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The Supernatural Fairy Tale Writing Challenge

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One of the search terms used to find this site is fairy tale story ideas. I’ve been using fairy tales as inspiration for many years. I like using the formula: fairy tale + paranormal element = supernatural fairy tale. Sometimes I even give myself an extra challenge to help inspire me; a certain genre, a picture, fairy tale moral, etc.

Some years ago (about 7) I started a blog called Supernatural Fairy Tales. One of the things I used it for was to challenge myself. At the beginning of the month I would announce my supernatural fairy tale challenge, and by the end of the month, I had my short story posted. As a result I have two fairy tale novels (which were based on my short stories) and over 20 short stories – 9 of which I loved and published as a collection, and lots of poems.

I thought it might be fun to share these story starters with others who are interested in a writing challenge. And where better than where my fairy tale journey began – on my blog, Supernatural Fairy Tales -  which has sat patiently awaiting my return.

There are three number generators: one to pick your fairy tale, one to pick your paranormal element, and one to pick an extra little challenge – just follow the links to your picks and then let your imagination take it from there.

I used it myself and this is my story starter: Fairy Tale: The Fisherman and His Wife – Paranormal Element: Witch/Warlock – Extra Challenge: Genre Steampunk. This ought to be interesting…

Love and Laughter,
Dorlana

The Ghost of Christmas Past Inspired Short Story

Inspired by The Ghost of Christmas Past from the novel, “A Christmas Carol” This one was one of my favorites because I wrote the entire story backwards – line by line – It was my daughter’s idea to write it that way because I was stuck. I also like it because it is my first and only western – and it has a touch of steampunk and ghosts.

The Gift

by Dorlana Vann

Paris, TX 1873

At first Cynthia was afraid to look out the window. She was afraid she would see the ghostly figure out by the horses again, stirring them up, making them run and complain. But she was expecting someone; she had to look.

The speck of hope that the person riding up the path was her husband immediately died away. The man hunched over and rode at a steady pace, like he had all the time in the world. The sudden ominous sorrow she felt was overwhelming.

Cynthia moved away from the window and began removing the supper dishes from the table. As soon as she had set them down, a loud knocking erupted. She smoothed her dress and touched her hair, wishing she had put it up instead of the bowls, and opened the door.

The stranger’s head was down, showing the top of his brown hat.  He was tall and broad shouldered and dirty.  Pistols hung on both sides of his hips. When he raised his head, the smell of whiskey came with each noisy breath. He squinted into the light. “Ma’am, I’m looking for Tommy Two Shot.”

Thomas isn’t here.”

The man frowned and then spit out the side of his mouth, saliva hitting the porch. “Is that so? Well then, when ya expecting him?”

The only reason she didn’t reconsider her decision to ask for his help was because she was more afraid of the ghost than she was of the stranger. Besides, no one who knew Tommy would dare harm his wife. “Mr. Stockton? I’m Mrs. Thomas Garrison. I’m the one who sent for you. Please, come in.”

He wiped his feet, removed his hat and walked into the house but didn’t stop very far past the door. He cautiously examined the room, looking to the fireplace, table, and chairs.

“Daddy! Daddy!” Mary and Annie ran into the room but stopped when they saw the stranger.

A flush of embarrassment raced up Cynthia’s face. “No girls. It’s a friend of your Father’s.”

Mr. Stockton asked, “Where is ol’ Tommy Two—”

“We don’t use that name in our home,” Cynthia said quickly.

He glanced at the girls and nodded. “My mistake ma’am. I mean, where is Mr. Garrison?”

“Girls… go on back to bed now. Annie, help your sister.”

The girls did as they were told and soon Cynthia was alone with the stranger. “Please have a seat.”

When the man sat down, his guns clanked against the chair.

“I’m going to get straight to the point, Mr. Stockton.” She placed a kettle into the fire, moving a stocking that hung from the mantle out of her way. “I have a problem. You see, after my husband left on a business trip…”

“Uh huh.”

“… I’ve had a visitor that I need to get rid of.”

“Killin’ ain’t my specialty.”

