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Author Topic: High School Writing Sample
MaryRobinette
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On a thread in Open Discussions, RagDoll asked what sort of things people wrote in high school. Since I have some of my high school writing I thought I'd post the first thirteen lines of a story I started when I was probably thirteen. For those keeping score, that was twenty years ago.

Brace yourselves; this has some fairly egregious errors. I have resisted the temptation to correct anything.

---

He was down there...I could tell it...moved fairly silently. For a human...almost under me...gotta time it right or I'm dead...now--flip down and hang from the waist..."I need to--" Blast! He's throwing something...drop and twist...farther than I thought...silence...It was his shield, it'll come back...roll and reach... this is gonna hurt...wrench it out of the air...pain--stand smoothly, don't show it...hand him the sheild now..."Is this yours?"

#

I just stared at the cloaked figure who had managed to grab my sheild. From the voice it was female, hard to tell with the cloak. How in the world had she been able to move like that with a cloak...I reached out to take the offered shield...She let go of it easily, then pushed back her hood. large dark eyes dominated the finely molded face, she had a slightly elongated skull. Something about her nagged at the edge of my mind...She spoke again.

"Harlan Jamos?" A low voice, but not hard to hear.

I nodded.

[This message has been edited by MaryRobinette (edited August 05, 2005).]


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MaryRobinette
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Let's tear into this, shall we? I'll start with the ellipsis. What's up with that? Do you (meaning my sixteen year old self) think it makes for a single long continous thought? NO! It breaks it into the point of incoherence. Who's down there? Down where? Why does the POV character want him?

And wait. Are you mixing present and past tense? Yes. Holy crap! Are you insane?

And then, as if that weren't bad enough, an immediate POV shift (thank heavens you knew enough to indicate it with a section break) to someone who also uses ellipses as if they are going out of style. At least he's--and we can only assume he's the male the first POV was watching--he's coherent. A little too much description in the "large dark eyes" vein, but the line "something about her nagged at the edge of my mind" does indicate that her appearance is more than set dressing.

Oy.

---

Hey. It's fun to critique a piece when you don't have to worry about hurting the person reading the critique.

Hm...I hadn't planned on this, but it occurs to me that I could set a little example here. The above critique is the way I often feel when critiquing stories, here is my translation into appropriate crit language.

---

I found that the frequent use of ellipses slowed down my reading. They indicate a pause, so rather than having a sense of breathlessness (which is what I think you were aiming for) I found myself stopping with each one. I also had difficulty following the action, which might be related to the ellipses. What would happen if you wrote this in move complete descriptive sentences.

Also, I'm a little concerned by the immediacy of the first POV shift. I'd like a little time to get to know the first POV character before plunging into the next. It would help me care more about both of them.

blah, blah, blah...You get the idea.

[This message has been edited by MaryRobinette (edited August 05, 2005).]


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Elan
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ROFLOL... egads, MaryRobinette, you are a hoot! All I could think as I was reading your piece was, "Thank the Lord my first story is lost in obscurity and no one shall EVER read it again, including myself!!!" It was a piece of drivel about some man acting like a five year old and getting himself killed. I think about how I wrote the wife's reaction, and she didn't seem surprised OR upset about it. She must have been planning on collecting the insurance.

Oh, I wish, I wish I could write critiques the way you did this one... wouldn't that make it FUN?? At least, for us. Not so sure the one receiving the critique would agree. Holy crap!


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Beth
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wow, Mary!
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Spaceman
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My first piece of unassigned fiction was the attempt at a Star Trek novel at about the same age as Mary's sample. But, even if those forty pages from a manual cursive typewriter still existed, Scott says I can't post it here. I had the Enterprise fighting Romulans back before anybody knew anything about them. (Way before ST-TMP)

How far I've come....


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Elan
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Oh, Scott is just a party-pooper. Too bad your Enterprise and Romulan thriller is lost to posterity.
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MaryRobinette
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Mary's sixteen year-old self wrote
quote:
Well, if you'd just wait until we switch back to the first character's POV...in only two more lines...then you'd understand everything...

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Spaceman
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Yeah. I had really cool Romulans. Then, along came ST-TNG and the others, and the rest is future history.
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Beth
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I just spent 45 minutes digging up the first story I ever finished, from my sophomore year in college. It's the story of a first date, featuring french fries and unexplained odd behavior. It shifts POV a few times, though not in the first 13. Actually it is not nearly as awful as I was afraid it might be when I dug it up. Looks like my descriptions were limited to the phrase "quite odd," though.
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MaryRobinette
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I was younger than I thought when I wrote this. I was flipping through my writing notebook and found the critique that my writing instructor made of the story. I took this writing camp when I was fourteen--whew.

