Today we’re taking a look at Storm Dragons by Leonardo Reis.
Since Leonardo is more or less creating an entire world from scratch, here’s the logline:
The ancient Covenant of the Dragon decrees that to begin a war, a nation needs to defeat a champion in a one on one duel to the death. Undefeatable warriors, the Storm Dragons have kept the peace for centuries, but tragedy and betrayal will soon change the world’s fate forever.
That sums it up nicely, so everyone neat and pretty? Then on with the show!
1.) Can we visualize the description?
Yes in most spots. BUT the entire thing has TOO MUCH description. I know we’re creating a new world here, but with sequences like from page 6:
In a ritualistic way, Lissa pours some liquid on Vallur’s
body, as she prays in an ancient language.
She raises Vallur’s left hand and put his palm in contact
with her own palm.
Lissa unsheathes a small black dagger – dragon-shaped
handle with blue gems and dragon’s wings as hand guard.
She inserts the dagger between her palm and Vallur’s and
pulls it. Their blood runs down together over Vallur’s arm,
as she remains praying.
Lissa raises the dagger with the handle pointing upwards.
Her raven, perched in a nearby tree, immediately soars
toward her and grabs the handle.
The raven flies and soon drops the dagger, which sticks in
the ground. Blood flows from its blade to the green grass.
Some discouraged men run carrying a wooden casket and begin
to dig a shallow grave in the place where the dagger fell.
She kneels and skillfully uses her fingertips to draw, with
theirs blood, runic mortuary paintings over his chest.
It’s too much, and this is Lissa more or less preparing Vallur’s body for burial. The problem here (and we’ll hit this in the next spot) is there’s rituals gallore in this script, and as it’s running long a lot of this needs to be condensed or taken out.
Should be along the lines of:
Lissa unsheathes a dagger and cuts her palm. Blood drips onto her fingers.
FLASH–and her raven steals the dagger and circles into the sky. It drops the dagger which hits the ground. Blood drips on the grass.
Men hurry and dig a shallow grave around the dagger, as Lissa finishes drawing runes in blood on Vallums body.
I’d argue even most of that can go, but some of it does benefit the world you’ve created.
More examples are:
Page 8-10 – Too long a sequence of Zairos with his father. It should be them fighting in the water OR after the baby bird. Not both. (The bird part is good, as it makes Zairos likable, so keep it.)
Page 36 – Another drawn out ritual of the new Blood Dragons getting their weapons.
Page 60 – The Dana situation needs shortened, and rewritten This was one part I had a hard time following what was going on. I didn’t know Dana was “mischievous” until the characters actually said something. I just thought they were jealous he’s getting married.
Ending – From the cave to the actual fight with revived Storm Dragons, it was all too much description AND talking.
Fight scenes – Go through and see if there isn’t a way to cut these down. It’s very detail oriented right now, and it should show a back and forth battle, but not list every single move and counter.
Starting on page 7, a lot of grammar mistakes. I mean A LOT. Sometimes it was hard to tell what was being described because the wording was off.
I’d STRONGLY suggest that this be corrected before sending it anywhere.
4 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
129 pages. There, I said it. ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY NINE PAGES. Sorry to tell you all folks, and I know Roy breaks this a bit gentler, but 129 pages will get you tossed in the trash 4 out of 5 times. No full read. Not even a first 10. This screams amateur writer, and readers are busy people, so they stereotype.
Cut it down. I shoot for 110 pages on my scripts. I’ve only ever gone over once, 111, and that was two sentences at the top of the page.
It HAS to be done. Is 129 pages horrible? No, not on a rough draft, but 119 is better, with 109 almost perfect.
As Leonardo has an alternate world to establish (and the rest of the format was fine), I’ll cut him some slack, as long as he promises to cut it down.
7 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Some characters had very unique voices. Orgath was the jokester early on. Big Bear was the slow witted fellow. Even Minara was the cute girl always busting Zairos’s chops.
The dialogue suffered from the same problem as the action though, it’s all incredibly long.
That drug is called Dragon’s
Flame. It increases the body’s
fire to fight the disease while
protecting the body from being
consumed by the fire itself. The
body needs to rest now, while the
flames continue to burn the
A perfect example of both expository writing and being too long. Do we really need to know this?
Darlium gave Minara’s son medicine to help his fever. Got it. Don’t say something in three lines that is accomplished in one.
Page 50 is also a great example. I’m not going to include it all here in an effort to save space, BUT it’s Darlium explaining how the Storm Dragons were created. It does an excellent job of telling us WHY, but the problem is it’s just telling us.
Now Leonardo does a cool thing suggesting it’s a drawing in the sand, but it’s still a lot of expository talking (remember Roy’s post on “As you know, Bob”). This part SHOULD ALSO be moved to the beginning, as it gives us a lot of back story and allows us to understand the world we’re entering. Plus we could actually see it, and not just in a sand drawing.
It needs to be quicker and more to the point.
Then there’s dialogue that is just awkward.
Do you want love? We came here to give you a lot of love.
Who are you? Are you crazy? You have no idea with whom —
— It’s a shame that you don’t remember your old friends.
What happened, High Priest?
Orgath’s father, Captain Avernath died. His heart was weak. He and his father had quarreled. Seems Avernath’s heart couldn’t take it.
And Orgath, how is he?
I don’t know. He watched the quarrel and watched his father
dying. He probably would like to see you.
Long way of saying, “His dad died.”
Too bad, you’re warriors who don’t like war. Are you sure that you don’t want to be my champions and conquer the whole world?