“I know.” She turned around and peered at the filthy man who sat across from her. She considered her words carefully, but at the last minute decided it wasn’t the time to beat around the bush. “I don’t need a killer. My husband told me what you do. I need someone who can get rid of a ghost.”

“He told you about that, huh?”

“He told me you had a special ability of some kind.”

“Are you sure it’s a ghost and not some coyote or raccoon? That’s happened before.”

“I’ve seen it out by the horses. It ain’t no coyote. It’s shaped like a man, but I can see right through it. It rattles the horses, scares them silly, and just as it turns its head to look at me… I turn away and hide. I’m afraid if it sees me it’ll come inside. I don’t want it coming inside, Mr. Stockton.” The kettle whistled, and she jumped.

“I’m not sure what your husband told you, ma’am, but I can’t get rid of the devil if that’s what you got. I’ve had a lot of folks wanting me to get rid of the devil.” He laughed and shook his head. “You see, I’m kind of what you call an interpreter. All’s I can do is listen.”

She poured him a cup of coffee and carried it to him, the coffee spilling a little from her shaky hands.

“You have a mighty fine home, Mrs. Garrison.” He took a sip of his coffee. “Real clean.”

The compliment made her feel uncomfortable. The way they lived, always on the move, they didn’t have things like other people, so there was nothing to make things untidy. Sometimes they lived in hotels in town, but it was worse when they had to stay with “friends.” She was grateful that this time they had found an old abandoned house out on the prairie—at least that was what her husband had told her. She didn’t question why it had furniture and a nice fence.

He looked around, nodding. He pointed to the fireplace with his hat. “February is a little late to still have your Christmas up.”

“Shhh. I’m waiting on Thomas so that we can have Christmas as a family,” she whispered. “The girls don’t know Christmas is over. They shouldn’t have to wait much longer. Thomas will be back any minute now.” After the stranger nodded, his eyebrow up, and clicked his tongue, Cynthia stared down at the floor—She knew he didn’t believe her, and she didn’t really have a choice but be straight with him.  “I really don’t know when he’ll be back. I don’t have any money. I swear as soon as he does return…”

“A hot meal would do fine.”

Cynthia cooked. Even though she had to use the remainder of the breakfast food, she wasn’t too worried. Thomas had played it close before but always returned right before all the supplies were depleted. She smiled and thought maybe this was a sign that he would be home soon.

After Cynthia put a plate on the table in front of Mr. Stockton, he dug in like he hadn’t had a meal in a while. She turned away when he started sopping up the eggs with the biscuits, the yellow dripping down his chin as he talked. “I was given this machine by a feller down in San Francisco. Sorta payment for a debt he owed me. I’ve had it for twenty-some-odd years. It’s never failed me. It brings ‘em out all right, and I can hear ‘em. I can’t talk to ‘em, but I can hear ‘em through that machine. Don’t ask me how the dang thing works, cause I don’t know.”

Cynthia wanted to believe that he would be able to help. But what he was saying seemed impossible. Perhaps it had been a mistake. Perhaps Mr. Stockton was crazier than a mad dog and what Thomas had told her about him that night had been a joke, maybe just drunk talk. She shook her head for being such a hypocrite. Most folks would probably think she was crazy, too, for seeing a ghost.

After Mr. Stockton finished his meal and after Cynthia checked on the girls, they walked outside and stood on the front porch.

Mr. Stockton walked from his horse, which was hitched to the porch, to the steps carrying a strange apparatus in his hands. It was round and made of a shiny metal. It reminded Cynthia of a compass. He pulled at a thin stick that came out of the top of it, and it seemed to grow. A strange noise resounded from the thing: a mix of frogs and unknown insects after a heavy rain.

He held it in the palm of his hand and put his arm way up high in the air, walking out into the sandy yard. “If there’s a ghost out here, this will detect it.”

She eased her way down the steps and followed him toward the fenced-in horses.

“Over here, right?” Mr. Stockton asked. “You saw it over here?”

The little machine lit up. Cynthia put her hand over her mouth and looked at Mr. Stockton.

Mr. Stockton nodded, acknowledging her unspoken question.

