Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Evolution of Writing

You know what I love about thumb drives?  They're like little time capsules, capturing all the crazy things you think you want saved for whatever purposes.  I just found one of my old ones and plugged it in and found a few examples of early pieces of writing.  I can't believe how much my writing has changed over the years.

I wish I had examples of my earliest works, back when I was in the single digits, but that was before computers and thumb drives and it's probably filed away somewhere where I don't want to find it.

But anyway!  Let's go on the journey together!

I named my drive LAWLZ.  This shows you the maturity level we're dealing with at the moment.  It doesn't get much better.

For example, we have this little gem:
Now, at one time, she decided, quite randomly, to assign an impossible project to her cowed students.  They were to plagiarize an analysis (by people much smarter and more grammatically correct than them) on some old poet named Poe, who was the first emo-Goth to never make it big, and provide a two-page (full two pages; if there was a line missing, that was twenty points off right there) report on the copied analysis and further details of the poem.  And because she was a bitter, mean, old hag, she decided that any of the poems in the outmoded literature book could not be used, since those were the only poems anybody bothered to analyze.  But to be nice, she allowed the students to use merely two reference books.  But no amazing Internet, since she was too old to figure out how to use it.

And so, her students, tired and belabored set forth to the monstrous Library of Ripped and Unreturned Books to find heavy, dusty, grimy, old tomes on this depressed poet of long ago lore.  As it was, one of their rival classes arrived before them, and since they were greedy, uncooperative little ingrates, they took all the reference books and left none for everyone else.  And they wouldn’t share either, because they wanted the better grades.

But a few students formed an idea the night before the report was due, (“No extensions!  You’re smart, you figure something out!”  And if you can’t go to the library, you shouldn’t be in this class!  What will you do in college?  It’s all your fault your family can only afford one car!”) and used necromancy to resurrect Poe from the grave temporarily.  They asked him questions about their poems, and he answered them, if not somewhat morbidly depressed and sulky, and they let him rest in piece again.  The next day, they handed the reports in.
In my defense, that project was difficult and no one liked that teacher anyway.  The irony is I know I got an A on that project when I got it back.  I had made up my own analysis.

Here's another from about the same time, this one a retelling of Beauty and the Beast:
Near the castle, down a long ways, there was a village.  It was poor, and suffered from disease and famine regularly.  Death was befriended there, and it had visited every family as least once.  Strangely, there were almost no women in that village.  Of girls, there were plenty, dour faced little things in tattered rags who ran quickly from the streets to their houses.  Adolescents were not plentiful, but these girls could be seen at times, running errands for their fathers, but of women from seventeen and older, there were none.

In one dilapidated, little hut, there lived the oldest girl in the town, a dirty little thing in a makeshift dress.  She was sixteen, due to turn seventeen in later months, and in her room, a curtained off section of the single-roomed hut, she twirled a long-stemmed rose between her dirty, calloused fingers, intently studying it with her sooty face.  A white petal spiraled to the floor, and she ground it with her bare foot into a mushy paste. Her father, broken, wept in a corner,

The rose had arrived, driven into the thin straw of their hut, on the first night of the rainy season, as it had at every other families’ hut.  This was the second time a white rose had visited this particular hut; fourteen years ago, it had been for her mother, a quiet girl of seventeen and whom Raelyn could not remember.
 I submitted this to our school's literary magazine and got my first emphatic rejection.  Then I got it in into my head that I could make this into a series, sort of like the Fractured Fairy Tales series, and I tried to write some more.  Here's the aborted attempt at Snow White, I think.  Or it could be Cinderella.  I don't know anymore.

Once upon a time, a mother died, leaving behind a grieving husband and a daughter too young to care.  Older this child grew, wild and unheeded by her thunderstorm father to live amongst the yellow carnations that grew in abundance around her dwelling.  Rarely ever did the girl-child enter her home, where her tempest-like father floated room-to-room, pervading gloom and grayness wherever he stepped, but she instead lived outdoors, the tall weeds her protection, the soft grass her bed, and the bees and dragonflies her only kin.

