For my yearbook students, I came up with a lesson that aimed to teach how to write a story for the yearbook, which in most cases would be a feature story as opposed to hard news.
I gave them examples from magazines because magazines generally have the best feature stories. Also, I gave them these so they could get the feel for the writing style. Then I had them read the children’s story “The Three Little Pigs.”
After that, they had to write a feature story about “The Three Little Pigs.” It could be a story about what the little pigs went through, what has happened since the event, or any thing else they wanted to make a feature story about as long as it pertained to “The Three Little Pigs.”
They had to use characters and information from the story. They could make-up other parts they needed (dialogue, details, etc.). The story had to be between 1,000 and 2,000 words long.
I wrote one too as an example for them. My story is what follows. I wrote it in first person, which is something you can often find in magazine articles, but I told them they couldn’t write it in first person when it came to the yearbook stories.
A Bad Breed
How a respectable young wolf became the baddest in the land
By T.R. VOGTS
naked light bulb swung slowly back and forth. Connected to a frayed cord dangling from the ceiling, it was the only light source in the entire hallway. Speaking of the hallway, it smelled. Mildew and mold permeated the air. The temperature felt cooler than it really was thanks to the moisture seeping through the walls. That’s what happens, though, when you build jail cells below the courthouse.
As I stood in front of the jail cell, I could hear water dripping. It sounded like it was off to my left, or maybe my right, or maybe it was behind me. Who knows? And if I’d asked a guard about the source of the noise, they probably would have laughed in my face. The jail is supposed to be confusing. It was part of the mind games the jail played because it was no ordinary jail. It was the closest thing to a prison a little county in Kansas could operate. The bad guys quivered and shook when they heard they were coming to Ness County.
“I love watchin’ em cry,” Ness County Sheriff William Giles sneered when I talked to him earlier. “They’re all a bunch a babies. They’re big and bad when they’re pushin’ over little old ladies or kickin’ puppies, but as soon as they get into one of my cells, they’re nothin’.”
“So what about your new inmate?” I asked.
Sheriff Giles leaned toward me. His thick fingers woven together, fat elbows propped up on his rickety, cluttered desk, he stared at me with beady eyes that were just barely visible beneath his sweat-stained cowboy hat. “That’s why you’re here? You want to know about that mangy mutt?”
I shrugged. “I work for the Fairytale Times. What J.T. Wolf did severely damaged Koerner Corner in Cushman, Kansas. I just want to find out why he did it.”
The sheriff leaned back. “I can tell you why. He’s bad.”
Bad wasn’t the half of it. J.T. Wolf had stormed into the peaceful fairytale town of Cushman and began attacking the kind folks that lived there. He was breaking windows and literally pushing little old ladies to the ground. Then he got hungry, and that is when the truly dastardly deeds were committed. He wandered into Koerner Corner and tried to murder and eat three pigs.
The pigs, who were prominent supporters of the arts program in Cushman, were all brothers — Eddie, Jeff and Stephen Hogsworth. Each lived alone. Eddie was the laziest of the group. He had built his house out of straw. Jeff had constructed his dwelling of sticks, and Stephen, the oldest and wisest of the three, lived in a house made of bricks.
J.T. Wolf, whose reputation had quickly changed his name to Big Bad Wolf, blew down Eddie’s house. Eddie narrowly escaped death by dinner when he ran to Jeff’s house. Of course, Jeff’s home was no match for the Big Bad Wolf either. Soon, both were cowering inside the brick structure of Stephen’s house.
Cushman Police Chief Jack Rabbit collared Wolf after the perpetrator had worn himself out huffing and puffing in an attempt to blow down Stephen’s house. By the time Chief Rabbit found him, Wolf so winded he could barely stand on his own, and he had a burned tail from trying to climb down Stephen’s chimney, which was also where Stephen happened to be cook a pot of soup at the time.
“It was the saddest thing I’d ever seen,” Chief Rabbit said as he brushed one of his long ears out of his face. “Even though he was dog tired, he was still seething with anger and hatred. I don’t know what it was all about. What makes a person so bad?”
And that’s why I was here. I was standing in front of Wolf’s cell, and I was going to find out what made him tick.
