I knew this was going to be tough

I read somewhere that writing a children’s story is like writing “War and Peace” as a haiku. I don’t remember who said it and if I open a tab to look it up I will take the opportunity to get distracted and “forget” to come back and finish this post. So you’ll just have to take my word for it that someone, sometime, said it.

And yes, it’s an exaggeration, but writing a children’s book is far more difficult than most people think. It may be shorter than a novel, by that only makes it more difficult. Nearly anyone can make up a story to tell a child (except me, apparently, unless given sufficient warning) but it’s the attention the child is enjoying more than the story. I know the stories I’ve told my niece and nephew (henceforth known as Z and C, respectfully, because niece and nephew are too long and I keep trying to spell niece as neice) aren’t very good as you’ll soon see, but they request a new one every time I see them. They like playing games or reading books, but the love and attention that goes into a story created just for them is special – even if the story isn’t great.

I guess what I’m really saying is that I’m not trying to get published. I’m not trying to write the next “Goodnight Moon” or “Guess How Much I Love You.” I just want to give Z and C (and Baby B when he’s a little older) a memory that they can look back on and remember how much their Aunt Stacy loved them.

And now that my excuses are out of the way, here is my first story.

Veronica the Dragon

Veronica wasn’t a very good dragon. She wasn’t green or red or even pink. She was gray. And not a pretty silver gray like her grandmother, but a dull, dirty gray like a rock.  Her spikes weren’t spikes at all, but green lumps that trailed down her back. And her wings – the pride of every dragon – weren’t large enough to lift her off the ground. They were short and stubby and the same dirty, disappointing gray as the rest of her. But none of these were the worst thing. No the worst thing of all was that Veronica couldn’t breathe fire.

It wasn’t that Veronica hadn’t tried. She’d tried every suggestion the other dragons had given her. Her friend Ember had suggested she eat lots of red peppers. So Veronica had eaten 96 red peppers. She eaten until her stomach hurt and tears streamed from her eyes, but when she opened her mouth nothing came out but a big, stinky, peppery burp.

Her grandpapa told her to wrap her neck up in a scarf and sit in the sun until all the breath in her throat got hot enough to catch fire. Veronica wasn’t sure if Grandpapa was teasing or not, but she tried it. All she got for her trouble was a sunburned nose and a sweaty scarf.

Her little brother Arlo suggested she wasn’t warm enough and should drink lots of hot chocolate. Veronica and Arlo drank three gallons of hot chocolate each. It was fun, but Veronica still couldn’t breathe fire.

Her cousin Dante told her to eat a firecracker. Fortunately, Veronica’s mother heard that suggestion and told Dante to stop telling lies. Veronica decided not to ask Dante for anymore advice.

Heartbroken that no one’s advice had worked, Veronica decided to run away. She packed her favorite books and her stuffed lizard and started walking. She didn’t notice the dark clouds covering the sky until the first drops of rain started to fall.

Now, no dragon likes rain. Rain puts out fire. And a dragon trying to figure out how to breathe fire hates rain more than most. By the time Veronica found a cave to hide in the rain was dripping off her wings and her nose and off her lumpy spikes. She shivered in the cave, cold, wet, and miserable and wished she hadn’t run away. When it rained at home her mother made hot chocolate and told Veronica and Arlo dragon stories about strong dragons triumphing over wicked kings and rescuing the princess from the evil knights. And then Veronica and Arlo would play Dragons and Knights and use Veronica’s stuffed lizard as the poor princess the knight was trying to steal back.

As Veronica thought about her mother and Arlo her nose began to burn. She sniffed a couple times, but it didn’t help. Rubbing it didn’t help either. Instead, her nose began to twitch and her breath came in short gasps.

“Ah-Ah-Ah-Ahchoo!” Veronica sneezed and then watched in amazement as fire shot from her mouth. She’d done it! She’d finally breathed fire. She ignored the falling rain as she raced home to tell her family.

The rain had stopped as she reached the dragon village and as the sun came back out Veronica noticed that the water on her scales caused them to sparkle in the sun reflecting back a rainbow of color. Not just red or green or pink, but purple and blue and yellow as well. Veronica smiled up at the sun, but she secretly hoped it would rain again soon.

The End?

I’m not overly happy with this story. I couldn’t come up with an ending and I cut out a huge section in which Veronica encountered a princess being held captive in the cave. Originally the princess was wearing a hat with a feather and that was what tickled Veronica’s nose and caused her to sneeze. They were going to escape and discover that when curled up, Veronica looks just like a rock. Then there’s a big scene in which the king believes the dragons have kidnapped the princess and Veronica and the princess have to reach the dragon village before war breaks out between the dragons and the knights. All this was making it a novel length children’s story. Unfortunately, cutting it left me without an ending. I wanted Veronica to be happy with her looks because that was how she was able to save the princess. But left without a princess to I had no way for Veronica’s looks to play an important part.

I may yet have Veronica meet the princess in another story if I can keep it to 1000 words or so. I’m not sure.

Well, let me know? What did you think? Any suggestions on the ending? Would anybody be interested in reading more about Veronica the dragon?


6 thoughts on “I knew this was going to be tough

  1. I really liked it, and you have that conversational style that makes me love children’s books. (Seriously, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day has to be in the top 5 best-written books of all time). And you’ve captured something similar here.

    I agree. There may need to be a reason Veronica sneezes. Is she allergic to rain? But, ya know, it’s a kids book. Sometimes there’s just a resolution, and I know this would be great to read aloud.


    1. Wow. Thanks, Lisa. I agree that Alexander is a fabulous book. Wish I could capture that same humor. Your suggestion is a good one. I think maybe Veronica is coming down with a cold from running around in the rain (at least that was my thought, I know it doesn’t work that way for humans, but maybe it does for dragons). I could end the story with her tucked up in bed too happy to care if she’s sick. Hmm, that’s definitely got possibilities.


  2. I love this!

    I didn’t miss the princess or even get caught up on the sudden sneeze (though catching a cold in the rain is a great idea!). But I agree, the ending did happen a little quickly. Maybe it just needs one extra bit where everyone else sees her now? Or, since this felt very much like a fable, maybe a “moral of the story” kind of quick summation at the end?


  3. I think Veronica is a fabulous character and there definitely need to be more adventures for her. Maybe the realization about coming to terms with her looks is a second story, and the first one only has to be about finding her fire?


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