Behind the Scenes of “Salty”

Woohoo! My newest flash fiction story, “Salty,” is available to read for 24 hours on Havok today. It’s a fantasy-comedy about a mermaid whose sunbathing sesh is rudely interrupted by a lovestruck human guy. Curious about how I wrote it? You’ve come to the right place.

This was the first story I wrote for Havok’s new season, “Stories that Sing.” Every month features stories inspired by songs from a different decade — in this case, the 1950s.

I’m not familiar with many 1950s songs. Fortunately, my wife owns a soundtrack from a show that features a ton of songs from that decade. So we listened to it on a roadtrip, and I started imagining which stories would lend themselves to a flash fiction piece. As you may imagine, a lot of them are love songs. And since Havok features genre stories, I knew there needed to be some sort of sci-fi/fantasy element.

Which made “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” so intriguing. The mental image of washing conjured images of water—which led to the sea—which led to a mermaid—boom. A story of a mermaid spurning a human guy’s advances to avoid an inter-species romance. In terms of genre, it seemed like a great candidate for a Wacky Wednesday story.

The next day, I sat down to write. But just to double-check on the decade, I googled “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” . . . and learned it was recorded in 1949! Travesty!

Fortunately, there were plenty of other songs on the soundtrack. I figured I’d already committed myself to this story idea (and the deadline was literally the following day) so I identified a different song that would lend itself to the same story.

Ah yes, speaking of “the deadline was literally the following day,” I’m rather proud to say that I wrote this story in a day. This was the “sit in a coffee shop all day” day of our roadtrip, and I’d say I put it to good use! Starting with only the premise and genre, I sat down and starting pantsing (read: writing without an outline).

I knew the story would start with the guy encountering the mermaid, but I had no idea where it would go or end up. At first, I thought it would begin with her saving him from a shipwreck, but I found the setup for that wasn’t leading to a very interesting conversation. I started over, this time with him interrupting her sunbathing. The interruption made it feel like a much more humorous start (as opposed to, you know, saving someone from dying).

From there, it was just a matter of imagining what would make for a funny conversation. The list of challenges of an inter-species romance was an early idea, but bringing Cthulhu in as a deterrent was something I came up with in the moment. Every now and then, things would veer into territory that would considerably exceed the word count or just start leading the conversation off-track, so it was just a matter of reigning things in and keeping dialogue focused on what they wanted (a date, and space).

All in all, the actual writing portion took me approximately a full afternoon. (I’m very impressed with flash fiction authors who write stories in an hour!) Both my wife and I did a read-through before I submitted, but that was pretty much the extent of my revisions. So I’m very thankful for Lauren and Gen at Havok for seeing through its imperfections and helping it become what you can read today!

I hope you enjoyed both the story and this look at how I wrote it! If you did, or if you have any questions, feel free to post here or on Havok’s website. And if you didn’t get a chance to read it during the 24 hours it was free, you can always become a Havok Horde member. As a member, you’ll get full access to “Salty” and every other story they’ve published, as well as the ability to vote on which stories are selected for anthologies. Thanks for reading!

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