I think she sets a beautiful example on critiquing.

quote:
Mary,
I read this twice--thus the pulled out pages! I was able to follow it more freely the second time, as I had to adjust to th estyle. I still have problems with the opening paragraph. There are so many ellipses that my train of thought gets interrupted and I can't quite figure out what is going on. Maybe if you could add some Romulans, it would be clearer.

She said other things but they refered to sections that aren't here.

Ah it's all so much clearer now.


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Beth
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Romulans! Ahahaha!
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MaryRobinette
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Beth. You have to post some of it, so I'm not alone in this baring of the soul.
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Beth
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mmm ok. I did not want to take over your topic totally!

Here's the first 13. I was 19. (I think the punctuation anomaly was just a typo, but I reproduced it anyway.)

Howard straightened his tie. He was nervous, oddly enough. Amelia had never made him nervous before, in the office. But this wasn't the office. She sat across the table from him now, wearing a simple grey dress, just like she did in the office. The candlelight made her eyes look even bigger than they usually did.

"Are you ready to order, Amelia?" She looked at him with her large puzzled eyes and nodded.

"I'd like French fries," she said to the waiter.

"Would madame like to order a main dish?" asked the waiter.

"No, said Amelia, "just fries. Lots of fries, please."

Howard ordered the manicotti, and the waiter left. "I like fries," said Amelia.


What leaps out at me is the clunky first paragraph, and the bit about how she looked at him with her eyes. With her eyes! Geeze. And don't put dialog from one person and actions from another person in the same paragraph like that; break it up to avoid confusion.

Mostly I think I would advise my younger self to try reading it out loud to see how dorky a lot of it sounds, and to spend the next 17 years reading avidly to get a better feel for fiction.

[This message has been edited by Beth (edited August 05, 2005).]


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Kickle
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This is great. I'm going to have to pull some boxes of old strories out of my closet. If nothing more, it hopefully will prove my writing is improving.
As I recall, my first story was about Williams Collage growing giant pumpkins to solve a dormitory shortage. But, before that, I wrote a poem in third grade about a monster, the "sand pricker", who lived on a beach and attacked women who's bathing suits were skimpy -- if a bone flute gets your mind working think about the innocent connotations of my poem.

[This message has been edited by Kickle (edited August 05, 2005).]


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MCameron
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My very first story was in second grade, about a pig who went on a quest. Unfortunately, that one has been lost for years. The oldest I can find is this, from fifth grade:

There was a light on in the old mansion. Footsteps rang though the hall. It was the butler. “Have you finished your experiment yet, Master Hinkle?” he asked. “Yes, just a few more ingredients and it will be perfect.” he replied. “Tomorrow I will try it.” Together they climbed the stairs to bed. Before going to bed Hinkle thought about all the work he had put into his experiment. He had mixed and studied. He had worked harder on this project than all his projects together. He didn’t want to fail this time. Suddenly he sat up! He heard a sound. Slowly, he walked down the stairs. In his labratory he saw a mouse. He laughed. “So your the one who’s been making all that noise. Well I’ll get you!” he said He grabbed the mouse. It squeaked with fright.

#

First, it needs paragraph breaks between speakers and whenever the setting or action changes. I don't see why there needs to be a butler, except that mad scientists always have an assistant of some sort.

When it says that "Together they climbed the stairs to bed" it sounds like Hinkle and the butler are going to bed together.

You're hiding information. Hinkle knows what his experiment is about, I should too.

When Hinkle hears the mouse, the order of information is backwards. He hears it, then he sits up. You don't need the word "suddenly."

#

Woo, that was fun. I had to type this in from a scrawled page, but I tried to preserve the spelling and punctuation errors.

