Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Blast from the Past

While sorting through a box of childhood memorabilia recently, I came across a couple stories I wrote in the 5th and 7th grades so I thought I’d embarrass myself and share bits and pieces of some of my first forays into writing fiction.

I vaguely recall writing “Sleepy Toes and Fido” in 5th grade. I’m pretty sure there were illustrations that went with it, but I can’t seem to find them. (I would have shared them if I had them. I have no shame.) The first thing I noticed about this story was my 5th-grade self was paragraph-challenged.

Sleepy Toes was a donkey and Fido a dog, a hippie dog if phrases like “peace is my game,” “neat pad,” and “love beads” are any indication. (It’s pretty obvious from that I grew up in the 60s and 70s.)

Here are the first couple lines: “One day in late June, Sleepy Toes was walking sleepily in the meadow. He was small because when he was born he accidentally fell into the washer and shrank.” Go ahead, laugh. I did.

The story goes on to describe Sleepy Toes meeting Fido and inviting him back to his “pad” where Fido proceeds to steal some jewelry. The first thing that comes to mind—what was Sleepy Toes doing inviting a complete stranger back to his home? I obviously grew up in a more innocent time. By the end of the (very) short story, Fido returns the jewelry and all is well.

I may remember writing the Sleepy Toes tale, but I’d completely forgotten about one I wrote in 7th grade, “Murder in Catville.” Hmm, another crime story. I sense a trend here.

By the time this one came around, I was now dividing stories into actual paragraphs. “Murder in Catville” involves cats, a murder, a ghost, a séance, and a secret panel in a wall. There seems to be some cross-genre stuff going on here, something I haven’t yet tried as an adult.

Here are the first couple lines: “One shadowy, moonless night, fifty years ago, a cat was walking down Catnip Lane. Suddenly a scream was heard.”

This story was written about the time the supernatural soap opera, Dark Shadows, was finishing its run. That was one of my favorite shows. I remember watching it every day after school. I definitely see its influence here in the description of the séance and the discovery of the secret panel in the wall. At the end of the story, the murderer is caught and peace has been restored to Catville.

Both of the stories end happily so I can see at a young age I was more inclined toward cozies than noir. That’s still true today. Most of my mystery reading is on the cozy end of the spectrum, though I do read historical mysteries, private eye novels, and even some noir on occasion.

One final observation—with last lines like “So they all lived happily.” and “Crime doesn’t pay!” I can see I wasn’t good at coming up with ending lines. That’s still true today. Endings and last lines are some of the hardest things for me to write. I struggle over them far more than any other part of a story.

I’d like to think I’ve come a long way since I wrote these two stories. I’m curious. Have you ever gone back to read stories you wrote when you were young? What was your impression of them? Could you see indications of the writer or reader you’ve now become?

1 comment:

Eileen Goudge said...

Great post, Sybil. Oh, those early efforts! My first short story, penned at age 9, was "The Secret of the Mossy Cave." I was writing mysteries even back then.