Like a flash of lightning on a black night, a sudden bright light shook Cynthia to the core. The figure of a man she had watched night after night through her window stood directly in front of her, but this time it was close enough that if she were to reach out, she could have touch him… and close enough that she couldn’t deny what she saw. Cynthia whimpered and her head swooned.

It was Thomas, her husband. He hadn’t come home for Christmas because he wasn’t coming home at all. He was dead.

Thomas didn’t seem to notice them. He walked by and through the gate, as if it didn’t exist. The horses began to move about. He looked over at the house and sighed. The little needle on the machine started twitching and then madly rotated around and around.  His faint voice came out of the machine. “I hope this will be the last time I gotta leave y’all.” In the next instant, the ghost of Thomas (Tommy Two Shot) Garrison disappeared.

Cynthia’s body shook, her worst fear realized in that second. How many times had she worried he wouldn’t come back home? How many times had she worried he would be killed? However, mourning would have to wait. She was now the only one responsible for her family. She wiped hard at her tears, and stood tall. She pressed her lips together before clearing her throat, and through a restrained sob said, “Good bye, Thomas.”

“Are y’all going to be okay?”

“We’ll be fine.” Cynthia gave a confident nod, even though she knew living without a husband would be more difficult than living on the run with an outlaw. “Thank you, Mr. Stockton.”

Mr. Stockton climbed on his horse and tipped his hat. “Ma’am.”  He rode away toward the moon, his saddlebags carrying the same as when he arrived and a trail of dust the only thing he left behind.

Cynthia knew she wouldn’t be afraid if she saw her husband’s ghost again. However, she had a feeling he had left for good, that he’d only come home long enough to give her a Christmas gift: she could stop waiting for him to return. Even though it was one a.m., she went to the room and gently shook Annie and Mary. “Wake up,” she whispered. “It’s Christmas.”

The End

Supernatural Fairy Tales

Supernatural Fairy Tales by Dorlana Vann

The Gift is one of the short stories in my collection

Supernatural Fairy Tales

The eBook only .99 cents on Amazon

fairy tale + paranormal element = supernatural fairy tale.

These 9 Supernatural Fairy Tales are not retellings of the original fairy tales but were inspired by them. They are paranormal themed stories about vampires, ghosts, mermaids, witches, and more, in genres ranging from romance to thriller. And fair warning: they don’t always have a happy ending.

Don’t Take Critiques at Face Value

Don’t Take Critiques at Face Value

After NaNoWriMo, there will be a lot of novel exchanges. So I just wanted to point out a few things I’ve learned about critiques over the years of receiving and giving them. I’ve also observed some really upset writers, and I’ve attended writer groups who only allow positive feedback … which to me, is useless.

Besides these famous quotes,

“The first draft of anything is shit.” ― Ernest Hemingway
“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” ― William Faulkner
“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” ― Neil Gaiman

I’m sure you’ve heard that you have to develop a thick skin. So what does it mean to have thick skin? For me, I have to remind myself not take the critique at face value nor take them personally. Bad critiques are not the ones that come back with lots of notes; the bad ones are the empty ones that say everything was perfect … because it’s not. (See Hemingway & Faulkner quotes) There’s always something that can be improved.

You want your novel/chapter to come back completely marked up. And the first reaction to getting copy back that looks like someone rewrote your story, is probably going to be either, “I should have caught this; I’m a horrible writer.” or “They don’t know what the hell they are talking about.” Most likely, one of those thoughts, or something similar, will go through your head. Let it. It’s normal, but you have to get over it if you’re going to make your story the best it can be.

After you’ve read over the critique and are finished cursing, think about any notes as a whole. Mull them over. Do you agree with them? If yes, awesome. Do the necessary tweaks. If No, whatever you do, don’t automatically disregard them. If something takes the reader out of the story, makes them stop reading to write a note, something is wrong. (See Gaiman quote) Maybe the comments will give you ideas for a new direction or fill in a gap somewhere else.

On one occasion, I didn’t agree with what a writer friend said about my character’s career choice. After thinking it over, I decided that my friend’s opinion would work great as the character’s father’s opinion on the same subject. This set in motion a lot of other changes too.

