Ragnar's Saga

The Story Behind the Story

A Little Tongue

Posted by Christopher Hivner on July 25, 2010 at 11:18 PM

Story ideas come from many different places: a conversation with a friend, a newspaper article, a song, a historical event. Other times the idea comes out of nowhere, like an invader, a Viking slashing his sword into my brain. Once I have the basic plot in my head, the process can still go different ways. Some stories have to be pieced together, each section baked in a kiln until it’s ready. A section may even have to be broken up and reformed. On rare occasions the entire story appears in my mind fully formed, beginning to end: characters, title, plot. All I have to do is sit down and write it. That was the fortunate case with “A Little Tongue”.


I used to travel to and from work on Indian Rock Dam Road. Right before crossing over some railroad tracks I would pass a small grove of trees. One summer day on my way home, traffic got stopped. I can’t remember why, maybe a garbage truck but more likely road work, a common nuisance in Pennsylvania in the summer. I casually looked to my right, into the copse of trees. My sight fell on a stump in the middle of a dozen maples in full bloom. In one of those unexplainable moments, in my mind’s eye, I saw two men hunched over the stump watching a strange creature peeking out of a hole in the stump. I knew the creature looked like a human tongue and that the story was to be called, “A Little Tongue”.


Traffic started moving again but the images of the story remained for my entire drive home. I pictured the situation starting out as comical to the men: an animal that looked like a tongue, but soon turned deadly as the creature turns out to be more dangerous than it looks. By the time I got home twenty minutes later I knew who the two men were, the progression of the animal’s defense mechanisms, and the ending where we find out there are more than one.


I started writing “A Little Tongue” as soon as I got home that evening. It was one of a few stories that was very easy to produce. With the whole thing playing like a Saturday matinee movie in my head I wrote it in a day or two. Even though bad things happened to the two main characters, I always felt “A Little Tongue” was a playful story which is why I used the double entendre for the title. 


“A Little Tongue” was a fun story to write and I hope it’s as much fun for everyone to read.

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