How to write like . . . David Lynch

Second in a series of 7 Pastiches of Little Red Riding Hood in the style of my favourite authors. Today I give you another retelling of the Red Riding Hood story, culled from the original text LITTLE RED CAP by the Brothers Grimm. Afterwards I shall give you the matching commentary as to how it was done, and so on for all 7 stories. I hope you enjoy it. So now, without much further ado, and not that there has been any ado before now…

Deep Red Night
David Lynch)

A red haired young woman, LITTLE AUBURN, about 19 years old, in a blue hooded sweatshirt is walking along a forest path. A supermarket grocery bag in her hand. She has white cutoff trousers and silver glittery shoes. She seems ill at ease. Her shoes tick tick tick on the path and echo a little. The wind blows in the trees, whipping the tops making a lot of noise. She pulls up the hood over her hair and walks more quickly. Before the fade there is a faint throaty laughter and a dog barking.


MOM is in the bright colourful kitchen wearing a 50s style house dress and apron, cleaning up after baking. The curtains are full length and dark green and the floor is a geometric black and white pattern. It has the flavour of 1950s diner about it.

There is a vinyl record playing on a record player. She wipes the tops and brushes flour off the top into her hand. She puts a book back on the shelf, “BAKING FOR MOMS” and the old fashioned wall telephone rings. She takes off the apron and answers it, brushing flour from her front with the apron. Halfway through the conversation she bends down and picks up a large sink plunger and holds it ready, as if preparing for her next task.


 (shouts as to deaf person)
Hello! Hi mom! Yes. I know you’re not well, you called me earlier, remember? I’ve sent LITTLE AUBURN over with some wine and some cake! Wine and cake! Mulled wine and a little carrot cake! Carrot! For the love o’Mike, mom, wine and cake! Did you lose the batteries in your hearing aid? What? No don’t turn it off to save the the batteries! I keep telling you they are not expensive, and there’s no point if you can’t… Anyway I told her to stay on the path and to take great care! Care, not hair! No, of course I didn’t go with her! I’m talking to you now on the phone. Jeez Louise, mom!

The record skips and repeats the same notes over and over and Mom looks at the skipping record with a strange look of foreboding on her face.


LITTLE AUBURN walks along the path, tick tick tick, and an uneasy just audible drone begins on the soundtrack as she walks. She walks faster and faster and the trees rustle louder and louder. Eventually she’s running. She looks behind her as she runs.

She runs and runs and the drone gets louder until BAM!

She finally gets to a road and a car blazes past, horn going, almost mowing her down. The hood falls back reveling her hair and an apple drops from the bag and leaps out of the bag all in slow motion. The apple drops on the ground in slomo and comes to rest. She gasps for breath, looks around and catches her breath. She smiles, the shock has emboldened her. She seems to be relaxing a little.


Don’t run off the path. I will take great care. Don’t run off the…


 (off screen)
Good evening, Little Red Haired Girl.


Woah! Who’s there? Stay back, Mister, I got a knife.

She grabs a butter knife out of the bag and flourishes it about inexpertly.

A shadowy figure leans agains a tree on the other side of the road. He’s smoking a cigarette. He laughs genially and flicks the butt.


Woah yerself, ginger. Cool your jets, no need for the blade, mon cheri. I don’t bite, although my name is Mr WOLF. That might be a hair hard to swallow, but I maintain that I mean you no harm. Now tell me, child, where might you be going to, in such an all-fired hurry on this fine night?


Grandma’s house.


I see. What’s in the, uh, bag?




The bag. Le sac. The gladstone. What’s in the tote, mon petite dejuner?


Oh, the bag, it’s cake. Carrot cake. And wine, mulled wine. Some, uh, fruit. My grandma is ill, and I’m taking her wine and cake. And fruit. T-t-to grandma’s house. Her house. F-f-for grandma.


Understood, understood. And forgive me, but where might it be, this, “Grandma’s house”, eh?


