The Ink Splat is our monthly activity letter filled with inspiration sparking challenges and resources guaranteed to inspire your creativity. In this Ink Splat, the book and author spotlighted is The Wings of Fire Series By Tui Sutherland along with an author interview! Submit a response to a challenge and you may have a chance to be published online! What are you waiting for?
The Challenge: Dreaming of Dragons
For this month’s challenge, write a story where the main character isn’t human! They can be a real animal – dog, cat, horse, dolphin – or a made up one – dragon, unicorn, griffin. Try and focus on how writing as this animal is different than writing as a human. Tui offers some great advice down below!
Submit your response HERE.
Do a little digging:
Do some research on characteristics of your animal. For example, humans smile and laugh when they’re happy, but dogs wag their tails and cats purr. Try and take these characteristics into account in your story.
The Wings of Fire Series By Tui Sutherland
The dragon tribes of Pyrrhia have been at war for years, locked in an endless battle over a powerful throne and a lost treasure. A secret movement called the Talons of Peace is determined to bring an end to the fighting, with the help of a cryptic prophecy. Five dragonets are chosen, raised in a hidden cave, and enlisted, against their will, to end the terrible war. But note very dragonet wants a destiny…
The first novel is called The Dragonet Prophecy, and the sixth and most recent novel is called, Moon Rising.
About the BOOK:
Q: Can you tell us about some of that mythology? Do all the dragons breathe fire or do they have other powers?
A: The Wings of Fire world, Pyrrhia, has seven tribes of dragons (at least, that we’ve met so far!), all of them shaped by the geography where they live—so, for instance, there’s the IceWing tribe, who live in an arctic kingdom, love colder temperatures, and can breathe something called frostbreath that can freeze and kill their enemies. Obviously they don’t have fire, because it would be hard to live in their ice palaces if they did! But four of the tribes do have fire—the SkyWings, the SandWings (who also have poisonous barbed tails like scorpions), the MudWings, and the mysterious NightWings. There’s also a tribe in the ocean (the SeaWings) who can breathe underwater (and have a whole underwater palace and a way to communicate down there without speaking). And the last tribe is the RainWings, who live in the rainforest, mostly eat fruit, and can change their scales to camouflage themselves.
So the tribes have all adapted to particular environments and prefer to stick to their own kingdoms—there’s a lot of “my tribe is the best” and prejudice against specific other tribes (an ancient IceWing-NightWing animosity, for instance, or the way everyone looks down on the RainWings for being “lazy vegetarians”). But a big essential part of the series involves taking these young dragons out of their natural homes or away from their tribes, so we can see what happens when they grow up somewhere else . . . and what happens when they get to know dragons from other tribes and realize how similar they all really are.
Q: Do you have a favorite character in the series?
A: I love them all, so I think I give a different answer every time I get this question! I’m very partial to Glory and Deathbringer—she’s a RainWing, he’s a NightWing, and they’re both a fun combination of sarcastic and loyal and smart that I enjoy writing. The character who’s most like me (and therefore probably the easiest to write) is Sunny (the one who’s really enthusiastic about saving the world!). I also love Clay, the hero of the first book, because he’s the very embodiment of loyalty (probably my favorite attribute for a character to have…or a real-life person, for that matter!), and he’s also sweet and sort of hapless.
In the next five books—the ones I’m writing now—there’s a new set of characters, including a mystery voice in one dragon’s mind…I won’t give away who it is (you have to read book 6 to find out!), but I’m a little bit in love with him (even though he miiiiight be evil!). Book 6 just came out—it’s called Moon Rising, and I really love/hated writing the hero of that one because she’s a mind reader, and that made the book SO COMPLICATED but also a really fascinating writing exercise. I was thinking about what my one-word description of each character would be, and for her it’s “thoughtful”—in every possible iteration of that word, including “full of thoughts” (not just her own!). So she’s one of my new favorites, too.
About the PROCESS:
Q: What’s it like writing from an animal’s perspective? Particularly a fantastical one? What’s different in comparison to writing human characters?
