Just Take a Little Off the Top
June 5, 2009 Leave a comment
Another month, another short story contest at SFFWorld, this time a little delicacy called “Hungry Like the Wolf“.
The theme for this month’s contest is “Two Sides to Every Story”. I was sure there’d be a ton of entries where the same story is told from two different POVs, but I decided to take a well-known story and show the other side of it. For some reason, the first thing that popped into my head was the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. Before long, that grew into the idea of a bar where all the fairy tale wolves hang out in between their never-ending escapades with hooded girls, industrious pigs, and fine upstanding young members of the Proletariat. We’d start in the bar, follow our good wolf on his adventures with Little Red, then end up back at the bar for an appropriately witty denouement.
I had all kinds of silliness planned for his meeting with Red and Grandma. Red would actually come on to him, which would send him running horrified off to Grandma’s house, where Grandma would reveal she was tired of her granddaughter dropping by unannounced all the time and asks the wolf to help her fake her own death. After more misunderstandings than an episode of Three’s Company, our wolf would return to the bar, still not having gotten any food, and still wearing Grandma’s nightgown.
Now, these stories are only supposed to be 1000 words. The idea is to do a lot with a little. And what I had written and planned was going to easily sprawl past 1000 words. But beyond that, the story just felt more amusing by not showing what happened to the wolf on his escapade. Just have him leave flushed with confidence and come back completely crestfallen. And not reveal until the end that’s he’s wearing the nightgown, a nice little punchline to go out on.
The only thing that worried me was the whole “show, don’t tell” thing. I would basically end up telling what happened instead of showing it. But I decided that risk was worth it, since everyone knows the story of Little Red Riding Hood, and there’s been plenty of goofy takes on what exactly happens. This story isn’t about what the wolf does, but more about why he does it and how he feels about it. So, that little roadblock navigated, I plugged ahead and got it done in a little under 1000 words.
It’s a little daunting to go back and toss a good chunk of something you’ve written, even when it’s perfectly good stuff you’re cutting. But in this case, getting rid of it made the overall story feel stronger to me. Sometimes you’ve got to be a little brutal.