Okay friends! I only needed to be sure. Could it be that some drinks have changed your opinion.
Orgath is plain awkward in most early scenes.
And lastly page 80:
Damned! Damned! You’ll pay for this!
Again, after page 7 there were A LOT of grammar mistakes in dialogue too that need fixed.
3 out of 10 points.
4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium chosen in which to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?
No. Leonardo unfortunately has written a novel in script format.
Scenes were put in that were cool scenes, but didn’t advance the story, so instead we were treated to montages to catch us up to the main story. Do we even need to see some of the earlier stuff with them as children?
Was the story entertaining, yes. The problem was scenes tended to meander around without a point in some spots, which works in a novel. I’ll get into this more in question 8, but there needs to be a 3 act structure. This didn’t have it.
1 out of 10 points.
5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?
Yes, yes, and YES!
Leonardo did something very hard here. Not only did he show us a new world, but he gave it an intricate back story. (Too intricate at times.)
Still, I doubt anyone else could sub in and complete the vision without his help.
10 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
Combined with the logline and this first scene:
EXT. THALDERAN CITY – NIGHT
Rain falls. A raven stands atop the Temple of Dragons’ main
tower. It shakes its feathers and takes off.
On the temple’s courtyard below, two warriors practice with
swords. The raven soars over the massive closed gates of
the temple’s outer wall.
I’d say so.
15 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
Yes. Once we get past Zairos’s birth. Would have been cooler to see the raven fly straight to Jygar defending the city. Especially if this followed an initial explanation of how the world works with the Storm Dragons defending it.
The problem with the birth is it introduces us to Zairos, who we’re then reintroduced to when he’s later with his father. THEN reintroduced to on the streets of Thalderan City. We don’t need the first part. Larium knows Zairos is special, but he can just as easily say that later on in the script.
10 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
Okay, settle in for some wordage here, folks.
The story jumps around too much. As I mentioned, it reads like a novel in a lot of places, and as a script there’s a lot of “real life” scenes that make this seem more like a documentary about Zairos’s life.
The other part is duplicate scenes, like the two street scenes. Zarios saves Orgath in one street fight, then later he saves Minara (with Darlium’s help both times). Can’t this be him saving one in the street, and then save the other in a completely separate way? Or both early on at the beginning?
Plus the second street scene is confusing, as in the prior scene he had decided to become a Storm Dragon, but now (page 32) was in a similar position earlier in the script. It made me think things just didn’t work out with Jygar and he walked away.
My biggest problem however…
Figure out Orgath
They become brothers of sorts after Zairos saves him, which is fine, foreshadows future conflict.
NOW you have to find a reason for the prince of a warring kingdom to ALWAYS be around the training Storm Dragons. And this won’t be easy, and you can’t make it convenient for your story.
Also, we need some motivation for why he turns on them. Is it love of Minara? Jealousy that he’s not the fighter Zairos is? Deep down he really just wants to rule all 4 kingdoms?
Once you figure it out, we need hints that he’s not entirely a stand up guy. It was too much of a switch that he’s best friends in one spot then orchestrating killings at the end. And remember, just slight hints, even if it’s another character who consistently doesn’t trust him.
Better set up for Zairos’s return
I thought Jygar found Zairos’s body after he killed Night Eye? I didn’t get at all he had fallen into the river. And he was stabbed in the stomach and somehow shrugged that off? That’s a bad, slow way to die, and not much can be done for it (and conveniently saying “cured via dragon magic” is a cop out.)
Either way though, his return needs a better set up. I think it made for a very cool ending, but again needed to be set up better. (Also, in that bar scene, the idea of dragons returning from the dead should be discussed when Orgath takes Jygar and company to the bar earlier on.)
I think the revenge angle is good, but I’m confused as to what he actually was. A guard for the green kingdom? A champion?
I DID very much like the idea of Orgath selling them out for power, especially how he kidnapped the baby and raised him to be his champion. Even though it wasn’t exactly the same, felt like a throwback to classical stories like Oedipus Rex.
Still needs some work and I think you need to focus on that as a story, Orgath’s betrayal.
3 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
The biggest problem audiences are going to have is understanding it all. Some parts each detail is spelt out, but other details are not.
Took me forever to figure out each town has it’s own dragon priest. So by that token is each champion trained as a Storm Dragon? Or are Storm Dragons only in Thalderan City?
Also the geography of it. Thalderan City is in the center, with three countries surrounding it, but are they countries, or cities?
This leads to my next question of, do they have to fight a champion for each city or is it only one champion per country? I ask only because Axengard seemed to fight a few champions through the Green City, but only Zarios and company had to be defeated to get through Thalderan.
Another big part is when Jygar is the only fighting Storm Dragon left, and his arm is busted. Given the fact that other countries have probably lost for so long, why wouldn’t they use this to their advantage? I was expecting all gates to have armies at them. Ironically though, they waited.
The ending’s too long. Things need to be done close to when Zairos dies. The entire Varlium voiceover about what truly happened should be dropped. I also think you need to rework the ending so Orgath can be killed by Zairos. The zombie Storm Dragons idea was cool, but just felt like our story ended when Zairos kills his son.
PLUS the audience is going to have a hard time letting you bring Zairos back from the dead a second time.
3 out of 10 points.
It’s a cool story and an even cooler world, but there needs to be a focus on what’s happening instead of the past that led to it. Before completing the next rewrite, a major proofread needs to occur to check for the grammatical errors mentioned above.
Total 56 out of 100 points.