They say there are no new stories--just new ways of telling the same story. I found this irritatingly true when I was trying to come up with a new dragon story for an anthology called Firestorm of Dragons.
I don't know why, but I felt determined to get into this anthology from DragonMoon, so one afternoon, I cornered my husband and demanded he brainstorm with me. Rob has a brilliant mind; plus, as a cadet, he read every science fiction and fantasy novel in the Air Force Academy library and had been struggling to keep up ever since. If someone had popularized a particular take on dragons, I trusted him to know it.
He did, too. No matter what idea I came up with--from the dragon as a victim to dragon in human form, he remembered someone who'd done it before. After a frustrating half hour of "How about...?" and "Been done," we called a break to go watch TV with the kids.
Our favorite show at the time was Whose Line Is It, Anyway?, a comedy improve, where comedians do skits. Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles have a noir schtick that pokes fun at those movies of hard-boiled PIs of the 40s and 50s. As we sat on the couch laughing, I realized I could write comedy noir--with a dragon! Rob hadn't heard of one, so from there, I started mining the cliché's.
Wrong side of the tracks: Let's put him on the wrong side of the Interdimensional Gap.
Disrespected by authority, unable/unwilling to get an "honest" job: The Gap recently happened, and the two universes don't trust each other. People in the mundane universe especially don't trust a real dragons. One thing's for sure--the US isnt' giving him a Green Card.
Chip on his shoulder: What better for a dragon than a bad run-in with St. George. Of course, our St. George killed dragons, so I decided to twist that. Faerie dragons, I decided, can't die, so George would have to find some other way to inconvenience/incapacitate him. I decided to make Holy Mages, and George put a spell on Vern: he took away all his dragon glory--size, strength, flight, magic, fire--then told him he could earn it back by serving sentient beings under the direction of the Church. (I had no idea then how important this idea would be to the DragonEye, PI, universe.)
From there, I added a damsel in distress, a romantic lead, a diabolical plot, and got "Dragon Eye, PI."
"Dragon Eye, PI" appeared in Firestorm of Dragons--much to my joy!--and I had the opportunity to see how others treated the theme of "dragons." I was floored by the imagination of my fellow contributors.
And I'm so very grateful to editors Michelle Acker and Kirk Dougal, and Gwen Gades, publisher of DragonMoon. I could not have done it without you!