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Nov 28

Susan Shiney

An Origin Myth of Magical Mist...Or Whatever

Flash Fiction + Revision Discussion

So, I am working on releasing a piece of flash fiction each month. This month I also wanted to include an earlier draft and discuss how I approached my revisions. Enjoy!

FINAL VERSION:

An Origin Myth of Magical Mist...Or Whatever

I woke up that dawn to deep breathing flapping against my tent. The closest animal sound it resembled would be a horse, when it is tired, but more powerful, something with a long neck that has a large area for reverberation. Nostrils nudged into my tent frolicing in the buoyancy of the fabric. I flittered out the sleep crusties from my eyes and opened them wide as if that would help me comprehend what was transpiring.

I rolled over to push Missy awake. She is the outdoorsy girl who would know what to do. But her sleeping bag was empty, oh yeah, she'd ditched me last night to hang out with some debonair hiker that kept adding too many logs to the fire, so lame. You learn a lot about a person when you strap a backpack to her shoulders and hit the open road. Were we in bear country? Wherever bear country begins and ends in California. I scooped out the bear spray from my pack and cursed myself for not reading the directions before I was about to get my head gnawed off. Missy was supposed to take care of these camping doohickies.

The breath intensified as did the deep gurgling in its throat. Sound. Sound was scary. I barked at it, reaching down into my gut like a german shepard. The ground rippled as it adjusted its position. Yeah, my bark is that good. My heart thumping in my ears made it hard to hear the creatures continued movements. Should I go into a ball? That is stupid because it can't see me. Stupid. What is the opposite of stupid? I grabbed my book and I could put it over my head to look taller. I saw a documentary that said that works for hyenas. No hyenas around here. Tan fur. Mountain lions? Did looking taller scare them?

The tent fabric gouged in and I ducked as it nearly hit me in the head. On instinct, armed with Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods in one hand (the book that made me want to try camping in the first place, jerk) and Missy's bear spray in the other, I ripped the zipper door open and twirled around to face my woodsy attacker.

He was a tyrannosaurus rex-looking thing the size of a basketball player with massive bat-like green wings. His yellow eyes beamed in amusement as he opened his mouth full of ragged teeth and expelled a huge cloud of mist to announce himself. Not smoke mind you, fuzzy foggy mist.

I was having none of it. The fact that it was a dragon really pissed me off because the Discovery Channel never told me how to deal with one of these. Standing tall and moving my shoulders back, I said, "Now you listen to me dragon. I have in my possession a poisonous spray. I'll blind you. Believe me." I sprayed off a warning shot to the side, and narrowed my eyes and plumped out my lips. Not interested in taking a selfie or anything, but for some reason it made me feel more tough in the moment. Duck lips can be empowering in the right context, man. Leaping forward in his direction I wanted to scare him away. I remembered the time a mouse charged me in my apartment and I totally lost my shit.

He sniffed at the spray particles that hovered as a green cloud to the left of us and then shook his head, rubbed his nose with his stubby hands, sneezed and retreated a bit more. Tilting his head to the left and furrowing his eyebrows, he tried to figure me out. His eyes teared up in reaction to the wind changing directions, blowing more of the warning cloud toward him. The expression of a labrador being told he can't come on a walk was before me. But, he is not a lab, not a lab. And, I was not qualified to interpret dragon-associated facial expressions.

"That's right, get on outta here." My voice took on a cowboy quality that just seemed to fit. Johna Wayne in the flesh.

The dragon shuffled backward while still staring at me, all moonwalk like. After about five steps, he opened his mouth and breathed more white vapor. He spread out his wings with a whoosh that echoed in my chest, the color of them matched the leaves when extended. They started swaying back and forth, wings appearing and disappearing into the foliage. No flying around happened though, he just swashed around the mist through the forest air. The creature twisted around and revealed his scaly iridescent tail as he strutted into the redwoods humming fog. As I watched him fade away into the haze, a piece of me wanted to call him back. Had I missed some kind of meaningful encounter due to my fear of the unknown?

