Fairy Tale feedback

I placed #4 in my group for the NYC Midnight flash fiction challenge. The next round is this weekend. My prompts were fairy tale for genre, a picket line for the setting, and cider for something that has to physically appear in the story. I am always interested to see the judge feedback on these to see how well I conveyed what was in my brain to random people.


”The Brave Pig” by Allison Ketchell – WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {2059} I loved this story concept and how you worked the ‘picket line’ element into this fairy tale. There’s a nice bit of satire that runs through this tale (without overtaking the narrative). I also was pretty shocked by the moment when the CEO and assistant fell into the cider and drowned (definitely a little darker than I had been expecting)! {1984} There was a lot to like in the camaraderie between the pigs and the dwarves. It was nice to see they had a common goal and to watch them work together to right a wrong. This worked as a nice real world allegory on many levels. {2162} Nice cadence and pacing. It’s got the surprising level of violence contained in original fairy tales – talking pig here, talking wolf there, and suddenly cartoon animals are drowning each other.

WHAT THE JUDGES THOUGHT NEEDED WORK – {2059} I wasn’t quite sure that all of the dialogue worked for me in this story – especially the characters introducing themselves. I’d encourage you think about what the dialogue adds and when you do and don’t necessarily need it. I also wanted Jordy to have more of an essential role in this story. His inclusion is definitely a great idea, but I wasn’t sure what he actually added to the plot (the end scene of him watching the fight unfold left me a little confused). {1984} The bears were a strange ingredient in this tale. They remain out of the conflict entirely but in the end they are forgiven because they take an active role in picking up the pieces. That probably won’t sit right with some readers. Dennis’s change from being a worker that keeps their head down and does the work to being an activist didn’t really seem to happen on the page. {2162} I feel like the trouble with the fairy-tale animal-killin-animal trope, in this case, is a sense of scale, maybe. It makes sense that Dennis would suddenly push the wolves into the vat and watch them drown, but then after that, there seems to be an all out pig-vs-wolf grudge match, and I just don’t know how well pigs would do vs teeth and claws.. that’s why they typically have to rely on their wits in fairy tales. And then.. are there no more wolves at all left in the forest? Did they exterminate the whole race? Again, it’s the sense of scale that holds me back. Otherwise, nice creative piece.

Here’s the story:

The Brave Pig

Once upon a time there was a pig named Dennis. Like all pigs, he lived in a little village tucked in a pocket of woods inaccessible to humans and worked in the apple cider factory. The wolves who ran the factory were not terribly nice and the work was dull, but there were simply no other jobs for pigs in Briar Wood, and unemployed pigs had a way of disappearing, leaving only a whiff of bacon curling from a chimney to remember them by. Dennis had three piglets in need of food, clothes, and school fees, and he worked hard operating the apple press, kept his head down, and collected his paycheck.

​Until today. Today he was holding a REMEMBER ISABELLE sign and marching in a line outside the factory. Isabelle had drowned in a vat of cider last week and the factory had closed while the Worker Safety Council investigated and found the wolves blameless. Dennis had organized the memorial service, but there was no grave to visit. While wolves were buried in a charming cemetery on the hill, pigs’ remains tended to go missing, and when Dennis told the other workers that he had overheard upper manager wolves discussing their new fondness for cider-soaked roast pork, they agreed with him that something had to be done.

​The dwarves who worked in the wolves’ mines looked curiously at the picket line on their walk to work. They held a brief conference before deciding to join the protest. A few of the dwarves left to get supplies for sign-making. “I’m Hal,” one miner said, holding out his hand for Dennis to shake. “When I was injured in a cave-in last year, I almost went broke paying for my hospital stay. If someone is standing up to the wolves, I’m in. Sorry about what happened to your friend.”

​“Thanks. The Worker Safety Council blames the workers when anything bad happens. They might recommend better safety railings and no more mandatory double shifts, but they won’t enforce anything. The Council is afraid of the wolves. We all chipped in so Isabelle would have a memorial service since they wouldn’t even pay for that. I guess they saved us the cost of a coffin,” Dennis said bitterly.

​Hal held up his sign: BITING BACK. “You know, because of their big teeth? Think it’s too aggressive?”

​“How many of us have they hurt or killed? I think it’s just right.”

​“Hello! What’s going on here?” A brown bear in builder’s clothes had approached.

​Dennis explained the situation. “I’m Dennis,” he added. “We’d love to have you on our side.”

​The bear held out a paw. “Jordy. Nice to meet you. I’m sorry about your friend, but the bears have no quarrel with the wolves. We don’t really want to rock the boat.”

​“But you’ve got teeth and claws! You could really help us.”

​“I’ll take it back to the builders, but we just want to do our jobs and take care of our families. I don’t know about taking sides.”

​Dennis sighed as Jordy ambled off. “Why wouldn’t they help us, Hal? It’s no skin off their noses.”

​“You can’t really blame them. Would the dwarves have stopped if we weren’t in the same boat you are? I’d like to think we would, but who knows?”

​Dennis was still thinking about that when a shiny black car approached. “All right, everyone! Here come the wolves! Stay calm!”

​Four nattily dressed wolves stepped out. “What is the meaning of this? Factory should have opened hours ago!”

​Dennis stepped forward, trembling. He’d never even seen the CEO before. “We are on strike to protest unsafe working conditions, sir.”

​“You’re all fired. I’m opening up the factory myself.” The wolf shoved his way through the crowd to the wide doors, knocking over a couple of pigs.

​“Sir, you can’t fire all of them. There’s no one else to do the work,” his assistant whispered as they walked past.

​“Nonsense! If those dumb pigs can do it, anyone can. We’ll have a feast tonight and a job fair tomorrow!”

​Dennis motioned to the others to follow. It was soon clear that the wolves had no idea how to use the equipment. The CEO was bent over a vat, pushing a lever up and down, scowling. Another stood at a control panel, scratching his head. Dennis looked around him at the crowd of pigs and dwarves. He thought about Isabelle’s kind smile and suddenly felt brave. He stepped forward and shoved the CEO, who uttered a grunt of surprise before breaking through the safety rail and falling into the vat below. He flailed his arms, coughing up cider. His assistant ran to help, but the safety equipment the pigs kept asking for wasn’t there. The assistant lay flat on the metal platform, stretching his arm toward the CEO until he reached too far and slid into the cider. The CEO pushed the assistant’s head under, trying to keep himself afloat, but there was nothing to hold onto, no emergency exit steps. Dennis watched as the two struggled until both finally sank, their last breaths bubbling to the surface. 

​The doors burst open. Upper management must have called for reinforcements. A dozen more wolves rushed in, but they were badly outnumbered by the usually docile pigs and dwarves, and the fight was brief. Dennis spotted a furry figure lurking near the door. “Jordy, did you just stand here watching?”

​Jordy looked down. “Well, the bears voted against getting involved but I thought I’d come just in case. You were doing fine without me, so I didn’t jump in.”

​***

​With the wolves out of the picture, the pigs and dwarves took over the factory and the mines, raised wages, and formed an effective safety commission. The bears, ashamed of their complicity in the wolves’ oppression of their fellow creatures, took on the burden of enforcing the new safety regulations. And they all lived happily ever after.

998 words

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