A: I think writing from an animal’s perspective is actually a bit harder than writing a human character—there are so many references and touchpoints that I can’t include! For example, I can’t have my Wings of Fire dragons compare something to a toaster, or see something that reminds them of Narnia, or hum a Taylor Swift song while they’re hunting. It makes me stretch a little farther for believable metaphors, and it means I have to create a mini-world of their own cultural references—so my dragons have their own songs and books and art. (I actually love pop culture references, so that’s probably the hardest restriction for me!)
This also applies to their gestures and behavior—I’m trying to make my dragons fairly human, so we can relate to them (because they’re the heroes of the stories!), but they need to feel convincingly dragon-y as well. Which leads me to quandaries like, can a dragon furrow her brow? (I have decided yes!) Can they whistle with surprise? (I have decided no!) (But other dragon writers could decide differently, of course—that’s one of the lovely things about writing a fantastical creature!) And they express a lot of their feelings with their wings or tail or claws, too—or, in the case of one tribe, by changing the color of their scales (like very advanced chameleons!).
Q: Did you have to do a lot of research on dragon mythology or did you just create your own?
A: I didn’t do a lot of specific research on dragon mythology because I’ve always been a fantasy reader, so I felt fairly immersed in different kinds of dragon lore already and I did want to create my own world of dragons. But I did do some research on real animals with characteristics I could commandeer for my various dragon tribes—like the monitor lizard’s style of killing, or snakes that can shoot venom from their fangs, etc.
Q: Where did you come up with the character names and dragon types?
A: First I figured out the seven tribes by their environments (and watched a few nature documentaries to get ideas for their characteristics). And then as I started to write, I realized I was going to have a LOT of characters (I kind of love adding characters all over the place!), and that it could quickly get confusing. So one choice I made was to name the dragons after things that would be found in their particular environments, with the hope that then the reader would know instantly which tribe they were in.
SeaWings, for instance, have names like Tsunami and Shark and Coral, whereas IceWings have names like Winter and Snowfall and Glacier. There are a few exceptions—the RainWings, for instance, also use synonyms for beauty/beautiful as names, like Glory and Exquisite and Grandeur. And the NightWings all have names that are a little bit like propaganda—names that market these dragons as powerful, like Mindreader and Battlewinner and Greatness.
About the AUTHOR:
Q: Why did you decide to write about dragons?
A: I’ve always loved dragons—Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series was one of my favorites growing up, and I’m also a big fan of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books. But I thought it would be interesting to have a world where the dragons are the heroes instead of the sidekicks, the villains, or the transportation!
In particular, I always thought it was a little funny to read about humans riding and taming dragons, when I suspect in actuality, if those two species shared a planet, it wouldn’t be the humans who’d end up in charge! So in Pyrrhia, there are humans, but the dragons don’t realize that they’re any different from the cows or whales or camels that they eat every day. (Except humans occasionally sneak into dragon lairs and try to steal treasure, which is why the dragons refer to them as “scavengers.”) In each book, though, the hero gets a glimpse of scavenger behavior that hints there’s something more to them than most dragons suspect.
My dragons behave a lot like teenagers . . . but what makes it more exciting is that when they get mad, they’re teenagers who can SET THINGS ON FIRE! I think dragons are just huge and powerful and awesome and so much fun to write about.
Q: Any advice for young writers?
A: Personally, I love reading about writing; I find it really inspiring. That means books about writing or books about writers—John Steinbeck’s letters to his editor are fascinating, for instance. Two of my favorites are Take Joy by Jane Yolen and On Writing by Stephen King. I love them not just because they give me specific ways to improve my writing, but because while I’m reading these books I’m really thinking about writing and the whole process of it, and learning about how other people think about it.
I also love talking about stories with my friends, and that can include TV and movies as well as books—I think I actually learn a lot about storytelling from my favorite TV shows, and from talking about them with other writers. And I’ve learned a lot from being in a writing group where we critique each other’s writing every month, so if you can find or pull together a group of smart, supportive friends who can commit to something like that, I think it can be really great!
Thanks so much for the great questions! I love talking to readers who are also writers—I think one of the most wonderful things a book can do is inspire MORE books! Good luck to everyone with your writing!
Thanks again Tui!!