Author Elizabeth Bear (matociquala on LiveJournal) linked to a very good essay on writing, "Real Art Won't Match Your Sofa", by LJ user brni. It included the following:
Too many people write stories about spaceships. Or dragons. Or vampires. These things are uninteresting. Really. The words are just shorthand for a whole set of preconceived notions that can be inserted into a story to keep us from having to reinvent things from scratch every time. You say “dragon” and I know, more or less, what you mean, minus whatever customizations and optional packages you've had installed.
So what's more interesting? A story about a dragon coming into the village, and the heroic knight that goes out to slay the dragon? Or a story about what it means to Joe and Mary the Peasants that the battle took place on their field, right before harvest time, with the King's Tax Collector coming by in a week and nothing to give him. I've read the former before. Some of the variants are interesting, with the right elements subverted (Zelazny and Hambly come to mind), but mostly not. I haven't read the latter, but I hope to someday.
Aaaaand here ya go.
The sacred duty of a knight is to do good deeds and true,
When a dragon steals a maiden, he rides to her rescue,
While vanquishing that dragon, he keeps all he can from harm...
Yeah, I know all that. Let's get back to the damage to my farm.
I was minding my own business, in the backyard with a hoe --
No, a garden tool, ye stupid fool, back where the praties grow.
The sun was warm, the breeze was soft, the grass had all been cut,
When a big-ass flippin' dragon crashes head-first on my hut.
Well, right behind, Sir Gallywho on horseback sets his lance,
The dragon took the point, went slidin' backwards through me fence,
He hit a log, and stopped, and then Sir Whats-his-face went over,
And landed on my sheepdog, who's now pushin' up the clover.
The sheep, they all went runnin', while Sir Dinkus got upright,
And I'll admit he challenged Mister Dragon to a fight,
The dragon set the maiden down -- he'd held her in his jaws --
And he went right after the knight, all flames and wings and claws.
Now, I couldn't rightly tell you who did what to whom or how,
But they cleared my forty-seven acres quick as any plow,
Except, o' course, I only plow before the crops are sown,
And this was bloody August, when the bloody things are grown.
Well, finally, the dragon fled, Sir Shrinky-Dink stood tall,
He'd killed off half my animals and all my crops for fall,
And I still can pay my tax, Your Honor, I don't need my hut,
But I raised that sheepdog from a pup; Sir Doof here squashed his butt.
So what I want is simple: have him sell his metal tights.
Without 'em, maybe next time, he'll be mindful where he fights,
And with the proceeds, I'll rebuild my hut and fix my farm
(You'll notice this fair maiden, who's now hangin' on my arm).
Your Honor, thanks for lettin' me explain this whole attack,
And you, Sir Whatsis, sittin' starin' daggers at my back,
In case you're thinking vengeance, sir, there's somethin' you should know
That dragon's now my sheepdog, and he wants another go.
Weird Al with more books, JoCo with more jokes, Carlin with more Cthulhu. Since 1985, Tom Smith has been breaking hearts,
minds, and laws of propriety and physics with his insane blend of sf/fantasy, Life With Computers, pop culture, politics, and puns. More than twenty albums later, he maintains the best is yet to come....more