--Mel


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Beth
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These really are fun. More, please!
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Jaina
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The earliest story I have is from second grade. I didn't remember it as being quite like this... but since it's only seventeen lines and it's never going to be published, I figure I'll just post the whole thing. If that's a problem, let me know and I can cut it back to 13. Here goes:

Once upon a time, a queen was walking through a very dark forest, when a huge dragon popped out of it’s hole in the ground, and snapped at her! You see, the dragon thought that the queen was a princess. The queen was near the spot where she was having a family picnic, so she screamed HELP! HELP! The king, princess and prince came on the horses they brought. The horses’ names were, Coco, Strawberry, Black Bird and Chocolate. The dragon thought an army was after him! The dragon ran off leaving the queen behind. They ran all the way to the castle for fear the dragon should come back looking for them. When they did get to the castle, they were completely out of breath! The next day, it was the prince and princess’s birthday. There was a big party Just for them, and everyone was invited, even the three fairies, Flora, Flandra and Merryweather. By the way, the princess’s name is Nora and the prince’s is Pete. Nora said, “Time for pizza, candy, pop, cake and ice-cream” very loudly. Every-one was rushing to the table, and finaly everybody was seated. First came the pizza and pop, which was pretty good. Just as Nora and Pete were seated, the dragon came back! But this time, the dragon wanted to be friends. He told them it. He was ready to be their pet! By the next day, the dragon, princess and prince were fast friends. Once, the dragon took them to his hole for an over-night camping trip. They lived happly ever after!
THE END

I think it's seventeen lines mainly because I didn't know what a paragraph was at that point. Leaving the grammar and spelling mistakes alone (which, for a second-grader, weren't nearly as bad as I was afraid they would be), and the severe lack of plot, the biggest problem I seemed to have was that I didn't know what information to give and what to leave out. Nobody cares what the horses are named, but they probably would like to know what the queen's name is, and the names of the prince and princess should probably show up a lot earlier. I stole the names of the faries from Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (I just couldn't spell "Fauna" to save my life) and the names of the prince and princess from my favorite movie at the time, "Pete's Dragon."


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Robyn_Hood
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I think that's pretty cute. Actually, you could take the plot and turn it into a children's picture book.

The Fairy names would need to be changed for reasons you already noted, but the homage is rather sweet considering how old you were when this was written.


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benskia
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There is hope for me yet.
Maybe by the time i'm 50, i'll have caught up with you guys then.

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Christine
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Should I embarass myself? I've got stuff from sixth grade that might make you all crawl inside your skin...hmmm...

All right, but I'm going to have to fight to keep myself from editing this as I put it in...it's all hard copy:

Ow. Pain. No really. This stuff is awful. Avert your eyes if you are at all sensitive:

quote:

The war between the Semnesians and the Vemnesians is very complex. Even being a Semnesian myself it is hard to understand. The war is over Earth. Earth is a peaceful planet with oceans and clouds. The Vemnesians want to take over the Earth. The Semnesians want to keep the universe in peacfeul statse so we are protecting it.

<shudder> I can't go on...

But wait, there's worse...

quote:

Another Monday. They are the pits. Not that one thought. That Monday was the most exciting Monday ever. I loved all of it. THe following week too. The following two weeks. Hold it. I'm getting ahead of myself.

It's always best to start at the beginning. I was born June 10...only kidding. That's to far back. I guess I'll start at the beginning of the day.


<convulsions>

Ok, this one only takes the title to laugh..."I Saved Humanity (Not to Mention my Cat)"

Ok, one more and I'll let you off the hook...

quote:

In a big, dark, gray spaceship not far from Earth L. Naarck first started his invasion of Earth. L. Naarck might have been just an alien to Earth but to some he was much more. He was an evil energy brought into a solid substance. He wore a long, dark robe that covered him completely. If another wore it they would be like a completely blind person. L. Naarck could see through it. He could only see the evil. He was brought up on evil. He could kill anybody without thinking twice. He didn't need weapons. He had all his power inside him. Yes he had magical powers that got stronger when he killed.



I should try to find some of my high school stuff too.


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Beth
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Oh, my.
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MaryRobinette
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I LOVE the title "I saved Humanity (Not to Mention My Cat)"

I'm still laughing.

Oh, my. I'm enjoying these far too much.


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Carlene
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I couldn't find my poetry, I think that journal is in a box in the garage. (Luckly you).

I did find some stories from high school.

quote:
Bryen was so perfect. Tall, thin, but muscular, with beautiful blue eyes. When you looked up close, you could see the yellow zig zags in his eyes that sometimes made them green. And he had silky, dark brown hair with soft curves making it look like the rolling waves on the ocean.

Bryen- my way of disguising Brian??? I don't remember having a crush on my high school friend.

I have another story in which the first paragraph describes a piece of sea glass, and how sea glass is formed, ending with a friend of the narrator picking it up, and the narrator thinking it wasn't fair.

