, Lupin, and Serius. She drops this little clues, that then blossom into something imperitive to the story or plot… if you’re really quick you might be able to piece it together while you’re reading, but nothing ever happens that is totally random, there’s some basis for it to happen or clue that it can earlier in the work.

    I try to go with my gut as far as what to write next. But I do think it’s a good idea to start on a new story, even if you have a sequel in mind… you can get back to the sequel after Far Rider sells… but you can’t get the time and work back if you don’t sell Far Rider right away.

  3. …the best way to break a writer’s block is to take a book you admire and retype a few paragraphs or pages from the book.

    I have never heard this – fabulous idea! So glad I accidentally happened by today. πŸ™‚

  4. Hey, Merry.

    Rowling really is quite an accomplished plotter. Well, her characters are unique, her world-building is spectacular and she is, of course, a lovely story teller.

    No, I’m not going to do a sequel to Far Rider. I hope it sells, of course, but there are no guarantees. I’m debating on the two others right now. I like Dragon Valley, but it’s another one that should be a series, so that’s kind of frustrating.

    I’ll figure it out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *