Dreams of Scale and Bone -- NA Fantasy

Dreams of Scale and Bone

Genre Fantasy
Age Category New Adult
Est. Length 80k – 90k words
Posted on Wattpad 64k words (+ accompanying 8.7k short story)

The book’s basically fantasy Nancy Drew x Jaws. This is the first in a series.

Blurb

In the kingdom of Ceresco, talk of the supernatural is forbidden. There are whispers of strange occurrences and unexplained deaths.

When Professor Anker refuses to treat a child who was “assaulted by magical fish,” Drika van Meer senses her professor is hiding something. Breaking university rules to investigate, she discovers a mysterious marine predator lurking in Ceresco’s canals.

With the help of an aristocratic doctor with a passion for forbidden mythology, Drika uncovers the creature’s divine origins and a conspiracy to keep it hidden. The discovery could launch her dream career as a travelling zoologist, but she’ll have to outmaneuver a plot to keep her quiet.

Summary

Drika dreams of seeing the world as a zoologist, but studies medicine to appease her parents. For summer credit, she assists Professor Anker on a house call to diagnose a farmer’s comatose child. The farmer claims her son was assaulted by “magical” kinkōno, a type of small, herbivorous fish that recently migrated to their city. Anker dismisses her claims as illogical and blasphemous. Drika, however, sympathizes with the family and decides to investigate.

Evidence suggests the kinkōno were followed by a predator. Further research correlates their migration to unexplained attacks. If Drika can track down the predator, she may be able to stop these attacks, jumpstart her dream career, and develop an antivenom in time to save the child.

Concerned she’s not focused on finding a husband, her parents arrange for her to date Marinus, an aristocratic doctor with a passion for underground politics and forbidden mythology. Drika’s surprisingly attracted to him, but ditches their date when nearby kinkōno suddenly flee. The trail leads to a policewoman being attacked by a giant invisible rayfish. Drika fails to save the policewoman, and the ray gets away.

Drika becomes a suspect in the policewoman’s murder. Proving the ray’s existence may be the only way to clear her name. Anker reveals she’s been charged with keeping the ray a secret and offers Drika a choice: aid in the coverup and the police will be handled, or never speak of this again on threat of retaliation from Anker’s bosses. Realizing that joining them would mean condoning the attacks, Drika refuses.

As she and Marinus grow closer, he convinces her the ray may be a ‘curse,’ a magical creature that avenges the dead. He lends Drika a magic-visualizing scope to help find it. Instead, she discovers her classmate is ‘blessed’ with a power, and later witnesses kinkōno attack him, proving they’re as magical and vicious as the farmer claimed. While attempting to save her classmate, Drika’s swept out to sea. The ray saves her.

Before returning to shore, she spies a royal boat stealing her classmate’s body to a remote lighthouse. Via Marinus’s collection of banned mythology, Drika discovers that kinkōno are legendary servants of sirens. Soon after, the child and the deceased policewoman go missing. Backed by a team of blessed monster hunters, Drika and Marinus storm the lighthouse.

There, they find an imprisoned siren. With Anker’s help, the princess is developing it as an anti-blessed weapon for her father, the warlord emperor. The siren’s magic detains the monster hunters, leaving Drika and Marinus on their own. During a struggle, Anker kills Marinus, who gives Drika his final blessing. With her new powers, Drika frees the siren, who devours Anker and leaves with the kinkōno. The ray completes its divine purpose and kills the princess.

The siren’s spell broken, Drika returns the healed child to his mother. When blamed for the princess’s death, Drika accepts an offer to join the monster hunters. Together, they sail off for new adventures.

(Draft 1)

In the kingdom of Ceresco, known for its abundant crops and canals, talk of the supernatural is now punishable by law. There have been whispers of strange occurrences and unexplained deaths.

Drika studies medicine to appease her parents, but dreams of becoming a traveling zoologist. During a summer practicum, she assists Professor Anker on a house call to diagnose a farmer’s child. When the farmer claims her son was assaulted by “magical” fish called kinkōno, Anker refuses to help. Sensing that her professor is hiding something, Drika chooses to investigate.