Furthermore, If you don’t know why a critiquer/editor changed something, (even something as small as a comma) asked them why they changed it, or look it up. Learn from your mistakes so you don’t repeat them. And guess what? Sometimes even the grammar pros make mistakes. So it is really important that you take control of your story.

But you know what? This is your story, so you can choose not to change anything suggested, and you should look at critiques as such … suggestions. Suggestions you will take into consideration. And as you ponder, also consider that not everyone enjoys reading the same genre, and not everyone knows your style. (I’m guilty of choosing to use incomplete sentences, and I like starting my sentences with conjunctions – these things always get marks. *shrugs*)

Also, remember to thank your critiquer, no matter how crazy you think they are. You asked for the critique, and they used their time (the more marked up the copy the more time they took) to do you a favor.  And if they are a writer, you can get always get them back when it’s your turn to critique. Mwah ha ha!

Love and Laughter,

Dorlana

Fairy Tale Inspired Short Story

If it Weren’t for Bad Luck

A Rumpelstiltskin Inspired Short Story by Dorlana Vann

 from  “Supernatural Fairy Tales” short story  Collection

I walked through the front door a little after midnight. Jana sat on the couch in the darkness covered by the quilt from our bed, the images from the television flickered on her solemn face. “Oh, you’re up,” I said and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“I want to talk to you, Trevor.”

When I caught a glimpse of deep concern in her eyes, I immediately thought something had happened to the baby. “Is Ethan okay?”

“He’s a handful to deal with by myself… but he’s fine.”

“Good… good.” That’s all I needed to know; I could go on to bed because anything else could wait until morning. “Well, goodnight.” I turned and walked down the hallway. But I didn’t get very far.

She yelled after me: “I hired a P.I. today!”

As I stormed back into the room, fear flushed my face. “You did what?” I stood over her. “Why would you do that?” When I realized my hands had a death-grip on my hair, I tried to relax but still couldn’t control my fidget.

“Because every time I try to talk to you, you walk away. I want the truth. I deserve the truth. Where do you go every night?”

“You know I’m out drinking with the guys. I’ve told you a thousand times.”

I watched her jaw tighten, and through her teeth she said, “Why are you lying to me?”

My heart raced. Had she found something? “What makes you think I’m lying?”

Jana tossed the blanket off her lap and stood up. I tensed my body, prepared for a slap. She eased to her tiptoes, so we were face-to-face, breath-to-breath. “You don’t smell like a bar,” she whispered. “For a man who has been out drinking all night long, you certainly are sober. You don’t drink at home. Why the hell would someone pretend to be a drinker?”

I plopped down on the couch and rubbed my face hard with my hands. “Why are you doing this? Why can’t you just leave it alone?”

“Leave it alone? This is our marriage!”

I had nothing to say, nothing to offer.

“I give up,” she said. “I’m just going to ask, since you can’t be a man and just admit it. Are you cheating on me? Is there someone else?”

An affair. It would be a simple enough explanation. “Would that be something you could forgive me for?”

“Wait a minute. That’s not it, is it? Shit… I can see it in your eyes. Trevor?”

“Just do yourself a favor. Do our family a favor. Call the private detective, and call it off. Let me protect you. Don’t you see? If I tell you, I don’t know what will happen. I’m afraid you’ll never forgive yourself.”

“What? Forgive myself? What are you accusing me of?”

I looked at her, exhausted, tested, tears filling her eyes. It had gone too far. I knew she would probe until she found the answers. And I knew that it wouldn’t look good if a P.I. came back with pictures. Jana would just draw her own conclusions. Conclusions that would end our marriage, and I had lost too much to let that happen. I inhaled and then exhaled slowly. “You tried to sell Ethan.”

“What?”

“I had to buy him back,” I said. “Now I can’t catch a break.”

“Just stop it. Stop it…”

“You wanted to hear this; so here it is.” I stood up and grabbed her hands. “Luck, like anything else, can be bought and traded. Before we met, you made a deal with Luck. Because you had such horrible luck, you agreed to trade your first-born for what you thought was really good luck.”

