Last Thursday, I submitted a story to the weekly FlashDogs challenge. Each week, the FlashDogs blog posts a picture prompt and a theme around which participants write flash stories. There’s a 2,000 character (a little over 300 words) limit, but aside from these constraints, writers are free to write what comes to mind. This was the picture prompt last week:
There was no theme prompt, so we were free to roll with the picture.
The original story I wrote was 514 words long. I liked it, but it needed some serious abridgment for the FlashDogs challenge. I agonized over every word I chopped, but I got it down to 338 words, which was just enough to meet the character count. While I’m pleased with the edited version, I still like the original. I like the slower build, each line stringing the reader along until we get to the punchline. The edited version doesn’t leave as much room for dramatic tension. At least, I don’t think so.
You can decide for yourself whether you agree. The edited version is on the FlashDogs site. And here is the original, longer version:
The girl stomped snow from her boots as she climbed the stone steps of the porch. She knocked on the door as hard as she could wearing fleece-lined leather mittens. It was more of a thud than a knock, but it would have to do. It was too cold to hit bare flesh against solid wood. She was sure her knuckles would break. Footsteps, then the door unlatched and creaked open.“Yes?” A plump lady with silver hair, round glasses perched on the end of her nose, and a rosy smile greeted her. The girl grinned, and the lady’s rosy smile blossomed.
“I’d like to see Mr. Claus,” the girl said. The lady chuckled.
“Of course you do, my dear! Won’t you come in?”
“No, that’s okay,” the girl replied, her smile disappearing. “I have some private business to discuss. Better outside, I think.” The lady shrugged her shoulders.
“If you insist,” she said. “But it’s a mighty cold day. Not that we’re complaining. Nothing like a good chill to spur on the reindeer…” Her voice drifted as she disappeared into the house.
A few moments later, a familiar figure appeared at the door.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” said Santa. “And what can I do for you, young lady?”
“Let’s take a walk, please, Mr. Claus. I’ve come a long way, but this shouldn’t take long.”
“Are you well, Mr. Claus?” the girl said as they walked.
“Yes, very,” Santa replied, clearly confused.
“And the reindeer? All ready for tonight? Rudolf’s nose glowing nice and bright?”
“The elves are polishing it as we speak. Supposed to be quite a blustery exit from the North Pole this evening.”
“Glad to hear it,” the girl replied. Santa was used to childish enthusiasm from girls her age, and this girl’s lack of it disturbed him a little.
“What can I do for you… Anneka, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it’s Anneka, Mr. Claus. Did you get my list?”
“I did,” said Santa. “It was quite… um… extensive.”
“But it won’t be a problem, right?”
“Well… not everyone gets everything they want, you know. I don’t want to spoil you.” Santa tried to smile, but something about the steely look she gave made his mouth falter.
“But this time, that won’t be a problem.” Before Santa could respond, Anneka stopped and took out her phone.
“Oh, wasn’t that a present a couple of years ago?”
Anneka didn’t reply. She removed her gloves, swiped the screen a few times, then held it up for them both to see. Santa’s eyes nearly popped from his head.
“Last year, Mr. Claus. You didn’t notice, but… I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus. Underneath the mistletoe. See?”
Santa grumbled. “Umm… yes… but I can…”
“It’s simple, Mr. Claus. Everything on my list, or this picture gets sent to Mrs. Claus. Do we understand each other?”
“I didn’t hear you, Mr. Claus.” Anneka glared at the old man. “Do we understand each other.”
“Yes… umm… yes.”
Anneka pocketed her phone, put on her mittens, and walked away.
“Merry Christmas,” she said without turning.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Original or Edited…?