The Right Frog
by Jessica Kruppa
Of all the nuggets of wisdom my mother’s given me over the years, I wish one had been, “Don’t irritate leprechauns before the meeting your job depends on,” or, “Don’t call them garden gnomes.” Either would have worked. I hadn’t taken the bossy little thing’s outrage seriously until the first frog appeared in my toothbrush cup. It went downhill from there.
One of the secretaries laughed as I peeled a frog off of my face.
“Mama said a girl had to kiss a lot of frogs to find Prince Charming, but this is ridiculous!”
There was a series of high-pitched screams, and crashes, from the women’s restroom. I sighed.
The thought of apologizing to that smug, inappropriately dressed, little creature made my skin crawl. But, if I didn’t get these frogs under control before the client, or my boss, arrived I could kiss my career in advertising goodbye.
In my office, door closed and blinds drawn, I hissed an apology to the air.
“I’m sorry! You’re not a glorified garden gnome. Enough with the frogs.”
I spun, and found the leprechaun on the desk behind me. Plump and wearing a blue dress and red, pointed cap, she certainly looked like a garden gnome. But apparently green is stereotyping.
“I apologized. That’s what you wanted.”
“I wanted you to be sorry, not just say it. There’s a difference.”
I looked at my watch. “Look. I have exactly 5 minutes before a presentation with Mr. Sullivan and a major client. I cannot have frogs spontaneously generating in the client’s coffee cup!”
“Of course not! That would be cruel to the frog. Besides, they are funnier on your head.” I glowered, but she smiled wider. “Good luck working that into your presentation.”
She vanished, leaving a tiny green frog behind.
I hid my tardiness behind escorting the caterer into the conference room. They had begun without me. Mr. Sullivan loomed like an unusually nervous, sweaty scarecrow as the client, known only as Topaz, flipped through page after page in the portfolio, her tight-lipped frown deepening with each turn.
“Hopefully lunch won’t be so disappointing.” She tossed the portfolio across the table and lifted the dome from her lunch plate. “It’s a dating service, not a funeral home. Is fresh and unique too much to ask?”
I wish she hadn’t asked. No sooner had she set the dome aside than her lunch ribbited.
We all stared down in horror at the creature sitting in the middle of her lunch.
“Incompetent! How dare you?” Topaz demanded, careening gracelessly out of her chair. “That’s it. We’re done here.”
Mr. Sullivan, suddenly pale, sagged where he stood.
It was over.
Then it hit me.
I removed the frog from my head and, as Topaz ranted, set it beside the first and plopped my wedding ring atop its head.
“Don’t kiss a lot of frogs to find your perfect match, kiss the right frog.”
The client suddenly smiled.
“Interesting. Alright. Let’s talk.”
Your ball, leprechaun.
Did the story raise expectations that were unresolved at the end?
Were there any parts of the story that were clearly not understandable or that you felt didn’t belong?
How did you feel about the resolution?
Expand for Annotation of Creative Process
The perfectionist in me expects to create nearly perfect prose right out of the starting gate. I write and rewrite sentences endlessly in my first draft, trying to nail that perfect phrase and to create the cleanest draft I can. Perfectionism has been my greatest downfall in everything from writing to art to cleaning the house (If it can’t be perfect from the start, then I won’t do it at all).
But the truth is, stories don’t enter the world fully formed and writers (except in a few rare cases) have to wrestle with it in the mud before they can shape it into a final draft. Keeping track of my process for these annotations has been helpful in cementing that reality in my head and quieting the perfectionist.
Onto the mud.
Character: A timid secretary
Desire: wants to impress her boss
Problem: she is plagued by frogs.
In hindsight, this is extremely vague and is probably the source of all of my problems with this story.
This was a 579 word, rambling mess that had the character giving a presentation to Mr. Sullivan while trying to hide the fact that frogs kept appearing in her pockets, behind her presentation easel, under the conference table, etc. Almost nothing was kept from this, except: A presentation, spontaneous frog generation, Mr. Sullivan.
I realized that my problems were vague and I didn’t really know what I was doing with this story. I decided that while the desire could be vague (“impress the boss”) how the character intends to do that in this story needed to be precise. I did about 530 words of brainstorming, trying to get a handle on this.
Conflict 1: The meeting room has frogs, so she has to move the meeting to another room, while keeping the frogs secret.
Conflict 2: The new room has no frogs, but they appear in the donor’s food.
From that, I figured out that Today is a Big Day, there is a donor/client to impress, the character is vying for a promotion. The first conflict is vague, which I discovered when I tried (and failed) to dictate this section. I ended up not dictating any of it until I hit week 3. So… fail.
Logical Ending: The meeting is ruined, character gets fired.
Meaningless Ending: The character turns into a frog. Or, the board member gets a call and leaves, so the frogs have zero impact.
Meaningful Ending: (Me: How does the main character get what she wants and overcome what’s happening to her? …What if, instead of overcoming the frogs she embraces the frogs?
Trying to figure out what I meant by that ending, I quickly worked out the ending of the story, wedding ring and all. Then I needed to put the hint for that resolution into the first part of the story, which was easily done when I remembered the “kiss a lot of frogs” saying. I dictated about 513 words of brainstorming. I didn’t actually dictate prose, but I summarized the ending, including dialogue (which was actually longer than the end result is).
REVISION AND POLISHING:
I realized I couldn’t revise something that hadn’t been written, since I hadn’t dictated prose since week 1. I’ve also hit a point where it’s easier for me WANT to write if I’m dictating than if I’m typing. This is also where I realized that my first conflict was stupidly vague.
I also had feedback about my previous story, Veronica, and everyone’s hang-up had been about the goo: Why was it and what was it? So I asked myself why the character in this story is being plagued by frogs. I swear the leprechaun + March + St. Patrick’s day was not intentional: This was supposed to be the February story.
Why is the character plagued by frogs?: Because she was cursed by a leprechaun.
What is the character going to do about this problem?: …I don’t know. She can’t force a fairy to do stuff. That would get bad. So this has to be something within the character’s power to both do and undo.
So, what did the character do to get cursed by a leprechaun?: She insulted it.
So, what can she do to fix the problem (the curse)?: Apologize?
I ran with that and came up with Conflict 1, which worked much better than my original plan of having her act weird by closing doors and cabinets randomly to hide frogs… it was a terrible idea.
None of my draft dictation is pretty. With my problem and conflicts finally sorted out, I dictated the story fresh, from beginning to end. That first “final draft” was 1072 words long. So it had to be condensed by more than half and polished. It was in the polishing phase that I sprinkled in the little quips and “witty” phrasing, because it certainly wasn’t in the draft.
I dictated a minimum of 3196 words (both draft and brainstorming) to get that 500 word story.