    By her tenth year, constant sunlight had lightened Moira’s hair to a blinding white, falling in a mess of brambles and knots into her green eyes, and had darkened her skin to a healthy brown as well.  She was small and springy and slight, quick and sure-footed, able to slip softly through shadows, and stealthy enough to crouch in the crackling weeds, waiting to pounce on anything that flitted though the dry stems.  Dangerous and wild, she spoke not the human language, but the strange sounds of the forest and its animals.

    But then one day, when Moira had slipped into her kitchen to scavenge for new clothes, the strong scent of perfume wafted through the open door to the hall and wound itself around her nose, tickling her with its strange and strong scent.  Abandoning her search, Moira followed it, down on all fours - for she could not walk on only two feet – and her head held high, sniffing the air and following the sickly odor through many rooms and many hallways until she reached a door that stood ajar, where the oppressive scent was strongest.  Moira stopped just outside it, thin body pressed against the wall, curious face peering around the frame.
There's about six different versions of this hanging around two computers, and I don't know if I'll ever finish this.  Maybe.  Who knows.  I don't know why her father is a walking tornado.  I was going for stylistic liberties.  I don't think it worked.

Next is an example of teenage angst at its best.  Which means at its worst:
 If you have a great idea, either somebody’s already done it, it’s actually not a great idea, or someone will steal it from you, and pass it off as his or her own.  If you want to be a world-renowned poet, be prepared to be very poor until you die.  When you post pictures of yourself on-line, you are asking for trouble, so don’t whine when you receive unwanted attention.  You cannot deny Global Warming when it reaches seventy degrees in January and you live in a somewhat northern region.
(I really like this next one.)
You can’t learn martial arts by watching anime. 
(And my personal favorite.)
Before you decide to procreate, dabble in some soul-searching, look at how you were as a teenager, and then decide whether or not you’d like to raise yourself.
 Ah teenage years, how I don't miss you.

Next we have an example of when my style evolved into a prototype of what it is today.  When I graduated, there was a seven-month pregnant girl walking with us, and she really struck me as a strong but tragic figure.  I wrote this thinking about her:
   To everyone else, this is a walk of pride, of closing, or partying later and driving drunk, but to her, this is torture.  Walking between those flags, feeling all those eye bore down onto her figure…it is horrible, and she wishes she could run and never return.  But she can’t, for her she is too close to ending.

   That walk seems like it will never stop, and finally, she and all the other students, those find graduates, loop back among the chairs, standing in front of their seats until the salute and speeches are done.  She wishes she could sit down and has to comply with flattening her hands on the small of her back and stretching.  A girl somewhere near her giggles.  Her cheeks flame.
 I don't know why I had a thing for the word 'for' when I was younger.  But I loved it and used whenever I could.  I apologize for the gratuitous use of 'for.'

And now we come to my first serious attempt at a novel!  In my defense of the vampire-plot, this was before Twilight became hugely popular and ruined vampires for everyone.

This is attempt one:
It had been sunny the day he had been condemned, and it was still sunny throughout the journey away from Midora, the sun a relentless globe of hard glare in a sea of icy blue.  At the horizon, though, storm clouds gathered, wispy fingers of gray reaching across the sky, a thin trailing web of pallid colors.
   
It had become colder too; the sultry heat of Midora’s summer tempered by a brisk wind that stirred up great gusts of dust, coating everything on the path a sickly yellow.  Not five minutes had gone by and already everyone was covered in it, dusting it out of clothes, blinking it out of eyes.
   
The dust irritated Alix’s face, stinging his cheek, and involuntarily, he lifted his hands to rub it, only to find that his arms would not move.  The guard directly in front of him gave the chains an impatient jerk, and little streaks of pain shot up Alix’s arms.  He gasped softly, but already the pain was leaving his numbed limbs.  He couldn’t feel his fingers anymore, and his wrists could only be stimulated to give a half-hearted tremor when he tried to move them. 
 That was painful to read.

Here is attempt seven:
    Alix lay in the damp grass, letting the cool dew soak into his clothes and skin, soothing all the little hurts peppering his body.  The sharp biting pain of his ankle refused to be quieted, however, and it throbbed in tandem with the gnawing pangs growling deep within his belly.  He groaned softly and curled into a tight ball of sweat and exhaustion, his mind rattling around within the constraints of sanity, trying to escape and never return.  He fell into a light doze, eyelids heavy and muzzy, and muscle by muscle, his body began to relax, arms and legs loosening from the tight tension they had been under during the past few hours.

