FlashFriday – Vol 2-6 – Anatomy of a story

This time, rather than reverse engineer my story’s progress and comment after the fact, I decided to write down the entire process.  

As you may or may not know, FlashFriday is a flash fiction (short story/micro fiction) contest that is, oddly enough, run every Friday.  I’ve been participating for a little less than a year, and it’s been an interesting study.  This Friday, rather than just write, I figured: why not just record the whole process… and so – I present an anatomy of a story.

Staying up late to look at a story prompt probably isn’t the wisest of things—but then again, I’ve never claimed to be wise.  I once described volunteering with the sheriff’s department as… “Not only do I not have the sense to come in out of the rain… I’m playing in traffic in it.”

So… I stayed up late and was treated to a sculpture/walkway in Germany: “Tiger and Turtle – Magic Mountain.”  And if that weren’t challenging enough we have the added challenge of including either a Tiger or a turtle.

I can tell this one will probably be one where I write a story because I had a ‘hook’ for the story in the first 5 minutes (before I want and googled ‘Tiger and Turtle’ and started watching youtube videos of it (which inevitably end up with kitties and puppies, but that’s the nature of the web, and browsing after midnight.

Now, when I look at the picture, I think things like that is so cool, especially when I find night pictures with sunsets, and silhouettes and … the entire sculpture is lit… in the prompt picture it’s black and white and daylight.  And while I see the sculpture/artwork, I also see a snake’s skin, held up by sticks:   which leads me to the title:

How the Tiger Shed His Skin

Odds are this will be a fable – where the snake tricks the tiger into giving up something important, such as his skin… and somehow, snake will profit.

With that in mind—I head to bed.  I have to think about the fable and what Snake would want from Tiger… other than to be left alone…

After a full night’s deliberation (eg sleep) I’ve realized that the story is more:

How the Serpent Shed Her Skin

Or

Why the Serpent Shed Her Skin

turning Serpent into the hero and the Tiger, quite possibly, into the antagonist.

Now, as to why Tiger is male and Serpent is female, I’m pretty sure there are a lot of cultural and social reasons for that I’m not going to go into.  Serpent is Serpent and Tiger is Tiger…

While fixing breakfast, I realized another thing: why I chose a fable.  Last week while I was judging  FlashFriday, one of the Honorable Mentions was a fable and without meaning to, that influenced my story this week.

That is another side effect of reading – the more you read, the more ideas you get and if you limit yourself to one genre—you’ll only see/do what’s been done in that genre.  One of the best things we can do with any art form, be it music or writing is mix it up.

As I debate the traditional roles of Serpent and Dragon I come to another possible title:

How Serpent Shed Her Skin and Became a Dragon…

But there is time for that later… I have to write the fable itself.

Please note: sometimes a concept comes first, sometimes a title.  It’s always different for me, but I will always name my stories.  An unnamed story is like… sending your children out with no names: how will they find their way in the world without having some identity?

First Draft.

 It had been a long day, and Serpent had been sunning herself on the great hill.

Running a few errands I realized that this might not be a fable after all but perhaps… a creation myth.

When the Daystar fist shone on Gaia, he gathered all his children to him, for Gaia was beautiful  and wild and in need of protectors.

He called to him the hunters and said “This land is young and will need a patient guardian.”

To his surprise two hunters stepped forward, each claiming to be the most patient.

“I,” said Tiger, “am the most patient for I can run down my prey until they tire.”

“I,” said Serpent , “am the most patient for I can lay in wait until my prey comes within striking range.

Daystar knew that the patience needed for each style was very different and so he devised a contest between the two to determine which would be better suited to protecting Gaia.  Each would spend a day on Gaia and report back.

Serpent went first, and spent the day sunning herself on the rocks—by the end of the day her skin was dry and began to slough off, and so she twined herself around the formations until she separated from her skin, which she left as her gift to Gaia.

It’s got potential, but it’s not finished and it’s already over 160 words.

 When the Daystar fist shone on Gaia, he saw she was wild and in need of protectors and so he called his hunters to him asking them to find the most patient among them to be her protector.

To his surprise the hunters backed away leaving Tiger and Serpent, neither of whom would back down.

Daystar knew that Serpent could wait patiently until her prey grew careless, and that Tiger could pursuit his prey relentlessly.  Both where indeed patient, but each was a different form of patient.

And so he decide to let Gaia decide.  He sent them down to learn her ways.

Serpent spent her day sunning herself on Gaia’s rocks, while Tiger roamed her forests.

Serpent went first, and spent the day sunning herself on the rocks—by the end of the day her skin was dry and began to slough off, and so she twined herself around the formations until she separated from her skin, which she left as her gift to Gaia.

