Every writer has the proverbial trunk where dead and dying manuscripts go to find peace, many often never heard from again. And that’s a good thing. Most of what we write when we first start writing seriously is not ready for the printed world. Every once in a great while a lightning shot out of the blue will ring out, a 23-year-old kid fresh out of Columbia will land his first something on an editor’s desk who scoops it and paying boatloads of cash. But I think it’s fair to say that is pretty rare. It’s also fair to say I hate those young kids.
Master Hemingway said something to the effect that the first million words anyone writes is pure, uhm, dookey. Certainly part of the craft if learning while you go; discovering character and setting and story as you put the words down. That doesn’t mean they always work.
All this to say that I indeed have my own writer’s trunk. There has only been a couple of occasions when I’ve rescued a short story or two from there, still thinking they had something to them and found it was lucky enough to be true and placed them with a magazine. But most of the carcases are still there and I still get a little nostalgic for them, remembering where and who I was when I wrote them. I thought it’d be fun to look at some of the misfit manuscripts:
SHINING ARMOR – A young adult novel that tells the story of a young man and his little sister who go to live with their grandparents after their parents are killed in a tragic car accident. New town, new school, no friends. He has nothing to rely on except his martial arts in which he’s been trained by a Korean mentor who meant the world to him. It’s a story of loss, change, friendship and coming back to oneself. A little bit Karate Kid, A little bit My BodyGuard, a little bit of Peace Like a River before it was written. SA was written when I was 26-27. Still learning the ropes of what it meant to write, still infatuated with the process and rhythm of stringing words together, still giddy with all the possibilities of creating stories from scratch. It got me an agent but ultimately everyone turned it down because they didn’t think it was quite strong enough to sell. A blow but I was still proud to have followed though and completed a whole novel. I can only dream about the energy I had then to write 10 -15 pages a day. Sigh.
HAVE NO FEAR – A screenplay that throws together five young adults who are trying to come to grips with their phobias and the college professor whose malevolence and uncanny powers use those fears to control them. A bad amalgamation of Stephen King and John Carpenter. Some good dialogue but a lot of it is too over-the-top. But interestingly enough, the seed of this idea and a few scenes are making it into a new novel that expands the original idea. We’ll see if that one ends up in the trunk, too.
TO FLY – Another screenplay that was taken from a short film I shot right after high school. A wheelchair-bound boy dreams of flying liking Superman. Yeah, I know. That’s why it’s in the trunk.
GOKE-THE BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL – A scientist and his assistant try to figure out what created a series of strange earthquakes. Worse yet, a creature from the underworld comes after them. There are fires, blood and gnashing of teeth. Almost biblical. It was my first story I gave to a teacher in grade school. She couldn’t stop laughing after she read it. And it wasn’t a comedy.
Every once in a great while I’ll pull out a few pages and remember the younger man who dared to put pen to paper to try to solidify the stories in his head. They don’t always come out the way you want them to. But even the failures are sweet births and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.