Monday, May 15, 2006

MeMe Monday - It's Only Teenage Wasteland

Welcome to another installment of, "Come ON -- tell me the WHOLE story!" AKA "I love to talk about myself", or "Me-Me Monday" for short. The object of the game is to refer to your 101 Things About Me list, pick one of your "things" and tell the whole sordid tale. (I don't yet have a full 101 Thing About Me list, but do plan on growing one. So when I play Me-Me Monday" I'll add to my list.)

1. I banged out my first novel on an Underwood Typewriter when I was fourteen.

It was a hot and humid summer, there were plenty of great things to do. Head out on my bike with my friends, play games on my Mattel Intellivision game system, join in an afternoon pick-up game of baseball down at the ball park, go hiking in the woods or go swimming in the pool in our yard.

But I had better things to do. I had a novel to write.

At least a year earlier, my cousin Rodney and I had found my Mom’s old Underwood typewriter in the closet of the spare bedroom. I think it was Remembrance Day -- back then we didn’t have school on Remembrance Day. And I also remember there being a lot of snow. Rodney and I spent the day by going to the Remembrance Day ceremonies, playing hockey in the driveway, and generating what we thought were hilarious character sketches of friends and family on my Mom’s Underwood typewriter. Wanting to relive the excitement and thrill I’d had crafting up little passages that afternoon, I’d kept the Underwood typewriter out on the desk in the spare bedroom, and occasionally hammered out a few typewritten pages whenever the inspiration struck.

But it wasn’t until that summer during my fourteenth year when I actually sat down, with a dictionary and thesaurus by my side, at the kitchen table in the cool basement of my Baba’s apartment (my Baba had a kitchen, living room area, bedroom and bathroom in the basement of our home -- though we called it an apartment, it didn’t have it’s own entrance and was just a series of rooms in the basement) and started typing out a novel.

Day after day instead of heading out and playing, I slipped page after page into the typewriter and, using only my two index fingers, conveyed the tale that had been burning in my head to the typewritten page. The keys were stiff and hard and ink had built up in the spaces of the letters causing pretty much every letter that had a “space” within it to be filled in. But I kept at it until the work was completed.

I can’t remember what it was called, but I think it was something like “The Story of Conan Boc,” “The Adventures of Conan Boc” or “The Fall of Conan Boc.” I think I used that last title when I was trying to determine what "theme" my novel had used and my best guess was that "pride goeth before the fall" could have been in, especially since my main character met his end falling off the edge of a cliff into the murky depths below. And in the tradition of fantasy epics and soap opera's alike, I wrote a sequel to this several years later called “The Search for Conan Boc.” But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

My "Conan Boc" novel was a fantasy adventure novel, entirely based on characters that my good buddy Tom Potts and I had created while playing (everyone say this along with me) Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, like thousands upon thousands of beginning writers before me, I thought that readers everywhere would revel in the thrills and adventures that my nerd friends and I had had in a role playing game.

The main character was named Conan Boc. He was a barbarian if that isn’t obvious. (For those readers not versed in the fantasy adventure genre, Conan is a barbarian created by Robert E. Howard who ended up being played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in a short series of movies). The last name was short for Blue Oyster Cult one of Tom’s favourite bands. My own character, the main POV character in the novel, was called Thundar Hunt -- I seem to recall that he was based on a character (likely spelled Thundarr if I remember correctly), who was featured in a Saturday morning animated cartoon.

Parts of this novel were inspired by adventures that Tom and I had had as Thundar and Conan, other parts were ripped off completely from Conan The Barbarian comic books that I’d read, and the numerous sexual encounters peppered throughout the tale were the result of the hair-trigger stirrings my young adolescent mind. I think that this “book” was likely in the realm of 40,000 words or so. Not bad for a first attempt.

The novel still sits in a drawer or box somewhere. I haven’t pulled it out for at least 10 years, but I remember glancing over it one rainy afternoon and even then being embarrassed by it. The writing itself wasn’t so bad. It definitely could use at least a dozen more drafts to get it right, and the pace and timing of story elements was pretty decent. But I’m embarrassed by the fact that I’d completely liberated other people’s creations (and copywritten material). And as for the sex on every second page, well, what can I say? I was a horny fourteen year old. What do you want from me?

I know that this “first novel” of mine is completely unpublishable. But I continue to hang on to it for a few reasons.

One, it’s a reminder of the long lonely hours it takes to complete a longer piece of writing and the sense of accomplishment when that work is complete. Two, it's proof that if I had the dedication and commitment to sit there and work on it until it was done when I was fourteen, then I have no good excuse now that I'm (giggle) mature and (snicker) calm and (teehee) poised and stuff. Three, it’s one of the hundreds upon hundreds of writing efforts I endeavoured in that will never see the light beyond the bottom of my drawer or banker’s box and yet helped me develop as a writer. I see it as one of the stepping stones that helped get me from a “gee I want to write” phase to where I am today: “gee I want to write and I think that at least one or two people have read my stuff and kind of like it.”

I’ve come a long way, baby.


lime said...

what a fun reveal! i'm not even a writer but i cringed when i found big research paper from the senior year of highschool. an A with comments re: the mature writing style still did nothing to prevent the cringes when i read the drivel i came up with back then. i think it's great you kept your novel though. it's a great snapshot of your creative process back then.

Dear AL said...

One day I will complete a book, if it doesn't kill me!

Kimberly said...

I have several completed first (and only drafts) of stories I wrote out long hand back in my high school days. While I sometimes look back and cringe at the quality of writing I was producing back in the day, I too hold one to them for one reason: a reminder of my passion for the written word back when my style and experience were young. Back when it was possible (in my young naive little mind anyways) for someone to live on the salary made by working at a fast food place.

Ahh those were the days. I hope I never lose sight of them!

starry nights said...

just stopped by. like your posts.

Franny said...

Wow, I just can't get enough Conan! (I dressed up as a biker chick one year but everyone thought I was a dominatrix - which is about as daring a costume I ever wore!)

In my teenage years, I was really about the world justice and human rights...wrote a lot of "educated fiction" about ppl who lived under opressive regimes, abused women, the homeless, death penalty issues, etc.

Now I have diapers to worry about. *sigh*

lecram sinun said...

Beautifully indulgent... and wonderful! Cheers!

adventure holiday for single traveller said...

Hello Friend! I just came across your blog and wanted to
drop you a note telling you how impressed I was with
the information you have posted here.
Keep up the great work, you are providing a great resource on the Internet here!
If you have a moment, please make a visit to my adventure holiday for single traveller site.
Good luck in your endeavors!