Then I jump to a flashback (?) where two friends are walking along the beach where they find a single piece of sea glass and so only one picks it up.

Maybe I was working on the snowflake method and didn't even know it

PS- please don't hold it against me that this is my first time posting anything I've written to F&F!


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Carlene
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And what is about Nora? I had another high school story (lots more stories actually, and more final versions then I thought) that had a 'Nora'. OSC uses Nora (and Pete) in Characters and Viewpoints . In my current novel WIP, I keep typing Nora instead of Nes.
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Jeraliey
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Wow! This is great!

If this thread is still running by the next time I make it home, I'll try to dig up some of my old stuff and contribute.


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Spaceman
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Unfortunately, my old stuff is long gone, five states and twenty-five years ago.
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djvdakota
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This is LOADS of fun.

Now the ONLY reason I'm doing this is because Mary embarassed herself first! This is from junior high--probably 9th grade. The teacher I wrote it for was the first person who told me I wrote well. I remember going back to my junior high to give him a copy of our High School literary magazine, for which I was a copy editor.

quote:
I stood in front of the old corner drugstore, looking it over as if for the first time, instead of the last. I saw things I had never noticed before; the intricate design that curved and laced over the chimes that hung from the door, and the fascinating complexity of the gold and red lettering on the window. I listened tensely for my father's old pickup truck to pull up behind me. Why did we have to leave?!? I walked inside, announced by the chimes and greeted by the smells of soda, herbs, medicine, and Mrs. Warner's perfume. Warner's Drugstore; social center, shleter from the rain, and a place to soothe a heated body with a cherry chocolate soda.

Not too bad, I guess. From the days when I actually believed that detailed description was the ONLY way to write.

So I thought I'd give you something REALLY BAD. Take note that this one was written in high school, so I apparently took a turn for the worse:

quote:
"I am a human being!" shouts a lone man weakly to the universe, but the voice quavers feebly on the air and then sinks into the sand. No one hear him, he has no audience.

"I AM!" He raises a creased, ancient face and calloused old hands to a shining lunar scphere that is pierced by the jagged precipices (I probably had to look that one up to spell it. Is it spelled right?) of a distant peak. Steely-blue eyes are caught by a ray of sand-tinged light, and the traces of a smile--perhaps in a moment of misty remembrance--touch the corners of his mouth. Lips, dry and cracked, part slightly, quivering. The eys glistne faintly as the last droplets of viatlity quaver at the tip of his nose before dropping into the dust to be lost forever int he shifting dunes.


*Shakes her head in shame and self-loathing*

I am NOT going to critique myself. I wouldn't know where to begin, let alone where to stop once I got going.


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Miriel
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This is the begining of the novel I tried to write when I was eleven, nothing changed:

Dulvann was a fine city. It was sprawled on a hill next to the mountains. A castle stood in the middle, followed by various houses and shops, the outer wall, and down to the scattered farms below. This was the capital of Dulmar.

Nothing spectacular had happened for a long while. Legends of flying dragons and other such beasts were long ago discarded as nothing but myth. The rumors of elves and dwarves were told mainly by drunk men, and were given little heed. True, there were peculiar bushes in some areas of Dulmar, and a bit of interesting wildlife, but nothing disturbing. The Thalls were the only thing people in general disliked, and that because it was a swamp.

Dulvann was not crowded, and its tiny library was underused. There were few military forts in Dulmar because of the very little threat of war. The greatest threat, a slaver’s outpost, had been discovered and destroyed three month earlier. Dulmar was quite peaceful and prosperous, like the ripe apple before it falls off the tree.

...and I look at all the "to be" verbs and want to scream...oh well. It isn't great writing, but at least I can look back and it still makes sense. It is kinda nice to know I've grown. Hmmm...slavers...it seems every novel I write has slavers in it, slavers and threats of war. Maybe I haven't changed that much.


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pixydust
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Oh, this is just too much fun! I love reading all these. I'd just been looking through an old journal and found a story from 9th grade.

Very scary...and how does it begin? A dream...LOL!

"Her dreams persisted. Cold and scared as she was, she clung to them. Again, there she stood. Alone. Quiet. The white was all around her...and the cold. Oh, how dreadfully cold. And there was wind biting at her from every side.
This dream, more than all the rest, felt much more bitter, much more real ((And cold )) than most. It was as if whatever she felt was drawing near. So near it could reach out and touch the hem of her velvet dress. So near its breath could be felt on her cold white skin, hot and moist on her cheek..."