A good three quarters of a mile yonder on into the wood, under the three oaks? With the nut trees below? You surely must know it.

As he replies we sometimes see his eyes. Piecing blue.


That I do. Three quarters of a mile, eh? What they’d call a quarter league in the olden days. Heh heh. You know a league was defined as the distance a man could go on a horse in an hour? Not many people recall that in these crazy times.
Listen to me rambling, you’ll be getting cold. Be on your way, but take your time, sugar. Smell the flowers, enjoy the air. Don’t rush! Hop skip. I’ll stand guard and mind you aren’t followed. Okay?


Uh okay. Thanks Mr WOLF. Sorry about the knife thing. You’re very kind.


Not a problem.


Well goodnight then.

WOLF replies with a rigid wave of the hand like a sideways karate chop.

She crosses the road and strolls off into the darkness. The drone begins again, more loudly this time, along with some echoing music, perhaps a Jazz tune with a brushed snare drum, upright bass and finger snaps.

Mr WOLF emerges from the shadows. He is a thin, good looking young man, with black slicked back hair, a quiff and long sideburns. He is wearing a purple suit. He walks to where LITTLE AUBURN was standing and watches her vanish into the dark.

We see briefly behind him and not too clearly a dog crosses the path and disappears into the foliage.

Mr WOLF makes a soft coyote howl as he looks up at the full moon and begins to talk to it.


Oh mother moon, what a tender young creature! What a nice plump mouthful! She will be better than the old woman. I must be crafty so as to catch both.

He goes as if to howl again, but stops when he sees the apple she dropped. He picks it up. He tosses and catches it. He regards it in his hand for a second then takes a huge crisp bite out of it, and while chewing with his mouth open begins to laugh around the huge juicy mouthful.

Still laughing and chewing he swings a large axe up onto his shoulder and follows LITTLE AUBURN as if he has all the time in the world.



and now my COMMENTARY

Again this was enormous fun as I am a giant fan of David Lynch, and have seen most of his films more than once. I have also read a number of commentaries of his work.

The thing to bear in mind about David Lynch is that he is a surrealist painter first and a filmmaker second. His stories are more like moving paintings. Events sometimes don’t make a lot of sense, and critics and viewers often assume that these events are “random” or “wacky” in some way. The thing is they are almost always deliberate, and yet Lynch is not necessarily completely aware of what it means either. He employs internal logic, often culled from dreams or daydreams, and goes with his gut about wether something belongs in the story or not.

Almost everything in his films is there as symbolism or humour.

Dogs and Record players are almost always significant, usually heralds of some kind of evil. Often he uses colours for the same ends. You may recall he has a fondness for red curtains and black and white tiled floors.

People in Lynch movies speak somewhat archaic 1950s English. They frequently seem as though they are in fact IN the 1950s no matter what the date on the calendar. In fact they speak such odd phrases I felt totally able to drop some of the dialogue in verbatim from the original classic Grimm tale.

Sound is very important, and he uses sound with these symbolic cues, dogs, curtains, swaying trees etc. to convey uneasy moods and impending doom.Sometimes sound is speeded up, sometimes it is reversed. But it is all deliberate and not at all random.

What’s the sink plunger about? Humour. Often characters will hold random objects while speaking. Sometimes it’s the actors choice and Lynch goes with it because it feels right. Sometimes he will get an urge to include something because it’s found on set. Sometimes he brings it in specially.

What is the significance of the apple? It falls out of the basket and the wolf guy finds it and gobbles it up without hesitation. A metaphor for gobbling her and her grandma up? Unlikely as it seems chopping them with the axe is on his mind. Perhaps it’s nod back to the original tale but in any case  it’s entirely up to the audience as to what that means to them. I know what I think it means to me but it’s an abstract thought, something which can only be conveyed with a series of pictures.

That’s the essence of David Lynch, sound and pictures, living paintings. It’s all about mood and overall feel rather than specifics of story and plot.


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