How to write like . . . Sir Terry Pratchett

Sixth in a series of 7 Pastiches of Little Red Riding Hood in the style of my favourite authors. Use these to help you enhance your creativity, become a successful writer and be more happy and fulfilled in your creative life.

This time around I bring you the penultimate retelling of the Red Riding Hood story, drawn from the original text LITTLE RED CAP by the Brothers Grimm and in the style of Sir Terry Pratchett.

Terry had a very disticntive style and we’ll go into that a little bit afterwards. Terry has another distinction among these authors whom I treasure and that’s the fact that unlike all these others I actually knew him and met him on numerous occasions. We corresponded about computers and writing for a long time, until he got too famous and everyone wanted to be his friend. He was one of the best writers I’ve ever read, and although often underestimated, at his best he was without equal.

(after Sir Terry Pratchett)

Granny Mildred Redcap stirred the pot of stew and lit her cigarette off the burner. Her stews didn’t take long to bash together and the cigarette afterwards was her favourite ingredient. Added nothing to the taste of the stew but it added much to the mood of the chef.

It had been a long day toiling in the garden harvesting herbs and roots for her spells, and she was rushing because her granddaughter Girlie Redcap was on her way over to bring her a basket of wine and cheese to go with the meal. Granny Mildred loved a bit of cheese after a meal. A wedge of cheddar cheese on a cracker with a knob of butter was the food of the gods. The gods were appreciative of small pleasures apparently, and quite right too. What kind of gods would they be if they weren’t?

Granny Mildred was no stranger to the gods. To them she was like that weird neighbour whom you know you are superior to, yet are secretly afraid of and thus always smile a bit too brightly when you see them. The gods left her alone and lived in fear of her one day popping over for a cup of sugar, or an open ended extension to her lifespan.

The stew was nicely a-bubbling and she was about to put the kettle on when there came a rap at the door. Her hand hovered above the kettle handle. Who the blinkin’ blazes would that be? It can’t be Girlie, unless she ran all the way. Granny’s cottage in Three Oaks was a good quarter league from Girlie’s house over rough forest terrain so she wasn’t expecting her for another 20 mins or so.

Oh gods, maybe it was one of those door to door occult insurance salesman? They got a lot of them around here at the moment. How annoying. Why would she pay one of those morons for spell insurance? She was a witch for crying out loud. Didn’t these idiots read the electoral scroll before they came a-knocking on a body’s cottage? If it was she’d give him a piece of her mind, she frowned, and if he was very unlucky her big toe up the crack of his arse.

She pulled the door open . . . but the “WOT?” that was dancing on her lips never emerged. What met her gaze was very distracting. A wolf in a sheepskin cloak wearing an ill-fitting milkman’s hat.

“That’ll be 20 dollars, love” said the wolf, nervously. You could tell he was trying to act nonchalant, but with those great big eyes and great big ears he kind of stood out like a sore wossname. Granny Mildred eyed him up and down with her gimlets.

“So you would be the . . .” she let the question dangle like a noose.
“Milkman, love. 20 bucks.” The wolf laughed and smiled, winningly so he thought.
“And the big ears?”
“All the better to uh hear you with.” he winked.
“I see. And the eyes?”
“All the better to see you with. I’m not yet seeing 20 bucks though, am I love? Eh?” Another nervous chuckle.
“Yes, yes, in a minute.” Granny Mildred regarded the teeth. As she recalled they were next in the litany. They were great and big and wet with nervous spittle. Oh well, in a for a penny in for a buck. She recited flatly, like someone reading from a big card with the words written in crayon “and what big teeth you have.”
The wolf’s eyes lit up. “All the better to . . .”
“Let me stop you there” she said abruptly, her palm whipping out and vibrating inches from the wolf’s face “Say no more. I’ll get me purse.”

She reached to the side of the doorframe without taking her eyes off him. She came back with the purse. Except it wasn’t a purse, although ironically there were a few fragments of coins in the iron scrap she had loaded into her favourite blunderbuss. “Got change of a 12 gauge?”

The wolf was in mid-snarl when it caught in his throat and his face fell. “Aw missus, you wouldn’t shoot me for following my nature, would ya? That’s hardly fair, is it?”

Granny sneered and comically her top dentures dropped with a tiny clack. She styled it out. “Oh I would, and for two reasons: 1) “your nature” is to swallow grannies whole and their grandchildren, and that’s not fair, and 2) I happen to know the woodsman is off at a chopping conference in Old Bogtown. So, stands to reason, dunnit, if I don’t blow you away now before you gobble me up, it’ll be a couple of days minimum till someone lets me out. By then my stew will be ruined. In that sense it’s not business, it’s personal.”

The wolf started to panic. “Hey stop! You’re suppressing my right to free feasts” he whined.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch, boyo” she grinned, pulling the trigger.

The blast lifted the wolf off his feet and he sailed through the air like a fireside rug being yanked off a clothesline in a howling gale, the twirling milkman’s cap landing neatly on the gatepost. Granny laughed. She couldn’t have done that again if she tried. It’s a funny old life.

Aw dammit. She realised something. The cap! The wolf must have gobbled up Mervin the Milk. She’d have to remember send a pigeon for a 24 hour emergency woodsman to bring an axe down to get him out. Those buggers charged time and a half. Ah well, anything for silly old Mervin. He was claustrophobic too, poor love.

She’d aimed high so with any luck she wouldn’t need to pick any buckshot out of him when they got him out. The hat was another matter. Hmm. She made a mental note to order a couple of extra gold tops from him next week to compensate him for his troubles. He was a good lad and she’d like to see him alright.

She closed the door and put the kettle on. Girlie would be here any minute. Now where was she? Oh yes, where was that cheese board?


Writing like Terry is difficult as those are very hard and pointy wizard shoes to fill. Humour obviously is key, and a certain down to earth relatable quality to the characters. If you lived and were brought up in the UK then his characters remind you of your family, your uncles and aunties, your mum and dad. They speak with the effortless cosy vernacular of the provinces, the lingo of the normal hard working people of the towns. They are really easy to visualise and you instantly know who they are.

They talk in a common British argot, with affectionate terms like “wot” and “wotcha” and “wossname” peppering the speech of the lower classes. They seem like minor characters in an Ealing Comedy or a Carry On film. That’s not to imply STP’s ideas were coarse and lowbrow. On the contrary, his books were liberally seasoned with deep philosophical meaning and nuance. A finely tuned Pratchett phrase could reveal more about the inner workings of the human universe than 50 overblown Booker Prize winning doorstops. He was a man who know how the world worked. To replicate that aspect of his work in a short pastiche is over my pay grade.

Another signature move is the original and amusing simile or metaphor, like the part about Granny’s relationship to the gods, or the rug on the clothesline. Simple, pithy and full of fun. His metaphor about writing as a valley full of mist is one of the best descriptions of writing process I’ve ever read.

He was taken too soon, and before I get all misty myself, let’s leave it at that. Well, I hope you enjoyed it. Now on to the next and final pastiche in this series. See you then.