    It seemed like such a long time ago – and it was, he thought sleepily, it was lifetimes ago – that he had still been living on the streets of Midora, surviving off loaves of stale bread stolen from dumpsters and when he was lucky, pieces of discarded meat from trashcans.  Water hadn't been too much of an issue; he had trained his body to ignore its thirst for as long as it could, and when the dryness became too much, he would snatch a few bottles from the back of a delivery truck.  The life had been hard, but it was what he was born into, and he learned early on it was better not to complain.

    But it was so very hard not to complain when he saw the lords and their ladies, safe behind tempered-glass windows, eating on long tables made of the finest of wood, several Bots scurrying around to serve their masters.  It was so hard not to feel bitter when the cold winter winds blew at night, carrying hints of ice and snow on their currents, whispering of heavy storms.
 Apparently I don't have attempt nine, where I switched into present tense.

This is supposed to be a short horror story.  I'm still trying to finish it:
The piano lies silently, unmoving, a thin film of dust settling on the soundboard, filling in the worn impressions fingers have created over the years.  The room, however, is not quiet like the black shadow standing proud in the center of the room.  A charged electricity hums in the air, and unnamable knowledge, a certain edgy awareness sinks heavily into the few chairs left unfolded around the piano, listening to the ghostly strains of a girl’s final sonata.

    It is not until three hours later, as the dusty layer is about to be brushed away, that the knowledge is named, the awareness takes existence in the hallways outside the now open door, and then the screaming begins.

Second Movement: Lento 
    From distant floors below, straining to seep through the heavy carpeted floors, various phrases of waltzes and gavottes mix and mingle, exchange notes, and generally create a cacophony of music that disagrees in tempo and timing.  A lone cello from somewhere down the hall wails a mournful nocturne.
I have another attempt hanging out somewhere, but I forgot where I put it.

I don't even know what inspired this thing:
    The sailors speak of monsters, of great serpents in the seas that are as thick as boats and as wide as the road from the port to the mountains.  They speak of teeth as big as a house, and of scales that are the most putrid shade of green imaginable.

    They speak of weird evils, of fishing nets pulled up that have great gaping holes in them and nothing but a few ravaged fish heads.  They speak of fish with ten eyes that can spit blinding poison even after its dead.  They speak of freak storms that spring up from clear blue skies that make waves millions of hands high, of maelstroms that eat ships and are never satisfied, of tepid waters in which no current lies and in which no air blows.  They speak of mutinies and piracy, of treasure and spilled blood.

    But ask them of the mermaid, and they go silent, clutching their ales with both hands, their ruddy faces white beneath their beards.  Ask them of the mermaid, and they start tavern bar fights, they rant and rave and brandish their knives.  Ask them, and every so often, one of them will jump off the cliff, dashed to the rocks below, the sea taking his body.
 I blame...I don't know what to blame, honestly.  Who knows at this point.

This was an experiment in symbolism.  Heavy-handed symoblism:
The balloon is red and filled to its brink, and it floats, eager to escape, bouncing in the wind, anchored by only a single thin string tied to her wrist.  She watches the balloon, eyes following its impatient jerks, tugging at her wrist, and she wonders faintly what will happen if she cuts the string.  Will the balloon rise straight up in the air?  Or will it wiggle and weave through the currents, flying until it can fly no more?

It is an interesting idea, and a time-consuming one, and she mulls over it, turning it over in her mind as she watches the balloon without seeing it.
 I was a messed up kid.

This is the most recent crime against humanity aside from Kitty Malone.  It was a writing prompt my writing group and I did at one of our meetings:

Her arm is heavily muscled, but it has to be for her to carry the slaughtered bull from the shambles to the kitchen.  It's not really her job - is actually quite beneath her station, but the slave girl died two days ago, and none of the other tribeswomen have found a suitable replacement and she wants her meat.  Her long, powerful strides take her from the bloody hut to the complex of thatched-roofed dwellings in a few short minutes, and her attendant, a shorter, less-toned woman of average looks scurries behind her, struggling to keep up.  Smoke rises from one hut, and she flings the bull to its door with little effort.  There's no need to announce its or her presence.  They know and fear her well enough here.
Can you guess what I was supposed to be describing in my prompt?

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