Evidence points to an undiscovered marine predator. Drika’s research is interrupted when her parents arrange for her to date a family friend. Marinus is an aristocratic doctor with a passion for underground politics and forbidden mythology. She’s surprisingly attracted to him, but ditches their date when nearby kinkōno suddenly flee. Their trail leads to a policewoman being attacked by an invisible stingray. Drika successfully fends off the creature, but fails to save the policewoman. Meanwhile, Marinus helps thwart a royal assassination.

Later, Marinus and Drika bond over shared dreams and secrets. He believes magic is returning to the world. She’s skeptical, but as they grow closer, Drika comes to believe him. Eventually, he introduces her to Aza, a member of a crew of monster hunters led by an infamous outlaw professor. Drika’s taught that the dead are sometimes granted a choice to bless or curse somebody, and that the blessed are given powers while curses become magical creatures that hunt down their targets. Aza believes the ray is a curse.

Drika learns that her classmate is blessed, and later witnesses a group of kinkōno attacking him. She realizes the fish are as magical and vicious the farmer claimed. While attempting to save her classmate, she’s swept out to sea and almost drowns before the ray saves her. She spies a boat marked with the royal crest taking the body to a remote lighthouse. Soon after, the farmer’s child and the deceased policewoman go missing. Drika and Marinus discover that the kinkōno are in fact mythical fish who serve sirens in legend. They join with the monster hunters to storm the lighthouse.

There, they find the curse’s target in hiding: the Princess of Ceresco. It’s revealed that with Anker’s help, she’s imprisoned a siren and is feeding it the blessed captured by the kinkōno. The siren’s magic detains the monster hunters, leaving Drika and Marinus on their own to save the farmer’s son. During a struggle, Anker kills Marinus, who gives Drika his final blessing. With her new powers, Drika frees the siren, who devours Anker and leaves with the kinkōno. The curse completes its purpose and kills the princess.

Aza and Drika mourn Marinus. When Drika is blamed for the princess’s death, Aza asks her to join the crew. She accepts, and together they sail off for new adventures.

(Draft 2)

Drika dreams of becoming a traveling zoologist, but studies medicine to appease her parents. For school credit, she assists Professor Anker on a house call to diagnose a farmer’s child. When the farmer claims her son was assaulted by “magical” fish called kinkōno, Anker refuses to help, citing that talk of the supernatural is both illegal and illogical. Sensing her professor is hiding something, Drika chooses to investigate. Evidence points to a marine predator.

Drika’s research is interrupted when her parents arrange for her to date a family friend. Marinus is an aristocratic doctor with a passion for underground politics and forbidden mythology. She’s surprisingly attracted to him, but ditches their date when nearby kinkōno suddenly flee. Their trail leads to a policewoman being attacked by an invisible stingray. Drika fends off the ray, but fails to save the policewoman.

Meanwhile, Marinus thwarts a royal assassination by political radicals, who call the kinkōno “devil fish” and believe them to be a secret imperial weapon designed to slowly eradicate unsuspecting Cerescans. Marinus holds himself responsible for fueling the radicals’ beliefs; he helped publish controversial research proving the return of magic.

As they grow closer, Drika opens to the possibility of magic, but reserves judgement without evidence. Marinus introduces her to Aza, a member of a crew of monster hunters led by an infamous outlaw professor. Aza says the dead are sometimes granted a choice to bless or curse somebody; the blessed are given powers, while curses manifest as vengeful magical creatures. Aza thinks the ray is a curse.

Drika learns her classmate is blessed, and later witnesses a group of kinkōno attacking him, proving that the fish are as magical and vicious the farmer claimed. While attempting to save her classmate, she’s swept out to sea. The ray unexpectedly saves her. She then spies a royal boat stealing her classmate’s body to a remote lighthouse.

