Life, Writing

Story notes for “It’s Easy to Shoot A Dog” in BENEATH CEASELESS SKIES

Read the story in BCS #260.

I’ve had the story title kicking around in my head for a long time. That isn’t often the case for me. I usually end up flopping around after finishing a story, trying to think of a cool title, but in this case, the title came first and it was inspired by a specific story seed.

I knew someone who shot their dog. It was a terrible thing that was also a good decision under the circumstances, but I won’t go into detail. The person who did this pretty much never spoke about it afterwards. There are times when the only thing you can do, is choose between different bad decisions. A lot of times, life seems to be like that.

“It’s Easy to Shoot A Dog” is a story about a head-strong, wilful child who deeply desires something she cannot have. When she finds a way to get it, she knows it comes with a price, but like so many of us, she doesn’t understand how difficult it will be to pay that price until long after the deal is done.

This story takes place in much the same landscape as Scent from Flash Fiction Online, and The Root Cellar (published earlier this year in BCS). It’s a story-scape inspired by northern Sweden, what I know of my own grandparents’ lives in the villages there, and fairytales. It’s a place without royalty or castles or big cities, where people eke out a living from the land, living at the edge of the wild, its woods and rivers. It’s a place where a child might disappear into the forest and not be seen again.

Susanna, the protagonist of this story, tries to find a way out of the hemmed in, cramped village life that awaits her. She even finds a way out. Whether she can pay the price for it is another matter.

This story underwent several incarnations in the writing. The POV changed, details changed, but Susanna never really changed. She came to me with the opening paragraph,

It’s easy to shoot a dog. Susanna watched Papa do it one bitter morning, winter before last, when old Karo couldn’t get up off his blankets, so she knows how it’s done.

Sometimes the writing is like that: a character comes along, and the story shapes itself after who they are. In the end, this story also received an excellent round of edits and polishing from Scott H. Andrews (thank you, Scott!), who saw something good in this story about a headstrong, stubborn, selfish child, a witch, a musket, and a debt to pay.

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