SynopsisA cash strapped man buys a gun and heads to a back ally to try and steal a little cash. What happens next is…unexpected…
My short story “An Unexpected Event” was published by Liar’s League NYC for their Cops & Robbers theme. The story was performed live by Jere Williams at their event in New York.
To provide a little bit more value to anyone interested, I thought I’d write a littler about how the story came to be. Be warned, there are SPOILERS ahead, so definitely read the story before you check out the rest of this post.
Conception of “An Unexpected Event”
I originally wrote this story for Poetry Club, the weekly writing group I attend here in Berlin. The topic of the week was “Unexpected Events” (yes, I know I was not very creative when it came time to title the story).
At the time I had an hour-long bike ride home from the pub in which my slightly beer-tipsy brain would run through story ideas for next week’s topic. Usually, by the end of the ride I’d have already started to craft the story. This time it actually happened very fast.
Since the stories are read aloud in a noisy bar where people are easily distracted, I usually pack my stories full of jokes in the hopes that it’ll keep people’s attention. One of my first thoughts for this topic was something along the lines, “it would be an unexpected event if someone tried to rob another person and that other person turned out to be a major gangster.” That thought was immediately followed by, “and wouldn’t it be funny if that gangster was a little girl?”
And then I had my story. Often, I have to craft the story over and over in my head before something begins to take shape, but this one came right away, almost fully formed.
I wrote three drafts (which is quite low for me), and the first draft is almost identical to the final draft (another rarity). Usually I toil and toil and toil until the final draft has only a vague hint of the first draft remaining.
After getting advice from friends I actually only made three major changes.
The bear has always appeared in my head as Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear from Toy Story 3. I guess that’s where Mr. Huggins in my story got his name. If you had asked me at the time, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the name of the bear from Toy Story 3, but it was obviously floating around in my subconscious.
I initially wrote that he was fuzzy and warm, something to really cheer Harry up. But, after reading the story again I realized that making him dirty and grubby brought a bit more life to his (the bear’s) back story; that way the reader can imagine all sorts of lived histories for him.
It was my girlfriend’s suggestion that the little girl stash her cash inside him. I loved the idea, but I felt like he needed a shirt to better hide that mulah. I also realized that putting him in a jersey could add to the story by evoking location.
The initial draft had no location. It could take place in basically any city anywhere (as long as that city gets snow). That being said, I always imagined it taking place somewhere in the states (maybe cause of the gun violence). In fact, I can’t even read the little girl’s dialogue without using a southern accent.
A friend of mine read the first draft and said that Harry’s dialect – always referring to his mother as ‘mama’ – made him think that Harry might be black. Maybe that was in my sub-conscience when I wrote it, but that just furthered the idea in my mind that it took place in the southern states.
I don’t know anything about football (or sports in general), so when it came time pick a term jersey, I chose the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a random southern state.
Whether or not the story takes place in Florida is completely up to the reader to decide. There are many ways a Buccaneers bear could end up elsewhere.
The first draft ending was much worse for Harry. The little girl demanded weekly payments as a ‘tax’ for trying to rob her. I think she specifically stated that if Harry missed a payment, then “Mr. Huggins is good with pain.”
My initial readers thought it was quite harsh and that poor Harry deserved a bit break. My girlfriend suggested that the girl only teach Harry a lesson in mugging, but give him his stuff back. I liked the idea that girl was only teaching Harry a lesson, but I also wanted her to keep some of his stuff. After playing with it a bit, I got the final ending.
I hope that adds a vit more value to An Unexpected Event for you. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. And if you haven’t yet, definitely check out the audio recording; Jere Williams does an amazing job!