We’ve all had those moments when we doubt our work, be it drawing, music or in my case, writing. I’m in my late twenties wondering just where the hell my life is going, and one of the few pleasures I get out of my day is when I write. I spend a lot of time with my fingers doing their favorite little dance on the keyboard, sometimes for a book, sometimes for a script, sometimes for a short story that just sort of popped in there and never left. My writing is not only my favorite thing to do, but I also believe it may be my only way to lead a happy, successful life. But is it any good?
I’ve been quite depressed the last few weeks, signing off Facebook with the exception of professional and writing updates, and even leaving a forum of friends I’ve known for the last ten years. It’s been rough going, due in no small part to my insecure feelings about my work and if I’m really the artist I want to be. Currently my pet project is my book, a fantasy epic and the first in a four part series about a dragon who is blackmailed into becoming a hero. Though it is my pride and joy, I am familiar with the saying that no one wants to believe they have an ugly baby. Is that what mine is? Have I given birth to a malformed child?
On a whim I took a look at some old documents I’d saved from my old computer. Writings I’d done back in high school that weren’t exactly good, drawings, story concepts that really had no story. I was cruising through them for the sake of nostalgia when I happened upon something curious. I found my first completed draft of this book. I’d written it back in either 2012 or 2013. I’m not sure which. Back then it was a script, written as part of a class assignment for my screenwriting courses, and back then I thought it was as good a script as I’d ever written.
Now, the story was much better in its current state, but I wondered how much it had changed since then. I had forgotten a lot about my first draft. Perhaps it could be fun, and better yet, maybe I’d get some ideas from it. So I started reading.
And then I couldn’t stop laughing.
The script was about as big a mess as you could imagine. Too focused on visuals and not focused enough on character. What was the plot? It only bore the faintest resemblance to my book now. The plot was three boys from Earth named River, Hunter and Sebastian are transported to a magic world. Why? I don’t know. I never explained that. In order to return home they are aided by a warrior named Beretta and a shady wizard named Yorreb. They have not one but two villains to deal with. One is a Red Dragon who has claimed one of the boys as an item in his hoard, and he proceeds to chase them across this mystic land. Why? I don’t know. Wasn’t too clear on that. The second villain, a malevolent sorcerer who has possessed the body of Beretta’s fiancee lures the boys into a trap.
You see, this sorcerer is aware the boys are from Earth and wants them to build him the A-Bomb.
I’m not even kidding. This character knows of the existence of Earth and these strange super weapons, and hopes the three will know how to make one. They of course don’t, much to his annoyance. At the end, the Red Dragon shows up and saves the day. Why? I don’t know. I didn’t explain that very well. I thought my first draft of the book in prose fiction was a disaster (which it was), but this? This is the stuff of legend.
The story is nothing like that now, and thankfully so. Sebastian became an orc who runs a college. Hunter became an elven wizard who dabbled in the sex trade. Neither of the three came from Earth, and all took a back seat to the character of the Red Dragon, who eventually became the protagonist.
While writing my book, I sort of had to teach myself an entirely new art form. I had to learn about pacing, character development, not overdoing it on the action, how subtlety beat a big speech any day of the week. Because of that I often feel overwhelmed, knowing there is still so much more I have to learn. But reading this script, beautiful disaster it was, I was reminded just how far I’ve come these last four or five years.
I suppose I’m actually ahead of the game in knowing there’s a lot more to learn. But realizing once more where I started has been a major reassurance. My characters are much better with distinct personalities and clear motivations, my plot is not a jumbled mess but a nicely constructed naturally flowing narrative, and the emotional core of the story, the relationships these characters share, feel real to me. Key is if I can make it feel real to the reader.
I don’t know what I was thinking combining high fantasy with the atomic bomb, but I guess some good came out of it. Getting this reminder of where I started has made me wonder that maybe where I’m heading won’t be so bad after-all.