Whatever, no one is going to believe this anyway. I took the Walk in the Woods book that I had been holding above my head the whole time down, the cover had trees enticing the reader. Been there. Done that. This girl is never camping again.

THE END

EARLIER VERSION:

My First Camping Trip

I woke up that dawn to deep breathing flapping against my tent. I guess the closest animal sound it resembled would be a horse when it is tired, but more powerful. After I flittered out the sleep crusties from my eyes, I saw nostrils push into my tent, like it was playing with the moveable consistency of the fabric.

I rolled over to push Missy awake. She is the outdoorsy girl. She would know what to do. But her sleeping bag was empty because she had ditched me the night before to hang out with a debonair hiker. You learn a lot about a person when you strap a backpack to her shoulders and hit the open road. Then, I wondered if we were in bear country, wherever bear country begins and ends in California. I scooped out the bear spray from my pack and cursed myself for not reading the directions before I was about to get my head gnawed off. Missy was supposed to take care of these camping doohickies.

The breath increased in intensity and the tent fabric gouged in and I ducked as it nearly hit me in the head. I ripped the zipper door open and twirled around to face my woodsy attacker.

He was a Tyrannosaurus rex-looking thing the size of a basketball player with massive bat-like green wings. His yellow eyes beamed in amusement as he opened his mouth full of ragged teeth and expelled a huge cloud of mist. Not smoke mind you, fuzzy foggy mist.

I was having none of it. I stood up tall and moved by shoulders back, "Now you listen to me dragon. I have in my possession a poisonous spray. I'll blind you. Believe me." I sprayed off a warning shot to the side, and narrowed my eyes and pushed out my lips. Then took a giant leap forward in his direction. I remember the time a mouse charged me in my apartment and I totally lost my shit.

He sniffed at the spray particles to the left of us and then shook his head and sneezed and backed up. "That's right, get on outta here." My voice took on a cowboy quality that just seemed to fit.

The dragon backed away and continued to hum white vapor into the forest. He disappeared into the darkness.

THE END

Revision Discussion:

First, I wanted to look at structure to see what I needed to add to the piece as a whole before I focused on issues at the sentence level.

I followed the main beats or components of a scene and wrote out what was already there in the earlier version in blue and with orange and light blue I added what I think would solve the aspects missing structurally.

I realized the set-up of the story worked up until the disaster moment, but the second half was lacking which I felt was the reason that this piece seemed like it was missing something. I also thought the dragon's character needed more development. I added a lot to those sections for the final version which nearly doubled the word count the story.

Then, I was ready to jump into the prose or sentence level of revisions. Ursula K. Le Guin's book Steering the Craft is an excellent resource for how to focus on the nitty-gritty points of line-editing.

I added some long and short sentences to mix up the rhythm. I also needed to mix up the sentence structure of my sentences, I am famous for starting each sentence with I… I… I...I played with repetition with the word ‘stupid'. I took out the thesaurus to focus on stronger verbs, not quite there with the nouns, which leads to problems with my use of adjectives and adverbs. I played a bit with the sounds. The voice of the narrator is kicked up also for added effect because I liked that aspect of the piece.

I did some rewriting on the print out and I like to write it out by hand first for the major additions, and then make changes again as I type it out.

Bonus Inspirations of the Story:

-I originally wrote this story for a Flash Fiction contest that had a foggy photo prompt of the woods in it. We needed to use this ending sentence: He/She disappeared in the darkness. The word count needed to be kept between 200-400 words. I lost.

-A cow or horse did push in their nose on a tent I was in while sleeping in Mongolia and breathed over my tent for awhile. The two outdoorsy ladies I was with acted like it was no big deal and I was too tired to give it the terror it deserved.

-A mouse has charged at me from a pantry and a trash can. It happened in two different apartments in NYC.

-Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods inspired me to go on some outdoor adventures and he is most definitely not a jerk.

Was it interesting to see me break down my process? Should I do this with the flash fiction I put on my blog next month?

Anything else you would like to know? Let me know in the comments


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