Via Marinus’s collection of banned mythology, Drika discovers that the kinkōno are mythical fish who serve sirens. Soon after, the farmer’s child and the deceased policewoman go missing. Drika and Marinus join the monster hunters to storm the lighthouse.

There, they find the curse’s target hiding: the princess. With Anker’s help, she’s imprisoned a siren and is feeding it the blessed captured by the kinkōno. To prove her value to her father, the warlord emperor, the princess has been perfecting her control over the siren for use as a weapon against the blessed.

The siren’s magic detains the monster hunters, leaving Drika and Marinus on their own to save the farmer’s son, the only victim left alive. During a struggle, Anker kills Marinus, who gives Drika his final blessing. With her new powers, Drika frees the siren, who devours Anker and leaves with the kinkōno. The ray completes its divine purpose and kills the princess.

Aza and Drika mourn Marinus. When Drika is blamed for the princess’s death, Aza asks her to join the crew. She accepts, and together they sail off for new adventures.

Plotlines & Arcs

Plotlines
  1. The primary plot is Drika’s acceptance of the existence of magic and her involvement in stopping those who are willing to kill in order to suppress it.
  2. The secondary plot is the romance between Drika & Marinus – both the character growth and damage that results.
  3. The tertiary plot is the introduction of the metaphysical conflict (the world is changing; magical creatures are returning; the gods, absent for a millennia, are now involving themselves in human affairs), which is the overarching plot for the series.
Drika's Arcs

Over the course of this story, Drika develops in a few ways:

  • She considers herself a feminist in a world that’s only just starting to recognize women’s rights. However, the feminine authorities in her life fail her (her mother firmly believes in tradition & female subservience, and her former role models, Professor Anker and the princess of Ceresco, both become her enemies). She ultimately reshapes her perspective of what feminism “should” look like, looking to her sister, Elle, and her eventual teammate, Aza, as well as empowering herself to create her own path.
  • Her interactions with magic challenge her previously atheistic world view. She ultimately comes to accept the existence of a spiritual world, although she maintains her non faith-based approach to life.
  • She initially views peer relationships as an obstacle to personal success. Through Marinus and other people she meets along her journey, she learns that peer relationships can be a source of strength. However, Marinus’s eventual death causes her to regress and introduces new emotional baggage that will be addressed in the next book.

Notes

  • The kingdom of Ceresco (where Drika’s from) is inspired by early 20th century Netherlands. The ruling empire of Minervall is inspired by shogun-era Japan.
  • Three more books are planned. Drika will be the co-star of the series. Book 2, tentatively titled Speaker for the Stars, will introduce the other main character, Taurus. He’s simultaneously cursed and blessed, a biracial prince of a hispanic country, the princess of Ceresco’s nephew, and Drika’s eventual love interest.
    Book 2 will also develop the friendship between Aza & Drika and introduce a female love interest for Aza named Alli. Book 2’s plot is roughly inspired by Shadow of the Colossus and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
  • Drika represents a woman in STEM as well as a subversion of the “dumb blonde” trope.
  • The world has its own mythology and sci-fi elements that are hinted at in this book.
  • Each chapter has its own custom graphic made by myself.
  • This story draws on some of my own experiences growing up on a catfish farm and pursuing a STEM subject at a religiously-affiliated college.
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I believe your main plot is that magic exists and there’s a reason the powers that be have covered it up as part of a domination of the public plot.

The romance, the actual events you listed, if they don’t point to the final battle between the people covering up magic and your MC, they probably shouldn’t be in the summary.

If I have it totally wrong, maybe you should consider that as core plot, because it gives her purpose and stakes.

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Thanks for the feedback. :slight_smile: I’ll experiment with re-prioritizing the plot lines and see if that improves the summary.

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Edited based on your feedback. I think it works better now, but then again I’ve been staring at it too long to tell anymore. :joy: Thanks again, @SapphireAlena!

It’s better but still too long. I recommend limiting the summary to the character, the inciting incident, most important piece of rising action, the climax, and denouement.

