The Tag of Firsts (A Writerly Tag)

I said I would blog more about writing, and here I am. I was not officially tagged in this questionnaire-thing, but Kenzie over at Smudged Thoughts likes to share, and I actually have good answers for this tag.

The early years of my writer career are such a blur, I don’t remember most of it unless I’m forced to sit still for a moment and reflect. As I was reading Kenzie’s response to this tag, there was a lot of reflection. Stories I had long forgotten about stirred from their slumber and started muttering in the dark recesses of my mind. Characters I had abandoned ages ago loomed in the shadows like ghosts and leered accusingly at me – or giggled maniacally at having finally been recalled.

I still have most of those stories on my computer, while others were lost on old hard drives or, having only been scribbled in notebooks, unceremoniously burned. Though I used to berate myself over my habit of not finishing stories, I’ve since moved past that. Every story I failed to finish still helped me develop as a writer, and I pulled many of the elements from those stories and characters and applied them to new stories and characters.

And now I get to recall with not-quite-fondness the stories that made me into the writer I am today.

Number One – Who Was The First Character You Ever Wrote?

Abraham Hamster.

Technically I drew him, but he was without a doubt my first character. He also had a brother who may have been named William.


Number Two – What was the first story you ever finished?

Honestly, when I first started writing I didn’t have this problem of not finishing stories. That habit only cropped up around age 12 or 13 to plague me for years on end, during which time I finished practically nothing. At around 17, I entered a new stage of my identity as a writer, and my stories started to mean something more to me. I started to take myself seriously.

Depending on how you count it, my first completed story could have been Abraham’s, or the 7-page story about a birthday kitten. For fuller-length, it was probably the one about Princess Saphire (I didn’t know how to spell sapphire, ‘k?). That was the first big story, the one that jump-started my development.


Number Three – What was the first piece of writing advice you ever heard? Or what was the first bit of advice you used and it actually worked?

The first piece of advice was probably on style, courtesy of my father, but the first one I remember actually repeating to myself was “Keep EVERYTHING”. I read it in a book my father gave me. A very official-looking book with many nuggets of writerly wisdom. It was echoed in a writing class led by my mother, wherein the on-screen instructor advised students to draw a single line through text they wished to cut out (as opposed to manic scribbling to erase any legibility), so as to preserve those words and thoughts in case they turned out to be useful.

I took this advice to heart. I even started applying it to other areas of my life. I am now a hoarder. One day you will find me, stringy-haired and liver-spotted and covered in dog fur, hunched over a box full of notebooks and candles and pens and blood, screaming that it’s mine, precious, it’s all mine.

This is why I still have most of my old stories, even the ones best left forgotten. They are evidence.


Number Four – Who was your first villain?

Ah, yes. Villains. The bane of my writer existence.

I can’t recall the first, but I can recall the first one I took seriously. Like many young writers, I wrote said villain as having a habit of monologuing and sneering and scheming evil schemes all the time. His vocabulary was atrocious because I had no idea what half of the words meant. I lifted them from other villains I’d read and watched and had my villain repeat them, despite the fact that said phrases and insults were usually massively out of context.

His name wasn’t spelled as such, but with just a little imagination it could be pronounced as “a moron”. I did not do this intentionally, but it worked.


Number Five – What was the first storyworld you ever built?

I can picture it. I drew a map. Actually, I first got into fantasy because a former friend and I sat in her room and crafted worlds on large pieces of taped-together paper, and then we made up stories about them. (For context, I was 10 or 11.) Geographically, this world was a nightmare, and it contained more biomes than Peru. However, after showing it to Dad, I learned all about drawing topography, which I later became obsessed with.

This fantasy world went on to inspire other, better-developed ones, but it was my first, and thus treasured. Sure, it was inhabited by girls named after precious gems, and I had no concept of how mountains worked and therefore had my characters traveling within the literal shadow of a mountain for days on end, but it was a key part of my development.


Number Six – What did your first attempt at worldbuilding or mapmaking look like?

See above. It was…colorful. And there wasn’t a single stretch of non-jagged shoreline to be found. Further evidence to the fact that I cannot draw a straight line to save my life.


Number Seven – When was your first crush-on-your-own-character? I know it happened, don’t lie to me.


Ah, yes.

I can’t even remember his name. I think it started with a D. But oh, Lord, how I crushed. I was obsessed with him.

As was my aforementioned former friend. (To be fair, I also crushed on one of her characters. He had white hair [even though he was roughly 16] and magic and I liked him so much.)

This character of mine was a side character in my first “published” story (self-published, and I have so many anecdotes and pieces of advise following that adventure). Why can’t I just pull out of of my half-dozen copies of the book and find his name?

Because, child, all copies have been shoved into dusty corners of dark places, never to be acknowledged again.

When my friendship with the map-making friend later fractured, I wrote a “bonus scene” wherein I had the character run over with a wagon. It made its way into the published book.

I was a petty child. I also killed many early characters via wagon….


Number Eight – What was the first character death you ever had to write and how did you handle it?

Speaking of which: death!

