Reply To: Red (short story – 2,600 words)

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Philippa East

Hi Elle,

I remember you talking about this story, and I really like it. A very clever twist on the oldest of tales.

I think you set things up well: we are expecting her to be the victim, but it shifts dramatically and she becomes the predator, turning the tables with her newly-discovered sexual power. Your writing, descriptions etc. as always, are great.

A few minor thoughts. I wonder if you could drop a couple more ‘riding hood / wolf’ references in somehow near the start? I think I “got” that it was a take on Red Riding Hood because we’d discussed the story, but other readers may require a few more breadcrumbs to make the connection soon enough. I know you already have a few, but they are easy to miss. Maybe describe Jezza as looking like a wolf or something when we first meet him?

In the bedroom scene, the pelvis crushing for some reason felt too literal. I think the other images (biting his tongue, breaking his skin, eating his scream, leaving him as a bag of bones) work really well – they could all be taken literally OR figuratively / symbolically (and that gives you story that great fairytale quality). The pelvis shattering felt too literal and more like something out of a straight murder scene. Maybe just cut it to “winding her legs around his waist with a new strength”?

Overall, the scene where she bites / eats him felt very climactic (excuse the pun), and it’s very well done. It’s a great table-turning moment. However, following that, I felt the pace then dragged when we have the “exposition” scene with Red and Babulya. You are packing a lot of brand-new backstory in here, which slows everything down, when in a sense the story has by now “finished” and we are simply ready for it to neatly end. Could some of these lines / more of this backstory information be woven into the story earlier, so you can move more swiftly from climax (she eats / kills him) to resolution (she dons her hoodie and goes on the hunt)? For pacing, you don’t want more than a few lines in between these, really.

Incidentally, I think that final paragraph works really well – it’s the chilling resolution to the whole twisted story. Great job.

Final tiny point:
“Tasha and she nicked it” – I thought “it” referred to the vodka cranberry – can you clarify that you mean the lipstick?

Great work.