No, my first story wasn’t called flexible history. It wasn’t even about flexible history. If you have heard this before, skip ahead. I need to deliver some knowledge to those unfamiliar with the birth of Zombie Joe. Just before I fully realized the trivia skills with the undead that caused a friend to dub me Zombie Joe, I had another large change in my life. I got in a fight I had no chance of winning. A fight with a dump truck.
I’d like to tell you I was kidding or taking creative license here, but I’m not. One foggy morning as I drove home from work (a night shift job, naturally), a dump truck pulled out in front of me and our ’95 Geo Tracker took on the business end of said dump truck. At least that’s what they tell me. I don’t remember most of that week. I have a few flashes here and there, and once in a while I have a dream of faceplanting into a wall. A genuinely unique experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody. Well, most people anyway.
That wasn’t the first fight I lost, but it was damn sure the worst fight I lost. I indented my sternum, broke a couple of ribs, hit my shins so hard on the engine block to permanently mar them, and gave myself such a massive concussion I lost several years of memory. That isn’t to say I don’t remember the 80’s, but more that it is similar to giving a book report as I would have done back during those years. I know many of the stories, but I don’t remember being there.
Some people forget their teens years due to an excess of drugs and alcohol. Some build the walls themselves as a defense mechanism against a traumatic young adult transition. Me, I took the road in the middle. None of the fun, none of the trauma… all of the migraines. This is of course during the time when I took up creative writing and wrote my first story. A full three or four years after I took up role playing games.
I can tell you what my most memorable of my first stories are. Bare minimum, I can talk about the stories I still have located in a folder in my box of “trunked projects” that will likely grow over the next couple years. I even have memory of a ten page story I wrote for an English class about a young man who had to prove to a government agency that he existed. In person. Talking to a live human being. He couldn’t come up with enough evidence to prove it and he ceased to exist. It gained me an A+ grade and the enmity of the rest of the class.
I wrote another that was actually a screenplay about a young man who was finding problems telling his nightmares from his reality. Though in reality I think it was about his father who had no idea the extent of the mental damage his son was going through. His inevitable fall into hopelessness as he came to know the truth and was powerless to help or stop it. The whole thing was a message to listen to the very subtle cries for help teens give off. It gained an A grade for my friends who performed it in our drama class. I wasn’t in class that semester for some reaction I had to an altercation in the practice area with another group. (A whole other issue and blog entirely.) But it did save me from explaining that I wrote the piece. That was a big rule in class. No pieces we created ourselves.
Though I honestly feel my first official story that I wrote was a serial I created through several months of creative writing. This was a couple years after Labyrinth had come out. I was pretty entranced with the whole movie. But I was contemplating it further. What changes would exist in that situation where the protagonist was a teenage boy? What would the difference be if the protagonist was the young man in the fantasy world and the young woman from the real world was the antagonist?
What came out were two versions of a similar story. The first was a teen boy that would travel into another world every night while he was dreaming. In the dream world he was the heart of the land. He had power and people loved him. It gave him all the things he wanted, but couldn’t find in life. The more he immersed himself in this world, the stronger and more vibrant it became. Back in the real world, no matter how much he slept, he never seemed to be rested. His body began to break down and his health suffered. The young man fell prone to all the ailments that the body would go through when not sleeping – including the hallucinations. To the point where he would fall prone to visions of the dream world overlapping with the real.
The first of the versions ended with a young woman from school trying to help him. She tried to save him, because she saw something in him that she recognized. She sensed a dreamer. In the end, he couldn’t leave the lush land that he had rule over as he was fending off attacks on their borders. His lands were protected, but he never did wake from the coma while he lived out his days in the fantasy land.
The second version of my “First Story” was about a similar young man who had taken his place within a fantasy world. Not a cerebral one that left his body behind, but a physical one that could be reached through magic. In claiming the magic that had stolen away from the real world, he took the mantle of the Goblin King. His eye caught sight of a young woman at a crossroads. She could travel down the path of the dark or the light. Something about her caused him to take notice. Likely the similarities he had in his choices upon becoming the Goblin King.
To lure the young woman away from the darkness he kidnapped her half brother while he was left in her care. While concerned at the disappearance, the woman’s main fear was the reaction of her father and step-mother. The impact it would have on her. In seeing the goblins spying on her, she followed them in a fit of rage. She was through the portal and in the other world beating one of the trailing scouts mercilessly.
I had made it through several submissions on her travels through the world. Each one included a lesson he had devised to teach her the options. Every one of them was an attempt to lure her away from the darkness that threatened her soul. I also wrote the final entry for the last class of my high school career. I seem to remember it being a showdown in a ballroom at his castle. He gave her the option of choosing a life that was a journey of knowledge, adventure and love (with or without him as he had grown to love the similar natures they shared), or the power granted as the ruler of the Goblin Lands. A life of wealth and power, but one without love.
I never picked out a final outcome. Something about it never lent to the direction she would go. I was a teenager, I barely understood real girls much less ones I created. It was a miracle I could write from that point of view at all. Also, while I was leaning towards the choice of power… the previous version had a decidedly unhappy ending. I wasn’t sure I wanted to repeat it.
In short, most of those first stories dealt with a battle raging being the real world and the magical one. Reality vs. Fantasy. Not to mention the choices we made altering the physical natures of our world and ourselves. Not sure what all of it meant, but there you have it.
From time to time I dig out these ideas and give them some air. Those stories have been written since by others far more intelligent and talented than me. But at the same time those weren’t my stories. Still, I have a honkytonk monster hunter and a few celebutante monsters to play around with before I can even consider something new. Because, as Craig Ferguson once said on an episode of The View…
Writing a novel is like making love to a gorilla. You’re not done until the gorilla’s done.