I can’t remember a specific first character death. Like most writers, especially the fantasy writers, I’ve killed many a character – the majority of whom have died violently in battle, long before I understood how battles actually worked (thanks, Ranger’s Apprentice!). My first up-close character death was probably a parent (for a girl with two loving, very-much-alive parents, I kill off so many parents), and they probably gurgled around phlegm and blood to gasp out one last “I love you” before they died.

I’ve since toned down the death scenes. Of late I’m more in favor of torture and maiming, to be honest.


Number Nine – When did you first decide that your book needed a full-blown series?

That would be the Precious Stone Princesses (no, not an actual title of anything) and their adventures with losing their kingdom and having to get it back. I think I wrote about two scenes of Book Two.

After that was the published story with the bonus scene. Ignoring the bonus scene, I left it open for a sequel, and I tried to write that sequel many times. It never amounted to much, and when I left off that attempt was about the time I started questioning myself as a writer and trying to figure out how it all worked. That series really undid me. Took me years to get over it.


Number Ten – When was the first time you stepped out of your comfort zone to write a new genre?

I’ve always been into fantasy. I’ve tried writing sci-fi, action and adventure, and even “real world” stories. They never amount to much. The first attempt was probably a horse story, because, like any normal pre-teen, I was totally into stories with lots of cute animals in them. However, I had absolutely no idea what life on a ranch was actually like. The story didn’t get far.


Number Eleven – What was it like using a prompt for the first time?

I have mixed feelings about prompts. When I see one and it immediately inspires an idea, I’ll run with it. If I’m not inspired but am, for whatever reason, forced to follow the prompt, things never end up very well.

But I love trying to twist prompts into the least-expected interpretation, so I at least try to have fun.


Number Twelve – Opening line: share your first, your favorite, and your most recent.

I love opening lines. I used to hate them, but of late I’ve started to get the hang of them.

First is lost now, but probably started with “there once was a girl//hamster/princess” etc. I’m a traditionalist at heart.


The temple drums woke Dassi at dawn.

It’s from the story I’m too scared to write. The story that sits waiting, patiently, at the back of my thoughts. The story I want to do justice, which means I’ll probably never write it, because it’s just a fact that all of my first drafts are crap and I couldn’t stand that with this story.

As for my most recent:

Enndolyn had a cough, and the tea was not helping.

From my sort-of-Beatuy and the Beast retelling.


Number Thirteen – What was your first ending like?

Happy. Abraham saved the girl hamster from drowning and they got married.

These days I lean more toward bittersweet.


Number Fourteen – What was the first ship you ever wrote and, be honest, did you make them a ship name?

Abraham and the unnamed girl hamster.

But I’m crap at romance. No matter how hard I try, it’s always awkward. I don’t like reading it, either, so that doesn’t help. I’m currently toying with a story wherein the main character is already married, and I want to do her relationship justice. I know what it needs to look like, but it’s gonna take some work.


Number Fifteen – What year was your first NaNo?

2008. I’m fairly certain this was my first attempt at the sequel to my first real story (the published one), and I’m also fairly certain I had the whole thing printed and bound in a folder for Dad to read. He took it on the plane when he went to Central America for a missions trip. He showed it to his colleagues. He told me they were all very impressed.

I’ll take any compliment, no matter how patronizing. I’ll even pretend to blush.

The next year I participated (2010?), I finished my current WIP, but I made the mistake of saving over my completed story with a random incomplete copy from somewhere else on my computer.

It was not a good year.


Number Sixteen – Which novel is memorable for being the first one you ever gave up on?

The first one that comes to mind involves a girl whose village is attacked (natch), and who gets kidnapped by a villain with a penchant for dark, wood-lined rooms with no windows. The girl has a special connection to some magical flying creature and also has the magically ability to manipulate air. There’s a broody MMC, too.

I tried reworking this story so many times. I was honestly just there for Mr. Broods.

Second on the list is my first and, probably, last attempt at a superhero story. I was even sharing it on Facebook with some friends. Ah, Shawn. And Max (not a guy). and Nick. So many characters. So many cliches. I was a such a teenager when I wrote it.

I know how it ends. I just never got that far.


Number Seventeen – When did you first share your work with someone else and how did they react?

I’ve always shared my stories. I crave attention and validation, after all. My parents have always been supportive, Chava has always been a great brainstorming buddy, and I have a few fans on Wattpad who faithfully gush whenever I successfully pull off a good plot twist.


And there you have it! Now to shove all of those zombie-like characters back into the depths, never to be seen again because they’re embarrassing.

I’m not in the least an enthusiast of tagging people (though I enjoy being tagged, somehow), so I guess it’s a free-for-all with continuing this tagging thread. Let me know if you decide to respond!

Since I’m starting to advertise myself as a writer (at least a little bit) I’ll be leaving this link to my side Tumblr, which is dedicated to writing. I don’t really post on it, but I do share lots of writing resources and inspiration. Once I get my current WIP wrapped up and am ready to focus on the next story, I plan to be more active with the personal posts and updates.

Maybe one of these days I’ll even reveal my Wattpad, over which I remain continually conflicted.




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