Yay! My newest flash fiction story, “Blood Hunter” is available to read on Havok.* It’s a Western about a werewolf bounty hunter whose lycanthropy gives him the ability to track prey by taste. Here, I wanted to share a little about how it took shape.
Like every story for Havok, this one started with the month’s theme. During this fourth season of Havok, each month’s theme is based on a sense. For August, that sense is taste. So I knew taste needed to play a prominent role in the story.
I didn’t have any particular flavors in mind, but I thought it could be interesting to do something with the taste of blood. Of course, I thought it might be weird to have a normal human making a habit of tasting blood, so I thought it would be cool to introduce a werewolf character—which offered reasons for both heightened senses and an interest in blood.
As for the setting, I recently got it in my head that I wanted to do some sort of Western-mashup story. I have no idea what prompted this, but this story seemed like a good opportunity. Werewolf cowboy, anyone? (Because of the weird-West setting, I can imagine this story taking place in the same world as “The Exomaton of Panner’s Bend,” though there isn’t any crossover.)
In terms of the writing strategy, I knew I wanted to retain a strong connection to the taste theme. I was afraid of mentioning it a couple times but otherwise ignoring it. Because of this, one of the earliest beats I imagined was a moment where the werewolf character describes a series of tastes in quick succession. This developed into the middle scene, which ends with Lemuel describing the different things he can taste to McKinsey.
That scene, in fact, is the main reason McKinsey is in this story. In my head, it didn’t make sense for Lemuel to just think about each of these things—he needed to say them out loud. So I developed the concept of Lemuel being recruited by the deputy and them hunting Coyote Sam together.
At that point, I thought McKinsey would be the main character. I envisioned his arc would begin with him being suspicious of Lemuel (because of his werewolf nature), and end with him respecting the bounty hunter. I wanted to portray Lemuel as a misunderstood, mysterious, yet honorable outcast who was doing his best with the hand life had dealt him.
But I quickly realized this story would not fit into 1,000 words. And since the core idea of my story placed the heaviest emphasis on plot, I ended up letting go of things irrelevant to it. This ended up moving the point of view closer to Lemuel’s perspective and eliminating McKinsey’s character growth. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for flash. Even though McKinsey’s role may be diminished in the final piece, his role still accomplishes what it’s meant to, functioning as a pseudo-foil to Lemuel.
The final scene also involved compromises for the sake of word count. In an earlier draft, I toyed with the idea of Coyote Sam’s gang hiding out in an abandoned coal mine, where the taste of the air would affect Lemuel’s ability to track them. That detail, and a more drawn-out fight scene, had to be trimmed to keep things within 1,000 words, but I’m still happy with how the story turned out.
And I hope you’re happy with how it turned out, too! Taste was an interesting theme, and I appreciate the way it pushed me out of my comfort zone to write “Blood Hunter.” Thank you for reading it, as well as this behind-the-scenes post. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or on the original story over at Havok 🙂
*Since I’m a volunteer editor, this story is published as a Staff Saturday post, which means it’s always available to the public! If you want to read my earlier Havok publications, or hundreds of other flash fiction stories, you can always become a Havok Horde member. As a member, you can also vote on stories and influence which ones are selected in anthologies.