I kicked the cell door with my boot-clad foot. The noise reverberated off the concrete walls. Wolf came forward out of the shadows and stuck his long, hairy arms through the bars. He rested his long chin on his hands, which were folded neatly in front of him on my side of the door.
“Can I help you?” he said in a gravely voice. His dark eyes burned into me.
“I’m here to talk to you about what happened in Cushman,” I said as I took a step back to be out of his reach.
Wolf sneered, the light glinting off of his razor-sharp teeth. His ears lay back against his head. “So? What do you care? No one got hurt.”
“But you attempted to murder three pigs.”
Wolf shrugged and snorted a laugh. “But I didn’t. An now I’m stuck here in the pound.”
I wasn’t getting very far with him. I decided to try a different approach. “I know. And it doesn’t seem right, does it?”
Wolf slowly shook his head, which caused him to look more sinister as the dim lighting cast longer shadows around him.
“I’m a reporter with the Fairytale Times. I want to know your side of the story. Those pigs are just glory hogs. Everyone has asked them what happened, but no one has taken the time to get your perspective.”
Pulling his head back a bit, Wolf eyed me. I couldn’t tell if he was thinking about how I would taste or if he was trying to decide if I was telling the truth. “Got a cigarette?”
I nodded and pulled a crumpled back out of my left breast pocket. I handed him one and struck a match so he could light it.
Wolf inhaled deeply and let the smoke seep from his mouth. He blew a perfect smoke ring, and when it floated up to the light bulb, it looked like a blue halo.
“Where should I begin?” he asked.
“From the beginning. Growing up,” I said.
As Wolf began talking, I scribbled notes like a man possessed.
Wolf told me he grew up in the country outside of Cushman. His family made a living my hunting and farming. His mother was famous for her strawberry rhubarb pie, and his father was known far and wide for his abilities to hunt down anything people could want. He lived a happy life. He worked hard, and helped out his neighbors whenever they needed it. He even went to church twice a week. He was a good wolf.
Then tragedy struck the Wolf farm. Human hunters trespassed on his fathers land. They wouldn’t listen when he told them to leave. They shot his father and skinned him for his hide. J.T. Wolf witnessed the whole thing.
“I snapped,” he said, knocking ash off the end of his cigarette and watching it slowly float to the floor. “I attacked those men. I tore their throats out!” he shouted, the sound echoing up and down the hallway. “I got a taste for blood, and I changed. I had to watch my own father be murdered! And nothing was done about it. That stupid Rabbit didn’t even try to arrest those men! He did nothing! So how would you react if you watched someone you care about have his skin pulled off like an ugly sweater? I bet you wouldn’t be the same either.”
Wolf let his long tongue roll out of his mouth. He pressed the cigarette into the center of the gray, slimy flesh. I could hear the sizzle as the embers were extinguished.
“So that’s why you are a big, bad wolf? Because you were witness to something horrible?” I asked, looking up from my notepad.
“Yeah,” he said slowly, hatred emanating from him. “They killed my father, and they got away with it. What’s the point of being nice then? If the bad guys win, why not be a bad guy?”
I nodded in agreement. It made sense.
“So you agree with me?”
“I guess I can see where you’re coming from,” I said with a shrug.
Suddenly Wolf’s hands flew at me. He grabbed me by the front of my shirt and began pulling me toward him. “Then you should let me out. I’ve a sweet lady I want to see again. Her name’s Little Red. She a hot little tart.”
I wrenched my shirt out of his grasp and backed away until I bumped into the cell facing Wolf’s. He began to howl with laughter. I smoothed my shirt and quickly walked down the hallway. His bellows bounced off the walls behind me, making if feeling as if he was right behind me.
By the time I got out to my car, I was shaking. The encounter with Wolf had scared me, but now I understood. He might have been born into a loving family, but the human hunters had affected his upbringing. He was bred to be bad by witnessing the horrific murder of his father.
As I pulled back onto the highway out of town, I pulled the last cigarette out of my pack and lit up. As the smoke curled up to the ceiling, I looked in the rearview mirror. In my back seat was a fur coat.
“Hypocrite,” I said to myself.
I reached into the backseat and grabbed the coat. I rolled down my window and shoved it out. I didn’t watch it as it landed on the roadway. I just kept driving. I had an article to write.