I’m one of the winners of 4amWriter’s “Save El Lobo Writing Competition”!
Head on over to Kate’s page and read her update, which includes all the winning entries. And, if you should be inspired to write your own wolf story, let me know. I’ll howl for you!
For those of you who are interested in how I approached this particular challenge, read on….
Whenever I set my mind to a writing challenge, the first thing I consider is what I can bring to it: style, scenarios, conflicts, maybe a plot twist for the ending. For Kate’s challenge – to write a short story or poem featuring wolves in a positive light – I knew I wanted to use description, to depict the beauty of a wolf in nature. After a few minutes of staring at the ceiling, letting my brain percolate, I came up with the not-very-subtle twist of a photographer using a sight and taking a “shot” much like a sniper might. The hunt of a photographer waiting for the perfect shot is much like waiting for the perfect moment when a target comes into the crosshairs. It would also allow me to tell a story in mostly-silent descriptive and action passages, a technique that’s been prevalent in my pleasure reading, of late.
Once I’ve got my scenario, I figure out who’s going to play my primary character. Given the plot I’d come up with, my PC needed to be a human. I’ve got a stable of go-to characters, but I wanted to do something a little bit different, this time. The main protagonist, Aksel, is a combination of bounty hunter Axton with a little bit of domestic dad Rob McAllister thrown in. Neither of those men can go anywhere without their respective partners, so I dropped in Aksel’s buddy Harald as something of a counterpoint to Aksel’s skill, and to give him someone to reveal his success to in the end.
Next, I just…start writing. Some images and descriptions flow fine, while other parts are obviously less polished. I even double-up on some phrases when I free-write, to play with the order of words and see how they fit. The picture below (click on it for the full-resolution version) shows my original draft in all its messy, stream-of-consciousness rawness.
As should be fairly clear, I don’t edit when I free-write; I just keep typing until I complete the idea. This free-write went on too long – almost 200 extra words too long – and it needed plenty of reworking. That doesn’t mean something good didn’t come out of it along the way, though.
This challenge’s tight word count confines – we were allowed 250 words max to tell the story – meant that I had to choose carefully what was worthwhile to the story as a whole. A lot of the setup and extraneous action had to go. For example, Aksel’s buddy Harald’s dump in the ice pond, as well as a slightly deeper explanation of the men’s relationship, neither of which did much for the main plot. I also really liked the idea of the protagonist facing down the white wolf alone.
The last bit – the reveal of the purpose of the photo quest – came about completely by accident, when I was typing out the men’s dialogue. I hadn’t even considered the relationship between Aksel and his father until those words came out from Harald’s mouth! I liked it a lot, though, even if it meant going back and figuring out a new lead-in for the story.
All in all, I like the final submitted version. It changed along the way, as stories tend to do. It even changed titles, from “White Wolf Hunt” to “Eyes of Gold Fire”. Since I’d already decided in my head that Aksel’s father had died, I could have had the primary character spend the entire story alone. But, I liked him having someone with whom he could share that tiny triumphant moment of the photo reveal. Because stories are better when they’re shared. Just like this one.
What’s your process for writing challenges? Have you submitted your writing to any contests lately? What did you think of my story of Aksel and the white wolf?
I love seeing how you went from idea to concept to a 250-word short story. I think other writers will enjoy this post!! Congratulations again!
Loved your story! Congrats on the win!
Thanks, Kate! This was a great writing challenge, and I’m glad other writers were just as inspired by it.
I hope folks do enjoy this post. It was a lot of fun to lay out the process. There’s not a great amount of “how far I’ve come” in a piece as short as this, but maybe it will help convince anyone reluctant to share their own work that first drafts are nothing to be ashamed of. 🙂
Thank you, Carrie! Really, this one was a wolf-win for everybody. 🙂
Congratulations Mayumi, a well-deserved win! Wonderful story, and great to hear your process here. Brave to share your first draft too (many wouldn’t!), but it’s a really important part of understanding your process so I’m glad you did.
Thanks, Vanessa! This was a very fun contest, and I’m glad I was able to participate. Winning was a surprise! It felt very humbling to be in the presence of the other winners – they all did a great job!
I wanted my followers to go read the final submission at Kate’s site, so they could be exposed to the other stories there, which meant I had to do something different with my own post. The free-write process is one of my more favorite writing exercises. I hope others can use this post to see that all stories – even winning entries – start out as something less than what they can become.
I love the initial mis-direction on this piece, I’d actually think you were talking about a hunting party if I didn’t know what the challenge was. And the high praise they give to such a powerful creature makes for a wonderful tone to the moment.
I can see what you mean about the combination of Axel and Rob, in a way. It comes through in his thoughts and his movements.Honestly, I’d easily see Aksel meeting up with Rob and Daniel later as a colleage or adventurer to share this story over coffee, and paige just snuggling the picture of Sweetpea 🙂
Congratulations on your win, Mayumi! Very well earned and deserved!
Thanks for sharing your first draft! It was interesting to read it and then what you got out of it. Having a word limit really does make you take a good look at what the story needs, making for a more impactful journey.
Love the insight into the writing creation and development process—and the final version!
Ah, good – the misdirection did its job. 😉
Thanks, shade. T had so much fun with this character, however briefly. The Rob inspiration was very strong, though that particular character didn’t quite fit into this scenario. You never know when characters might meet up, though, or in what circumstance. I’d never have guessed that Daniel and Amber would have come from the same universe, but now they do!
Thanks again for reading!
Thanks, Shakhzoda. I’m hoping that some writers might see this and realize that, while all writing isn’t finished quality, any writing can get there. 🙂
Thanks, JM. So many writers – including me – can get soured over first drafts, because they’re not what we see in our heads. I’m hoping folks will look at this one and realize that all first drafts have their issues…and all first drafts can become more than their beginnings. 🙂
Congrats on winning the contest. It was fascinating to hear how your story came into being. I love those moments where something completely unexpected happens on the page and yet it has to happen. 🙂
Thanks, Kourtney. This challenge was a lot of fun, and a breath of fresh air for me. I, too, love when a story finds itself, and we end up along for the ride! 🙂