The stakes should be present early on as well as in the resolution of the climax. Right now I’m not sure why I should care. The world was going along just fine without her knowing about these demon fish. People get killed by poisonous animals everyday. Doesn’t seem much different.

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Ok. At the moment, I can’t find anything that doesn’t support the ending, so I’ll try giving it a break and taking another look at it tomorrow. I’ll focus on seeing if I can rephrase things to emphasize the stakes while keeping it under 500 words (currently it’s at 499, up from the previous 479).

I copied it into Google Docs, and it came up as 574 words.

Interesting. I’m using Microsoft Word for both counts, but I’ll try another counter. I know some word counters differ based on how they count hyphenated words and other things.

EDIT: https://wordcounter.net/ and Google Docs are both giving me 499 as well:

Screenshots

GoogleDocs

Regardless, I agree that there shouldn’t be unnecessary info in a summary, so I’ll still give mine another go :slight_smile:

Maybe I grabbed too much text.

Oh, yeah, that would explain it. Happens to the best of us :slight_smile:

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I rewrote the summary, this time focusing more on the choices Drika makes rather than the events that happen. Hopefully this brings out more of her motivations and the stakes. :slight_smile: Thanks again for your advice!

* Updated original post, including general reformatting and addition of blurb.

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While the concept is interesting and the plot itself has a lot of intriguing storybeats, the character’s story is lacking and doesn’t compose a throughline.

A lot of the events feels random or jumbled together because it’s unclear how the main character is progressing through them. More often than not, stuff just happens to or around her and she’s swept up in the flow of it.

Her personal journey is to grapple with the conflicting paths in front of her between desire and familial loyalty. She wants to appease her parents and do as they wish, but she also wishes to pursue her true passion. This isn’t really tested in the story she experiences. She instead has that at the start but coincidentally is given a chance to do her passion while being a doctor (which is a passive thing that happens to her, not an active thing she creates). This then leads to trying to find a magical fish in essence.

The only other moment where her parent’s wishes come in to challenge her is in the form of Marinus being imposed on her. Except, lucky break, he’s into mythology and underground stuff and basically enables her to continue down this path without much conflict. She doesn’t have to make a decision between him and her parents and her passions. The two paths don’t block each other; instead, one of them opens the way to the next without the character learning or doing anything to achieve that. She also is able to ditch the date with them with effectively zero consequence. Her parents never come up again, nor does that conflict, and he also seems to be kind of okay with being ditched as he works it out and totally believes her reasoning for chasing magic (because again, luckily, he’s super into that as well).

So it’s unclear to me what lesson the main character is learning or what she’s doing other than exploring a mystery that is in front of her and which everything is basically forcing her to have to solve.

Finally, the ending adds too many convoluted elements. This may be me super-imposing here, but you have a good mystery set up in the form of the kinkōno and the invisible ray that avenges the dead. It’s unique, it’s curious, and it’s interesting to explore this thing as both evil and also just nature. It doesn’t need to have any of the additional anti-blessed weapons, sirens, warlords, villainous professor, and so on. That’s a different plot from the original set up (woman v force of nature, woman v parent/expectation). Woman v man is an entirely different plot in the latter act.

For example, since you’re basing on Shadow of the Colossus, that is a man v force of nature story. There’s no true villain to be conquered or stopped. The main character has a personal goal (revive dead girlfriend) and has to go through a task of nature in order to achieve it, and does so. There is loosely a group of people who want him to not do that because they know that force of nature has a dark cost, but that’s marginally on the sidelines and not what the core conflict is about. You’re invested in the story because you want to see MC overcome nature to get back what they love. While the ending throws a twist of that force of nature actually using them to become a more powerful force of nature, it still stays well within the plotline. It would be weird if suddenly an actual person showed up and said they were manipulating them in order to unlock the powers and use them for their personal revenge on the tribe and to conquer the world. That’s a completely different plot.

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Thank you for your response.

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