Monday, May 14, 2012

Survivor Turbo: After the Happily Ever After

Survivor Turbo is relentless.

This week's challenge was to write about the happenings after a fairy-tale ending. I was given 350 words and fifty minutes.

Here's what I came up with...

They think I’m crazy. It was just a night of dancing – but what a night! Such a charming girl, and so beautiful – princes have married women for worse than fitted footwear.

The first weeks are blissful. Though Ella’s gorgeous, she’s no delicate flower. She insists on doing her share around the house. She is tremendously popular with the help (except with Gaspar the chef, who doesn’t appreciate interference in his recipes). She’s simply a pleasing woman to be around.

One morning, a few weeks after the wedding, I’m jolted by a horrified scream. Putting on my robe, I rush downstairs to find Ella sobbing.

A dead cat lies at the base of the wall. ‘The Past Never Dies’ is smeared in crimson, coagulating letters. An investigation is conducted, but no culprit is apprehended.

Shortly thereafter, Ella announces that she is entertaining some friends from her old village. I offer to prepare a grand party, but she tells me that her guests are tired, and that there will be plenty of time for parties.

That night, as I walk through the halls before I retire, I see a light still flickering in the guest room. I decide to introduce myself to Ella’s friends. At first, I knock politely on the door. Hearing no reply, I inch the door open.
“Excuse me? I thought I should like to…” I stop. There’s no one in the room. In fact, the bed is undisturbed.
Confused, I peer around the room a bit. It is late, and guests should not be out. A foul odor coming from the trunk beside the bed. Taking out my key, I open it. Several dead mice are all that the chest contains. Their now rigid bodies meticulously stuffed into little shirts.

I stand there for a minute or two, not knowing what to make of my discovery. A noise behind me brings me to.
Ella is standing in the doorway. Blood covers her dress. In one of her hands is a chef’s hat, in her other a knife. A deranged smile is set upon her lips.

I got just one medal, so there's only this bit of judge's critique.

DK:  Really like the darkness here, and it connects well with some of the oddities of the original story, the kinds of things that don’t seem weird when you look at it as a fairy tale, but would if you didn’t.  BRONZE

So... I'm a bit disappointed in how this one turned out. I liked the concept a lot, but there just wasn't enough space to flesh out the growing unease. Even my first draft didn't quite do it, and that one was 570 words. One of the tough things about this format is how it forces you to ruthlessly cleave away needed bits of context to fit the constraints of a particular challenge. What it ends up leaving you with are bits like "The Past Never Dies". By itself, it means nothing, in fact, I don't remember what it meant in context, as I'm pretty sure the context was the first bit to go. I need to stop falling in love with a particular concept in this game. In the last game, I could afford to, as most of my concepts were able to be molded - but the word limits were insanely high last time. I didn't even need the whole thing half the time.

Most of the things I liked about this don't end up reading so well in the final draft, but I liked the references (the dead cat is supposed to be Lucifer from the movie, the dead mice are obvious her forest friends). The idea is, of course, that Cinderella was a functional psychopath. All of the movie was delusions, and she was actually locked away in a misguided attempt to keep herself and others safe. That's not exactly a 350 word concept, so it fails. Better luck next time.

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