I wrote my first short story when I was in the third grade, and, interestingly enough, it was of the fantasy/horror genre. Even to this day–and it has been some years–I can remember exactly both what the story was about and what the process of writing it was like.
The story was about a young girl who hears a legend at school. In the legend, a vampire family returns every year on Halloween to their ancient vampire home to feast on the inhabitants that lived there. In the beginning, the young girl, who was me–literally there was no disconnect between the real/author me and the fake/character me–listens with nonchalance to the legend. But, as more details are revealed, she realizes that the house in the legend is her house and that very night is Halloween! She gets home to discover that her mom has invited some mysterious family to dinner that evening, and with sudden clarity she knows that this legend is no fiction. Vampires are on their way to her house that very night!
The rest of the story explains how the girl tries to prepare her home for the invasion of the vampire family. She arms herself with all of the traditional remedies (garlic and stakes)*, she agonizes over whether or not to tell her family about their impending doom (she decides not to because she doesn’t think that her parents can handle it), and finally she awaits the arrival of the vampire family.
When they arrive at the door, it turns out that they have a kid named Eric, who appears to be about the same age as our heroine. He has green eyes, pale skin, and a black widow’s peak–which, back in the day, I was convinced that all vampires must have.** Even though the heroine is somewhat sympathetic to the poor boy who was trapped in an eternity of blood-sucking, she nevertheless fights him and his parents for her family’s survival. In the end, the home and the vampires are sucked down into some sort of mystical vortex. The last image was of Eric’s green eyes in the void.
I remember writing that story. The first parts of it flowed so freely–through me, even. I did not have to think that hard about what to write. Even as a kid, I had an eye for writerly detail. (I was particularly tickled by my descriptions of Eric’s arrival at the house and ultimately moved by the melodrama of my ending. 🙂 )I remember taking pleasure in reading new pages and new rewrites to my mom and my siblings. I remember bristling at their feedback sometimes, but then realizing that it was good stuff and using it to make my stories better. But the ending…ahh, the ending. It took me forever. Every way that I could think to end it seemed trite (of course that word was not in my third-grade vocabulary), even the one that I eventually ended up with. I rewrote the whole story again and again as I searched for the ending that would do justice to my story.
It’s funny, now that I think about it, that so much of who I now am as a writer have been there since early childhood. Even today, writing is something that seems absolutely natural to me; my family members are still my first and best critics; and to this day, I struggle to conclude a piece. I never want to end my tales with something that I feel is a cop-out or somehow not in keeping with the rest of the story. Some of the stuff I am glad I kept. Other things, like the dratted trouble with endings, I wish I would grow out of already.
*Side note #1: It’s interesting how much I knew about vampire lore even at that young age. Especially since I didn’t really start reading fantasy/horror until I was about 12.
**Side note #2: Apparently, I have a thing about supernatural creatures and green eyes (and I know that I am not alone in this). And my green-eyed characters always have the same shade of green eye. Emerald green. (I don’t think that I have ever met anyone who actually had eyes that color green.) What’s that about, I wonder.