Monday, May 05, 2008

"Accounting For Dragons" by Eric James Stone

In the summer of 2007, I attended the six-week-long Odyssey
Writing Workshop.
One of the events of the workshop was
the "Odyssey Slam" at the
Barnes & Noble in Nashua, New
. Each workshop participant had to read a flash fiction piece in
five minutes or less.
My original plan was to read a revised version
of the 1000-word story I had written earlier in
the workshop,but in the last few days before the
Slam I started leaning against that. The night
before the Slam I began working on a more
humorous piece, as I've noticed that humor tends
to go over very well at readings.
In the morning I got up and decided that piece
wouldn't work, because it was too cliched.
It was a punchline-type story, and I Googled the
punchline and saw a couple of similar stories.)
Also, the story itself would be too serious
before the punchline.
So I looked at revising some of my unpublished
flash pieces, and none of them appealed to me.
Then I looked at the possibility of chopping down
my humorous fairy tale "Bird-Dropping and Sunday,"
which always gets a great reception at readings
even though editors keep deciding it's not quite
right for their magazines, but decided there was
no way I could cut half the story.
Finally, before deciding to just go with the
original plan, I went over my lists of titles and
story seeds, and came across "dragon accountant,"
which was a seed I had jotted down sometime in the
previous couple of weeks, based on a comment by
someone (I think it was a guest lecturer, author
Michael Arnzen) about dragon accountants.
It occurred to me that dragons might need some
basic information about accounting, sort of an
Accounting for Dummies--except for dragons, not
dummies. That gave me my title and basic premise.
Not until I had written over half the story did I
realize there was an actual character reading the
information aloud to a dragon.
"Accounting for Dragons" is the first story I wrote
almost entirely using
voice dictation software.
By sheer coincidence, the name of the software
is Dragon Naturally Speaking.
Anyway, I finished the story in a couple of hours
and read it at the Slam.
It went over pretty well,
with people laughing in the right places, which is
always a plus.

After the Odyssey workshop was over, I revised the
story with some help from my brother Michael, an
actual accountant who works for something far scarier
than a dragon: the
Internal Revenue Service. My
writing groups were also helpful in bringing the
story up to snuff, particularly by letting me know
what to cut out because it wasn't working.

(artwork for this story (in the current issue of IGMS) by Nick Greenwood: (Eric's website:

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