And… there is no way this story can be told in 140-160 words so… back to the fable.

The night had been cold, and when the sun came up, Serpent grew careless.  The warm rocks called to her and she spread herself out along the rocks to gather as much heat as she could before the cold of night returned.

As she sunned herself, she grew tired and was unprepared when Tiger grabbed her by the tail, and began to shake her.  She reacted slowly at first, twining around Tiger’s paws, trying to startle him into letting her go, but instead he extended  his claws and as she tried to escape one claw dug into her skin and cut a strip into her perfect skin.

Tiger used all his strength to hold her and pin her down.  Serpent used all her strength to pull away.  All afternoon the battle raged until in the evening, she slipped away, leaving Tiger holding her empty skin.

Okay, rough… but at 145 words—the target range is obtainable.

 The night had been cold, and when the sun came up, Serpent grew careless.  The warm rocks called to her and she spread herself out along the rocks to gather as much heat as she could before the cold of night returned.

As she sunned herself, she grew tired and was unprepared when Tiger grabbed her by the tail, and began to shake her.  She reacted slowly at first, twining around Tiger’s paws, trying to startle him into letting her go, but instead he extended  his claws and as she tried to escape one claw dug into her skin and cut a strip into her perfect skin.

Tiger used all his strength to hold her and pin her down.  Serpent used all her strength to pull away.  All afternoon the battle raged until in the evening, she slipped away, leaving Tiger holding her empty skin.

Long after Tiger and Serpent were gone a monument was built as a reminder that determination can indeed see you through.

Still not what I want or need…

Serpent lay sunning herself on the rocks outside her home.  The night had been cold and the rocks seemed to amplify the warmth of the rising sun, lulling her into a false sense of security.  She lounged, trying to soak up as much heat as she could before darkness returned.

As the day wore on, she grew careless and fell asleep, secure in the knowledge that she would be able to sense any approaching, but she forgot she was sleeping on solid rock that did not reverberate as earth did.

Tiger, sure of his prey and his skill attacked with practiced ease, but he did not expect a strength that matched his own.

As Serpent struggled, Tiger held her tail tight, his claws digging into her outer skin.  Serpent for her part twined herself around tiger, flexing her muscles and working her way of his tight grip.  In the struggle,  Serpent’s skin split, and while Tiger held her outer skin, Serpent sloughed it and was gone with the fading sun.

To this day, snakes celebrate this struggle by leaving their skins as a memorial to the power of determination.

It’s not really a ‘great story—and I’m running out of time, so… let’s try it again.

 “Momma,” Turtle asked Tortoise.  “Why is there a big snake twining its way along the rocks?”

Tortoise looked at the twisting thing, noting the way it seemed to tie itself into knots.

“It isn’t a snake,” Tortoise answered after a minute.  “It’s the snake’s skin.”

“Its skin?”

“Yes dear.  As snakes grow they shed their skin…”

“Why do they do that?”

Tortoise paused studying the form before them.  “They didn’t used to,” she explained.  “But one day, very long ago—snake was sunning herself when Tiger trapped her.   Snake was strong, and clever—but Tiger was stronger and had claws.  When he pounced on her—she had but one thought: escape.”

“She fought, long and hard she fought but Tiger was strong and his teeth held her tail so tight she couldn’t break free.   So she cut her skin and slipped away—leaving him with nothing but what you see.”

Turtle nodded sagely.  “Because beauty is only skin deep.”

Okay… back to a doable fable… now to polish…

“Momma,” Turtle asked Tortoise.  “Why is there a big snake twining its way along the rocks?”

Tortoise looked at the twisting thing, noting the way it seemed to tie itself into knots.

“It isn’t a snake,” Tortoise answered after a minute.  “It’s the snake’s skin.”

“Its skin?”

“Yes dear:  As snakes grow they shed their skin…”

“Why do they do that?”

Tortoise paused studying the form before them.  “They didn’t used to,but one day, very long ago—snake was sunning herself when Tiger attacked her.   Snake was strong, and clever—but Tiger was stronger and armed with claws and teeth.  When he pounced on her—she had but one thought: escape.”

“She fought long and hard but Tiger was strong and his teeth held her tail so tight she couldn’t break free.   Trapped, she cut her skin and slipped away—leaving him with nothing but what you see.”

Turtle nodded sagely.  “Because beauty is only skin deep.”

And…22:46  the story is posted.

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About mtdecker

Just your average writer- which is to say, I have a full-time job developing and testing software.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Editing, general, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to FlashFriday – Vol 2-6 – Anatomy of a story

  1. Tevyn says:

    It’s nice to see the churning motion of forward progress. How to get from here to there and how your idea grew. Thank you for sharing.

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