I really struggled writing my most recent story for our Muses short story blog, which ended up being titled The Triggering Scent of Rabbit Stew. The prompt was super interesting and had absolutely so much promise, but an idea didn’t immediately strike me. And in our email discussions, the Muses talked about trying to write some lighthearted stories for the month and that was why that prompt was selected, as it had so much promise to create some much-needed hilarity.
Before I realized it, almost three weeks had passed and my story was due in less than a dozen days and I didn’t even have an idea yet. A small amount of panic had set it, but I was at work and couldn’t truly do much about it. Listening to the Welcome to Nightvale podcast and catching up on some scanning requests, I grew slightly frustrated that my fingers kept slipping into the frame in order to hold down the peskier pages. And, without missing a beat, I thought, “Well, at least it isn’t a claw.”
And the story idea hit me.
A shapeshifter who can’t control her ability to shift due to the changing environment surrounding her in the office. Yes, that could totally work. The original idea was to have the story be the scene where she was called into her bosses office, because he had half a dozen scans that revealed body parts of different animals instead of your average, intrusive human phalanges. The boss would be aware of her talents and would ask her to tell him what triggered each of these transformations throughout the day. The humor would come from which ordinary things would cause such a drastic, unrealized transformation. I had no idea how I was going to end it.
When I sat down to write it the next day, the story itself obviously had a different idea.
If you’ve read the story, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, it’s linked up above (but no pressure). Instead of changing into multiple animals, she only slipped into one form accidentally, a wolf. Instead of awareness, her boss was ignorant. And instead of a lighthearted, humor-fueled piece, by the time you reach the end, the entire story is dark and the ending ambiguous.
After writing it, I wasn’t happy with it. Even though there was no requirement to write something lighthearted, I felt I had failed the Muses, in a fashion. It made me wonder if I’m naturally more of a dark writer, considering all of my stories have had darker elements within them and the next story is going to follow that vein. I decided to let the story sit for the weekend and then edit it to have a lighter feel, perhaps more akin to the original plot idea. Hopefully, after doing so, I’d like it more.
Yet when I went to edit it, I didn’t revert it back. I kept the darkness. And I still didn’t really like how the story turned out. I didn’t feel it was my strongest work and I felt like the piece could have done more.
Stranger still, the response from those who read it was quite positive.
Obviously, an artist and their audience are bound to have different opinions (so bound, in fact, that I’m writing another blog post this week over the very same topic, only in a different setting). But I really didn’t expect anyone to enjoy this story because I didn’t enjoy it. Yet people did. It was a needed reminder for me, as someone who has been having a bit of an identity crisis recently in the writing department (which is another blog post to be happening this week).
Just because you doubt yourself doesn’t mean you’re right.