Thursday, July 2, 2009

My First Story

I sat in a pew at my father’s Catholic Church. I was seventeen, and the priest’s monotone voice echoed off the walls, lulling me into some kind of distant hypnosis. I wasn’t sleeping, but I wasn’t awake. And suddenly, an image came into my head. It was some guy I never met chopping wood behind a house. Behind him were hundreds of cut branches. I gave the person a name: Bobby Wagner, and I wrote the scene down on the back of my program, in the blank space at the bottom.

I worked on ‘Bobby Wagner’ throughout the summer, not knowing what the hell I was doing. It started as a longish, sloppy outline of something I knew should probably be even longer. Ideas started popping off as I continued. I put him and a few other friends in a town called Ellis, Illinois. I put them in 1807, since I knew EVERYTHING about 1807…or not.

But I did know Native Americans were kind of still around then, so I made Ellis, Illinois (never been to Illinois either) into a mixed small town of whites and Native Americans, and every now and then a really angry general would come in with his rogue militia and threaten to kick them out. He liked to spit, I remember. A lot.

Thrown in there was a romance between Bobby and Daniella and the invention of baseball. When I entered college, and I realized I had a boatload of time between classes, there were choices to make. I could play video games, watch movies, screw around, or I could write on the top floor of the library in the corner for two hours, then go back and do all that stuff.
Bobby Wagner ended up as a screenplay. 90 pages. I submitted it to Slamdance Screenplay Competition and a judge called me and said: “Good stuff!” 200 fist pumps followed.

Of course I didn’t win…not even close, but someday I want to thank that judge. He could have said something horrible, but that single compliment sent me, for better or worse, down this path, into other screenplays, novels, and whatever else decides to appear.

How about your first story? I did happen to leave out the Atlantis short story I wrote when I was eleven, but it was two pages, and I dropped it in a puddle of mud. (Moment of silence).

11 comments:

  1. I dreamt about the ending of my first novel for a few months, the same dream every time, until I was persuaded by a friend to actually sit down and write it out. This one book turned into three which turned into God knows how many. I wrote instead of doing homework in high school junior and senior year but I mean, how hard was high school anyway? That was years ago now, but I still work on it from time to time, adding more and more crap into the fantasy land I created. The characters have become so detailed I feel like each time I work on them I do them a disservice. Books three and four will be finished one day...

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  2. The first book I wrote was a picture book at age...well let's say I was an adult. To say the least I had no idea of what I was doing. A few years later I learned what a PB was and that my voice was all wrong. I ventured into YA and have been there ever since. I love having the characters roll around in my head, hearing them talk, and watching what they do. As a psychologist, I know there's medication for this, but I refuse to take it...after all the story might end. :-}

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  3. Since I love thrillers, my first story was a thriller. I remember it was a story about the president of the US being kidnapped by nefarious elements aboard Air Force One. Think Executive Decision, though not as well thought out. In fact it pretty much sucked. I'm glad to say, I've moved on since then.

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  4. My first story came to me as a therapy nearly seven years ago. I'm still rewriting the thing. Of course, I've written four others in the meantime as well. As ill written as that first one was, it hooked me on this journey.

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  5. that's an awesome story, Patrick! thanks for sharing it.

    my first story was about two fish, one blue one and one red one. I can't remember anything more -- i'm sure my mom still has it somewhere -- but i remember my teacher (2nd grade) calling my parents and just going on and on about how wonderful it was.

    I was a little sad because I knew it wasn't that good -- after all, I knew what good story-telling was when I heard it having parents who read constantly to me -- but her praise pops up whenever I'm feeling particularly down on myself ;)

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  6. My first fiction story (I had worked newspaper articles prior) was for a attractive co-worker named Lynn. She was bored, so she asked me to write her a story.

    So I did.

    And then we went out. I would write her a story about once a week.

    Sadly when we broke up, I was unable to write any type of fiction until I wrote a novel starting last year.

    Heh.

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  7. In the summer of '85 before I started college, I created a story where a time traveler who was 3000 years old came back from the future to tell me what will happen in the next 3K years. I plotted out an entire future history of mankind and wrote a few chapters on paper (which are now lost). Then during our 3-week winter break, I wrote the first novel of the series.
    The basic plot was that a General was abducted to Mars, meets this Russian agent with special powers, they fall in love, and return to Earth to try to avert nuclear war.
    I believe this story is set in 2015, thirty years from when I started writing it.
    Hard to believe it's been that long (and I still haven't finished the novel :)

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  8. I still haven't finished my first story. I started writing it when I was 8 yrs old. It's about a young girl, growing up in a LDS family of 5 kids, living in Las Vegas. Forty-eight penned journals later, I'm still writing...it's my life, and honestly, I hope the end is a long way off.

    My other writings have been varied: poetry in middle school, song lyrics in high school, and more poetry and story threads in college. I'm working on a story line now that I hope turns into an honest to goodness novel. We'll see.

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  9. I do have a first story but it sits in my larkin desk awaiting a final destination :(

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  10. Patrick, I like your story of a story. Very cool. Also, I've enjoyed thinking back to fifth grade when I wrote and told my "first" story. Like you, I remember how it connected. You got the thumbs up "good stuff" from the judge, and I got something that surprised me, but that's a long story, which I might tell in a future blog.

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  11. Dont let the man bring u down patty. :D

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