History of an Author: Part Two
Last week, I trailed off by talking about how my writing developed through poetry, and then I shared a couple of poems here for your viewing pleasure. I think this week would be a good time to start talking fiction.
First, let me repeat that I have a very vivid imagination from years spent in childhood by myself, coming up with unusual one-person games, reading as many books as I could get my hands on, and generally being the kid that came up with all the fun games. As a result, I was the favorite cousin of my younger male cousins: Taylor and Matt.
I’ll allow a short diversion to say that their favorite game was something I came up with called “Captain.” It was rather convoluted, and with Taylor’s imagination (he’s now in college studying creative writing as a major – I’m so proud!) added into the mix, the game shifted constantly.
“Captain” was a game we played at my grandparent’s house. I was, of course, the Captain since I was the oldest, and Taylor, being second oldest, chose to play the role of Crockie, a talking crocodile who traveled with the Captain. Matt, as the youngest, was dubbed First Mate, which I think thrilled him because he had two names to go by and sounded official. The outside swing set served as our ship, which in our minds was a magical wooden boat with a forcefield around it, propelled by Crockie and First Mate on the swings, it sailed through water, air, and space to unknown destinations. (Sounds quite fanciful, doesn’t it?)
Our destinations were a number of places, generally made up or pulled out of Taylor’s collection of sci-fi teen novels. We hunted aliens, ran away from bogeymen, attempted to climb mountains, and operated covert missions, all from the humble backyard at the house my father and his siblings grew up in.
As you can imagine, my imagination was the guiding force for these games. So it’s no surprise that when I got into high school I wanted to take the one creative writing class my school offered. Unfortunately it wasn’t offered to freshmen as they typically weren’t considered good enough writers to get in. But I submitted the application and got in the second semester’s class my freshman year.
Ms. Holt was our teacher, and she taught this class that had all four grades taking it. There were different focuses throughout the semester including poetry, fiction, and scriptwriting, and being a high school class, it was very amateurish indeed. That’s probably a good thing, looking back, because of the students in the class, the majority of them were angst-ridden teens with the tendency to write dark, violent, suicidal poems and stories. (I’ll admit to being rather shocked by some of the things I heard in that class!)
Ms. Holt’s class is where I wrote my first short story. It was a very short story now that I think back, but it was such fun to plan. I remember not knowing exactly what to write about, and it was our big assignment for the fiction segment of the class.
I ended up writing something I titled “The Indy 500 Massacre,” which was, as you can probably guess, a mystery. I don’t remember my characters’ names, but I do remember the synopsis of the story and the twist that I threw in after consulting my mom.
The story began with a murder victim and my murderer, who had a peculiar fascination with the Indy 500 race. When this murder victim was found, most of the detectives had no idea what could have been used to kill the man. Thus, I introduced my main character: a detective with an eye for details. He was the one, of course, who proposed that the murderer had stabbed the victim with an icicle. (Yes, a little fanciful, but it’s high school!)
More murders happened, of course, but the most interesting part of these other murders is that they were ruled natural deaths. My poor detective ran himself ragged trying to figure out how the murders connected to a betting pool around the Indy 500. Eventually, and almost too late, he discovered that these so-called natural deaths were truly murders being performed through injections of a substance called physostigmine. This particular drug (according to my mother) has the effect of slowing down the heart rate until the heart eventually stops beating. It leaves the blood stream in 10 minutes, is untraceable unless by some coincidence a blood vessel ruptures, and makes it look as if a heart attack was the cause of death.
My detective discovered, of course, that the identity of the killer could only be one of two possible people. And, then, the killer just happened to show up, having figured out that the detective was too smart to not see the connection. Long story short: a poorly aimed bullet and a very determined detective managed to trap the killer, stopping the murders and saving the day!
I look back at that poorly written piece and see how much I’ve changed in my writing over the years. The style is just being developed, the vocabulary desires much growth and fleshing out, the timing is stilted at best. But it’s my first short story, and I’ll never let anyone else read it, but I’ll keep it to prove I’ve improved.
To be fair, for a high school freshman, a plot like that’s somewhat impressive. We were allowed to send our stories around to different students to get their critiques as part of our grade, and I’ll never forget what one girl wrote on my story.
“Great story! I really liked the whole murder mystery thing. It’s a little disturbing that you know so much about killing people. But I know you wouldn’t!”
Do you have any amusing responses to things you’ve written? I’ve gotten several over the years, and it’s always with great entertainment that I let people read my work and ask for feedback.