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Misinformation is an important element of my story as is pretty much kicks the plot in motion:

Gyvaris, a young dragon, steals a sheep from a large flock since he's really hungry and just couldn't find a single deer, though he was sure there were more than enough for him in the forest.

A shepherd witnesses the event and rumor soon starts to spread about a fearsome monster that ravages the countryside. People blame missing livestock on the dragon. The breaking point comes when a child goes missing in the forest where Gyv was often seen.

The king orders his best knight to track down and kill the dragon. Gyvaris was chilling out on his perch and occasionally going on leisure flights while all this was going down. He only realizes something is amiss when a crossbow bolt buries into his neck...

This gives a good motivation for humans to want to kill Gyv and a good reason for Gyv to view humans as dangerous and evil invaders, without making either of them unreasonably bad.

Yet it still tastes artificial. The entire plot requires us to believe that people believed a single creature, they never knew or heard of before, just started doing horrible things, without evidence.

As the writer and as my self-insert in the story, I get to influence how events unfold and occasionally give my pawns a little nudge.

How can I use these tools to give events like the one in the bold text the illusion of being logical and "unavoidable"?

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    Um, guys? When you cast Close votes, could you please give a reason? – Llewellyn Sep 28 '19 at 16:40
  • In a lot of fantasy stories, people are afraid of dragons because of the myths surrounding them. Do these myths exist in your world as well? Maybe Gyvaris is unusual in that respect, or the myths themselves are painting a wrong picture about all dragons. – Llewellyn Sep 28 '19 at 16:42
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    What does #MeToo have to do with anything and who is Alec Holowka? – Azor Ahai -- he him Sep 28 '19 at 20:49
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    Ummm, this is a story about farmers/ranchers who are blaming a dragon who already did steal and eat a sheep for stealing and eating other livestock and a sheep-sized human. How exactly is this unbelievable? In real life ranchers blame wolves for their losses and use it as an excuse to kill them without provocation. The wolves in reality are only responsible for some of the losses. – Cyn says make Monica whole Sep 29 '19 at 2:27
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I think the problem here (and the reason the OP feels it "tastes artificial") is too much coincidence:

First, we have deer in the forest, but for some unexplained reason the dragon cannot find a single one, so he steals a sheep, and is so unlucky or careless doing it that he is seen by a shepherd. The fact that the deer are there and he can't find any seems too unlucky, piled on top of the bad luck of a witness.

Then the deer come back, and he doesn't have to steal sheep anymore? What caused them to disappear so long he grew hungry, then magically return?

Then livestock start disappearing? What is causing that? That is more extremely bad luck.

Then a child (too conveniently) goes missing? Why? That is more extremely bad luck.

If you are going to start a story with bad luck, make it one bad luck incident.

1) The Normal World: You have a dragon in a forest. He hunts deer. This is his normal world, he is happy and content, there are plenty of deer, he is in balance as the top predator in his environment. If you wish to make him smart and sympathetic, he takes deer intelligently: He only takes the old, ill and lame, he doesn't take fawns (as a lion or wolf would) and he doesn't take their mothers, or pregnant females, or young females. He culls his herd, killing quickly to minimize suffering.

2) The Inciting Incident: Humans hunt deer, too. They always have. A group of bowhunters happen to see your dragon take a deer, as it does every day, or once a week, or whatever. If they don't know what a dragon is, they start firing at the monster poaching their deer. Our dragon fights back in self-defense, the arrows hurt and could kill it. In fighting back he kills two of the hunters, and the rest scatter and flee.

3) The Escalation: The dragon doesn't understand the humans, and has to treat himself and heal his wounds. The humans return to their village, but now they have a monster that has killed two men, and it must be exterminated. It is too dangerous to let live! If you still want the kid involved, they bring it up: It flies, they saw it lift a deer! Surely it can snatch kids from the ground, or sheep. They create a posse to hunt it, and this dynamic drives our dragon out of his normal world. The dragon is not surprised by them, but terrified, still injured, and aims to escape. (I presume from your other questions he ends up captured, that is fine, the villagers intend to sell him or something.)

Thus ends Act I.

The only bad luck is the dragon was unlucky enough to be seen killing a deer. Human hunters naturally wander, follow spoor, and deers naturally forage and wander randomly in search of edible foliage. If you want to make this slightly more plausible, set it at the beginning of winter: The deer have to wander more to find food, the hunters want food to store for the winter so they are more persistent and work farther into the wood, and the dragon has to fatten himself up for winter as well, so he is eating and hunting more often.

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  • If you don't like the idea of Gyvaris killing anyone, the hunters could also panic at just seeing a dragon (peacefully flying above the forest, or grabbing a deer and flying away) that could potentially attack humans. – Llewellyn Sep 29 '19 at 17:38
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    @Llewellyn In a story told from an intelligent dragon's POV, I don't think readers (or the author) should take issue with a dragon lashing out in self-defense and killing somebody that has shot it and is trying to kill it first. Its thoughts will prove it is just self-defense. Heck, I wouldn't have a problem with a human MC killing their human attacker in self-defense (some people might, but I wouldn't). As a reader, I certainly wouldn't blame the dragon. And I think an actual killing of a villager or two would be a more compelling reason to risk their lives than "we saw a monster." – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Sep 29 '19 at 19:34
  • @Amadeus I find that in large power-differential situations (Dragon vs Puny Hunters, for example) people are more willing to blame the one with power for escalating the situation, even if it is self-defense. We would not, for example, accept an adult killing a child because the child stabbed him with a pencil. Admittedly, this does depend on how dangerous a dragon is compared to a human, and how well established this is. – Onyz Sep 30 '19 at 15:46
  • @Onyz This OP has discussed this dragon in previous questions, I believe it is intended to be a small dragon, not much bigger than a horse. In which case it would be physically the underdog. Perhaps we can analogize to a contest like six archers making a surprise attack on a tiger, it would hardly be the tiger's fault if, having already taken a few arrows, she killed a few of these attackers while making her escape. Most importantly, when written from the dragon's POV, the reader absolutely knows it was self-defense. The reader, in the dragon's mind, is perfectly clear on its intent. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Sep 30 '19 at 16:10
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    @Amadeus Yes, I suppose you could insert the necessary details into that POV narration as necessary. I hadn't considered that- fair enough. I suppose I incorrectly assumed that "POV" purely encompassed a first-person detailing of the thoughts of the perspective, but in hindsight that's definitely not always the case. My mistake. – Onyz Sep 30 '19 at 16:22
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Panics have deep roots. They don't come out of the blue. They arise out of our need to make sense of our lives, to find patterns in randomness. Pattern finding is how our brains work, and it serves us well most of the time. But faced with a series of unexplained events, we seek connections, and when a particular event suggest a connection, our brains latch on to it and we start to see connections everywhere.

One story of a dragon stealing a sheep gets the shepherd laughed at. But if then it gets connected to a bunch of other disappearances, it starts to become a pattern. You have part of that already, as subsequent events are attributed to the dragon. But you need to extend it into the past as well. You need to establish the events that are going to coalesce into a pattern when the dragon report comes in.

This is really just another aspect of foreshadowing. Stories are a function of our pattern-seeking brains. That is why stories are neater, simpler, and more focussed than ordinary life. They are part of how our brains make sense of our existence. Virtually anything can be made acceptable in a story if it fits a pattern that you have established by foreshadowing.

(To be clear, in your case, it is the panic that has to be foreshadowed, not the dragon snacking.)

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