An Essay by Christopher Paolini on Becoming a Writer
I have visions of
lizards. Not just little rock lizards, or even something
as big as an alligatoróno, I see gigantic, majestic
flying dragons. I have visions of them all the time,
whether in the shower, sitting on the couch, or
riding in the car. The problem with seeing dragons
is that they tend to take over your mind. And once
that happens, you can go a little crazy. Which is
probably why I became a published author at eighteen.
My novel Eragon
is a fantasy story, the first in the trilogy Inheritance.
It is the story of a young man who unwittingly becomes
linked with a brilliant-blue dragon, Saphira, and
inherits the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders,
who were once peacemakers in the land. The tyrannical
King Galbatorix, however, has no intention of letting
a Rider challenge his authority, and his dark servants
murder Eragonís family. Bereft of his home, Eragon
and Saphira embark on a quest for vengeanceóone
that soon embroils them in an epic battle between
good and evil.
It took me about
a year to write the first draft, then another to
revise it properlyóbecause I had absolutely no idea
what I was doing in the beginningóand finally, a
third year to complete the editing and prepare the
book for publication. In addition to actually writing
the manuscript, for the original publication I also
illustrated the book-cover and drew the interior
maps. That was possible only because I originally
chose to publish with print-on-demand, which gives
authors more creative freedom to shape the bookís
ďpackageĒ than they would otherwise have.
How was I able to
accomplish all this? Let me tell you a story:
"I hate to read!" cried the little boy
obstinately. "I donít see why I have to learn
this, Iím never going to use it." Thatís what
I said nearly fifteen years ago when Mom was teaching
me how to read. Back then I knew that reading wasnít
part of my world and I knew that it was just a waste
of time. Mom was patient, though, and carefully
guided me until I could read simple words. Then
she took me to the library.
Itís easy to write
those words now, but they cannot convey how that
single event changed my life. In the library, hidden
in the childrenís section, was a series of short
mystery novels. Attracted by their covers, I took
one home and read it eagerly. I discovered another
world, peopled with interesting characters facing
compelling situations. In fact, I still remember
what the book was about; it involved tomato sauce
being mistaken for blood! From then on, Iíve been
in love with the written word. Instead of toys,
my room is filled with books. Theyíre piled under
my bed, on the floor, by my pillow, and overflow
into the rest of the house. When we go into town,
the only places I want to visit are the libraries,
bookstores, and occasionally an art museum.
But it hasnít stopped
there. I enjoy stories so much that I took the next
step and started writing them myself. I read college-level
courses on the subject, teaching myself about everything
from plot structure to descriptions. All of this culminated
four years ago, when I sat down and outlined the plot
for a trilogy of books. For weeks, I struggled to
figure out every detail. Then, with everything ready,
I began to write.
let me make this sound too easy, though. Everything
I did was only possible because my parents were dedicated
and loving enough to homeschool my sister and me.
My mother, a former Montessori teacher and author
of several childrenís books, took the time to instruct
us every day. Aside from textbook lessons, she had
us perform many exercises designed to stimulate our
creativity. Even at a young age I enjoyed writing
short stories and poems.
strange; although I had a strong interest in books
and stories, it never occurred to me that I might
actually be a professional writer one day. All I really
wanted to do was share the epics floating around in
my head with other peopleówriting was just something
I had to master in order to make those sagas reality.
Once my first draft
of Eragon was finished, I had to learn how
to write properly. That may sound like an oxymoron,
but itís not. The first step in writing my book
was a purely creative phase. After that, however,
came the grind of editing the manuscript into readable
material. It was there that I learned how to produce
graceful and grammatical prose. Doing is the best
way to learn, but it helps to read the rules first.
In my case, I wish I had learned more about grammar
before writing Eragonóit would have saved
me an enormous amount of time spent fixing easily-avoidable
mistakes throughout a gigantic manuscript!
One of my favorite
scenes from the book is when my hero Eragon dives
into a vast lake on his dragon Saphira. It always
strikes me as an enchanting moment. Here is a short
excerpt from this section:
The water hit
Eragon like an icy wall, knocking out his breath
and almost tearing him off Saphira. He held on tightly
as she swam to the surface. With three strokes of
her feet, she breached it and sent a burst of shimmering
water toward the sky. Eragon gasped and shook his
hair as Saphira slithered across the lake, using
her tail as a rudder.
and took a deep breath, tightening his arms. This
time they slid gently under the water. They could
see for yards through the unclouded liquid. Saphira
twisted and turned in fantastic shapes, slipping
through the water like an eel. Eragon felt as if
he were riding a sea serpent of legend.
Just as his lungs
started to cry for air, Saphira arched her back
and pointed her head upward. An explosion of droplets
haloed them as she leapt into the air, wings snapping
open. With two powerful flaps she gained altitude.
When I graduated
from high school at fifteen, I had planned to go
to college. I even applied to Reed College for entrance
in August 2001 and was accepted. However, if I had
gone I wouldnít have been able to promote Eragon.
Now I have the chance to share my book with the
rest of the world, and I hope that everyone can
enjoy this story and its many wonders. All I want
to do is help you, the reader, experience the drama
and beauty contained within these pages.
Right now, Iím working
full-time on appearances and book signings for
Eragon. Itís an exciting, new experience, totally
different from anything Iíve done before. Also,
Iím writing the screenplay for Eragon and
Iíve started the next book in the trilogy, Eldest,
which promises to be even better than the first.
. . .
If all goes well,
Iíll still be seeing dragons for many years.