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My Locked Box of Writing Doom

January 24, 2011

I went through my Locked Box of Writing Doom today.  Contrary to its (hopefully) ominous name, it doesn’t look very menacing from the outside. In fact, it’s a footlocker covered in pink and blue flowers, with a heavy padlock over the latch. This is where I store most of my early writing. And I use the word “store” the same way I do when I’m talking about “storing” nuclear waste.

Still, it’s nice to do an inventory every once in a while. Even though I cringe while reading this stuff, in a weird way, I’m actually happy that it’s this embarrassing. Not only does it mean I’ve grown and matured, it shows that I can recognize bad writing a heck of a lot more easily than I could back then. I mean, when I wrote this stuff, I thought it was great. Make no mistake, I had no illusions that it was publishable, but I certainly thought it showed promise.

Ah, the optimism of youth. 😉

Sometimes, all you can do is laugh. That’s what I’ve been doing all afternoon, so I thought I’d share the experience. But I’ll warn you: from here on in, it’s not pretty.

Terribly Derivative Story About Ferrets- 2002

“Stripehide went outside, he saw a pair of soft, gentle, intelligent, brown eyes.”

Comma splices and overuse of adjectives for the win!

“Well you see young ferret, my Paw Name is a bit … unsuitable for someone like me. I got by my Heart Name, Germaine.”

Unsuitable? I don’t even remember where I was going with this, but since this is basically a grandma ferret speaking, I’m afraid.

“Hallo-a there meese ferret!” Chumblepaw said joyfully. “Whata do you thinka of me resturontay?”

Worst. Dialect. Ever. I’m also reminded of that Calvin and Hobbes strip in which Calvin answers a question “in his own words,” using “Chumble spuzz.”

Novella-Length “Phantom of the Opera” fanfic- 2005

“Rosa’s eyes glittered, and her hands began edging towards her flauto case… “Maybe I’ll audition for the orchestra.”

Women in the Victorian era couldn’t play in orchestras. Huzzah for anachronisms!

“I flushed red.”

As opposed to flushing green? Or purple?

“The red terra-cotta roofs, the narrow, twisting streets, the massive crimson dome of the Duomo… they all served to evoke images from my childhood and a nostalgia as poignant as the statues adorning every piazza.”

This started okay, if a bit repetitive. Then the last phrase killed it. Seriously, what? Ah well, live and learn. 

Murder Mystery, also set in Belle Epoque Paris- 2006

“Wallace cleared his throat. “It’s wonderful, really. You’re going to Paris… you can do some reporting on all their fin de siecle decadence. And there’s been a string of murders.”

Because this is how journalists, particularly 19th-century journalists in London, get their assignments. I also like how the “string of murders” is apparently less important than the “fin de siecle decadence.”

“Amelie angled her hat in an attempt to cover the bruise on her cheek. “It was stupid, really. I was in the basement, in an unlit part. I walked right into a plaster god holding out his hand.”

Well, I was right about one thing: it was stupid. I’m pretty sure no one is that clumsy, and I doubt walking into a plaster statue would bruise one’s face.

“Charles refused to plead insanity… A short time after their visit to La Sante prison, Philip and Amelie stood shivering outside the Palais de Justice: the Palace of Justice.”

So, instead of having to research/write a trial scene, which would be interesting, the guy basically just submits to the guillotine. The fact that I didn’t trust the reader to know what “Palais de Justice” means amuses me greatly.

Cliched Fantasy Involving Selkies- 2007

“It was such a pity that the cheapest lodgings in Pearl River were in the tavern district.”

Where the heck else would they be?

“With a terrible certainty, she knew that the dead priests had never left and were now watching them with barely-controlled anger.”

Don’t you love when characters “know” things?

“Haurio awoke with the morning birds, well rested. The first rays of light spilled over the horizon as he called the army of Liberators together. Smoke from the campfires, sweat from men who had trekked from Olhann to this field, city smells borne on a mild breeze; all mingled in his nostrils, spurring him on.”

At first glance, this doesn’t look *too* bad. But here’s the thing: this is my villain, who got distracted whilst chasing our heroes and got himself tied up in a revolutionary movement. Thus, he’s no longer chasing them. Thus, they’re not in any real danger anymore. Goodbye, tension…

*****

As much as I enjoy gently ribbing on my past efforts, I think it proves the point that no writing you do is ever wasted. It takes time to learn to write well. Heck, I’m definitely still learning; it will be a long time before I think of myself as truly “experienced.” Still, it’s certainly a morale-booster to look at where I’ve been, and compare that to where I am now.

Hmmm… I wonder what I’ll say about my current writing ten years from now.

Anybody else have any ancient writings squirreled away? How far have you come?

-Arvik

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7 comments

  1. Loved this post, Arvik. You’ve definitely grown as a writer, but some of your examples aren’t that bad.

    For example, my BFF is clumsy enough to walk into walls in broad daylight. He has staples in his head from a run in with a ceiling fan. So running into a plaster statue in a dimly lit basement seems quite plausible.

    I did laugh at your decision to translate Palais de Justice. 🙂

    Before you finish your story about the ferret . . . did you see this gruesome story about the pet ferret that ate 7 fingers off a 4 month old baby two weeks ago?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1346384/Pet-ferret-bites-7-fingers-baby-boy-parents-investigated-neglect.html

    http://www.kmbc.com/r/26435615/detail.html

    I tried to find some indication of what the investigation has revealed. Nothing yet.


    • Nancy, you’re so kind. 🙂 I think I cringe at some of these because a) I remember how earnestly I wrote them, and b) they’re indicators of deeper problems with plot, structure, characterization, etc.

      That finger-munching ferret is really creepy. I can’t imagine having that happen, especially how scary it would be for a small child. *shudder*


  2. Oh wow! I haven’t looked at my old writings is a while. Last time I did it was quite laughable. 🙂 Some of the things didn’t make sense and other things were…well…just stupid. I really can see the difference in my writing. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that looks back and laughs. 🙂


  3. I have this odd habit of starting over and over and over again. But I’ve been able to see how I’ve improved. The characterization was blah, the scenes were cheesy, and on the list goes. And I don’t think I’ve gotten over these weaknesses, so forward is the only way to go.


  4. Thanks for giving me a smile today. I actually pulled out an old story a few weeks ago and started reworking it. I always loved the story, just not the way I wrote it, and rereading it has made me laugh. You’re right, that it’s encouraging to see how far we have come, when some days it feels like there’s no forward progress at all.


  5. This is hilarious. I feel bad that I tossed most of my “juvenalia” years ago. It would probably really cheer me up and break through all kinds of writer’s block with laughter alone!



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