Oh, God make it stop! A nighmare filled to overflowing with adjectives. I'm drowning!

I sure have come a long way...at least I hope so.


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Spaceman
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dakota: As bad as you think your posted pieces were, your unique voice (that is quite vivid in your work today) is already there.
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Kickle
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Here's the first part of a story I wrote when I was fifteen. My assumption is that this was inspired by the old series “Dark Shadows”.

The stairs creaked as the boy moved cautiously up twards the attic. He pushed the door open and poked his head into the dusty room. Soft rays of light filtered in through the window and across the dust laden floor. Christian’s young mind was filled with fanciful dreams of the party the next night and with the thought that perhaps here he would find the ideal costume. His mind however also was creating the traditional monsters of the attic-morgue. He shivered as he entered the musty room with self created fears. Christian looked around and decieded to start his search for a costume in the old bureau. Pulling the top drawer he found it empty. He tried the next then the last finding a stiff white shirt and neck cloth of a past age. Across the room under the window he saw a cobwebbed mirror and went over to see what the shirt looked like. A grin breached his lips as he spied an antiquated trunk. It resisted opening but finally the rusty hinges gave way and it opened with a creak. A cloud of dust rose from within. He pulled out a suit coat from the top of the box and to his amazement found it was actually a cape a full length black cape.

After that repetitive masterpiece, here is my favorite part of this wolfman turns out to be a piranha story.

Back in the party room he nervously sat next to the girl on the sofa. He put the soda on the table next to the sofa, he spied a crystal bowl of goldfish, “Gee, they look tasty,” he smiled. I really am turning into a blood thirsty animal he gasped.

[This message has been edited by Kickle (edited August 06, 2005).]


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Exile
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Wrote this (Title: A Life of Masquerade) when I was twelve, and dreaming of becoming a great sci-fi writer. I'd read a young adult novel and loved its idea of genetic manipulation. The main character goes on to travel in space, meet an alien race, and liberate enslaved clones. My mind had latched on to all of the classic sci-fi cliches and scrunched them together in a sad, incoherent plotline.

(And don't ask me why the boy didn't just permanently dye his hair. I don't know. But I'm sure that when I wrote this, I had a pretty good reason. Or at least thought I did.)

***

“Kent! You come back here this instant!”

Sighing, the twelve year-old pivoted on his heel and trudged back to his house, not even apologizing when an old solar Ford Orion screeched to a stop to avoid hitting him. Kent winced at the sound of its brakes. True, Orion models were classics now, but that didn't that the owner couldn’t fix it up a bit.

When the youth reached his front door, he patiently waited for his mother to rub some “Color-Away” gel solution into his hair that would turn it the normal brown. He couldn't believe he almost walked to school without the dye. Probably would have caused a mass panic. If only he had been born with normal hair, brown hair, instead of this freakish white-blond!


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Elan
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I have a lot of admiration for those of you who can actually lay your hands on your grade school work! I didn't think of myself as a writer in those days, but I DO have the pictures I drew, including the one of a dog that integrated the life-like technique of a shadow, something I was proud of myself for observing. I sold that picture (to my mom) for ten cents, giving me the idea that I could make money from my creativity.

I WAS able to lay my hands on the first page of my historic fiction piece that I wrote when I was about twenty two, or so. That would be over twenty years ago.

quote:
Flames of blue lupin blazed intermittantly among the tall meadow grasses, nodding their sleepy heads to the rythym of a balmy summer breeze. The sun hadn't quite gathered her full strength as she crept above the surrounding towering pines, and within the shade of the trees, the morning dew wet on her bare feet, Mariah walked in the cool of the morning.

As she walked she stooped occasionally to pluck a feathery pillar of lupin and after gathering a handful she wandered to the edge of the meadow and sat beneath the shade of a giant pine. She plaited the flowers together into a rope, then after joining the ends she sat the floral crown upon her flowing chestnut tresses. With a sigh she hugged her legs to her chest and lay her cheek on her knees, smiling as she thought of the night to come.


Ew. That was so horrible, it was painful. There were enough adjectives to choke a horse. A sweaty, cranky, brown, well-muscled, with a flowing-mane horse.


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MaryRobinette
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I'm just impressed that she could plait lupins.
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theokaluza
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It would be fascinating to see you all re-write these segments now that you've learned a little more about writing.

I'd participate, but I don't have anything older than a year or two. All of my 'original' writing is lost.


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MaryRobinette
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I'll play that game. New topic though.
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