“Really?” She pulled away from me. “I don’t know what you’re doing—”

“After we were married,” I said firmly, “After we were pregnant, you told me what you did. You told me how you found out too late that good luck was just an illusion; that there were only three types of luck: extreme, medium, and weak. With extreme luck, really good things happen but so do really bad things.”

“Maybe you haven’t been drinking,” Jana said, “but something is wrong with you.”

“You told me you tried to take it back, but it was too late. You had already given up all rights to our unborn child, before we met, to some couple with medium luck.”

“This is crazy, Trevor. Do you know how crazy this sounds?”

“I thought so too… at the time. But still, I asked you where I could find this luck guy. Even though I didn’t believe you, never believed a word of it, I went there. And after I found the guy, I still didn’t believe he was who you thought he was. But for your peace of mind, I made my own deal…” I had to think hard. As time had passed the details had faded. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would completely forget… just like Jana had.

“What kind of deal?” she asked with impatient sarcasm.

“I remember asking if you could just give back the money you had won in the lottery. But that had already happened. He said something like he couldn’t erase time. I had to make a new arrangement so that I could keep my son. He called it weak luck, but it’s worse than that, it’s no luck at all.” I shrugged my shoulders because I knew that even if I would have known the outcome I still would have done whatever I had to do to protect Ethan.

When I looked at Jana’s face—her puckered lips and firm jaw—I knew she hadn’t believed a word I had said. But I had to finish. “I gave myself a little test all the way home that night; I flipped a quarter. Even after it never landed on what I said it would, I didn’t believe it. As each day passed, I pushed the limits a little more. You know, I had to see if it was real. I kept testing my luck, until it became an obsession. Until…” At this point, I couldn’t look her in the eyes. I cleared my throat of my sudden panic and then whispered, “I’d lost everything.”

“What do you mean?” Her words trembled.

“I’ve lost everything that was left from your lottery winnings. All of our savings.”

“No, no, no… this isn’t happening.”

“I’m sorry. I just keep thinking that I have to have some portion of at least medium luck. That’s where I go! To try and win it back.” Suddenly, it became so clear. This could be good. Together we made medium luck! “You can win it all again. All you have to do is buy another lottery ticket, or we could go to the horse races.”

“No! Stop it!” She reminded me of a cat in defense mode: hunched back, hair on end, eyes wild, claws loaded. “I can’t believe you would make up such a ridiculous story so that you could blame me for you losing our son’s future? You don’t have bad, weak or whatever luck, Trevor, you have a gambling problem.”

“What? No…” I wondered how it had happened. How had I become the bad guy? “I know it’s hard to believe. I didn’t believe you when you told me, either. But I gave you a chance.” My body had begun to shake. “Just think about it for a minute. I know the memory of meeting him fades for a reason or everyone would be at his door. But there has to be something there. Think Jana, think!”

“You need help, Trevor. Are you willing to get help?”

“What I need is for you to believe me. How many times have you said it yourself ‘Your luck sucks’? How many times has everyone said it? I traded it for you, for Ethan, and that’s why the car keeps breaking down, the lights turns red at intersections, the reason I have lost so many jobs.”

“What? You’ve lost jobs? More than one? You don’t work for Laurence anymore?”

“It’s been six months.”

She stood with her mouth open as tears streamed down her face. I took a step to comfort her, but she held up her hand and said, “Tell me his name and where I can find him.”

I closed my eyes trying to think again, trying to recall.

“What is it Trevor? Give me something. Is it John? Peter? Frank? Larry?”

But his name had left my memory months before. “I can’t. I don’t know,” I said without opening my eyes. The soft breeze told me she had left the room.

I sat on the couch, waiting for her to go to sleep, thinking we could talk it through in the morning. Maybe as she slept some of the memories would return. But a few minutes later, she walked past. When I looked up, expecting another confrontation, she stood at the open front door, her back to me, Ethan asleep in her arms. And then she said, “Good luck.”

The End

Supernatural Fairy Tales

Supernatural Fairy Tales by Dorlana Vann

 If It Weren’t for Bad Luck is one of the short stories included in my collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales – which is FREE Amazon worldwide until Friday November 15, 2013

Amazon (Kindle)

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