I published The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us yesterday but not any sort of explanation about where the story came from or why I wrote it (except on Facebook and Google+).
I consider it one of my best efforts but it doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of love so far. Probably one of the reasons is that it’s over 5700 words long, basically a short story or a book chapter. Who’s got the time, right?
This story is different. It’s personally important to me. I’ve invested a lot of emotion in it. I wrote it for my seven-year-old grandson.
He’s really imaginative and every time I see him, he wants to play our “game”. Our game is a talking game. He assigns us both roles and then we make up an adventure. In our current game, I am “Grandpa” (no surprise there) and he is my pet “Honey Dragon”.
Actually, the term “pet” is a bit of a misnomer since the dragon is supposed to be thousands of years old and know all kinds of arcane magical spells.
Our game scenarios are highly derivative. He pulls a lot of his ideas from “Harry Potter” and I pull mine from all kinds of comic books, science fiction stories, TV shows, and films.
I’ve tried to write a story for him before, but I couldn’t get the hang of it. However, our current series of adventures spawned an idea, a story about a boy and his dragon.
It’s one of the few stories I started writing before I had any idea how it would end. It sort of just blossomed though. I read him the drafts of the first part of the story a couple of times and he really liked it.
Yesterday, I completed it, though when I actually read it to him, I noticed it needed more minor editing.
He sat on my lap as I read to him. I felt more emotional during the sad parts of the story than he did. When I finished, I asked him what he thought and he said it was awesome. He wants me to write more. Hope he doesn’t think I’ll have another story about Buddy (that’s the dragon’s name) tonight.
The story is very loosely based on our original games plus elements out of our real lives. I had to change things around quite a bit, both to eliminate the derivative elements, and to make the story flow more easily. I also had to change the dragon from “honey dragon” to “Ambrosial Dragon” since apparently a honey dragon is a thing.
The characters are trimmed down to just me, my son, and my two grandkids. Really, I do have a wife, another son, a daughter, and he has a Mom he sees every other week. Also, the way I describe our house isn’t really how things are. We live in a neighborhood with an elementary school behind us, not in the middle of a big field in the country.
This is my first successful (in my opinion) attempt at a children’s story. It’s definitely meant as one an adult reads to a child since the vocabulary I use would be way over a second-grader’s head. It would also be too long for a child to read by themselves, at least in one sitting.
I still think the story means more to me than it does even to my grandson. I didn’t know why at first. I mean, as the author, I should be too close to the story to be affected by it significantly. But as I pondered my reactions, I realized that the dragon had lost one family due to his own failure to protect them, but later he acquires another he is able to save, albeit with some human help.
It’s how I feel about the difference between my being a parent and a grandparent. As a Dad, I made a lot of mistakes, some of which I’m still feeling the consequences of. I can never go back and “save” the past when my sons and daughter were children, but I can have a sort of second chance as a Grandpa.
No, it’s not the same, but when I’m with my grandkids, I can take what I learned from my failures as a parent and apply them to my interactions with my grandchildren.
Even though I wrote myself into the story as (more or less) myself, I realized that I’m really the dragon.
This is a children’s story. It’s a fantasy about dragons and magic, about epic battles, tragedy, and triumph. It’s also a story about loss and second chances. It’s a tale of defeat and hard-earned victory. The protagonist is driven by the fear of failing again, of the heartbreak of losing his loved ones. In working with humans to win back his second chance, he gains a family again.
I hope you’ll read “The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us” and let me know what you think.