“Published Author”: If That’s What You Call Having a Wattpad Account.
Stories had a huge impact on my life growing up. If my mother had her way, she’d still be reading me books aloud. From The Hobbit to history textbooks and whatever fit in between, I was served a steady diet of story sandwiches. Mom was sure that if she force fed me enough books, I’d jump at the chance to read.
She was right.
I read like a maniac. Nancy Drew couldn’t satiate my need for mystery, the Jack Sparrow chapter books were pathetic at best but I still waited week after week for my library requests to go through, and I read and reread Junie B. Jones to the point I could quote sections. I tore through the first Harry Potter book in a day when I was nine. I read them so fast that I got to book four in the span of a few short weeks. My mother, who thought it would take me at least a month or so, was horrified that it was time to sit me down and have a talk about death and how the rest of the books got progressively darker. I told her I got it and to hurry the heck up and hand over Goblet of Fire.
I started a journal at age nine, sure that someday when I was incredibly famous and dead, archeologists would find it and preserve it forever. I had to keep a record of cute boys I saw at church and my deepest darkest secrets. But mostly, I imitated what I had read. Because Junie B. Jones was the only book I had read religiously, that was written kinda like a journal, I started stealing her lines. I’d begin my journal by saying “Dear Journal” and end it by saying “That’s all for now, I think”.
I can’t remember if this blatant plagiarism stuck out to me but I remember feeling a bit guilty that I was copying a lot of how Junie B. talked but at the same time, Junie B. wouldn’t mind, at least I was pretty sure she wouldn’t. I also doubted that Barbara Park would sue me out of existence for what I wrote in my journal.
This copying strategy continued to grow as I got older. My first real brush with writing was when I took a creative writing class at my homeschool co-op. I was assigned to write an alternate ending to a book we had read in class. I’d like to note that this was Teacher-Ordained Fanfiction.
We read the story Fig Pudding, by Ralph Fletcher and long story short, it’s pretty depressing for a kid’s book. I had fun getting to know the characters in the book and give them new lines that I got to write. Plus my ending wasn’t as much of a kick to the teeth as the original (and was even better in my opinion).
Around the time I was in middle school, I started getting more and more invested into movies and TV. Iron Man had become my favorite movie (to my mother’s distaste). But the more I watched, the more I started finding myself getting bored with plots or wondering why characters didn’t do what I thought they should do.
How would The Avengers have changed if Captain America had gone to check on Loki’s cell when the ship was attacked? Or what if Jim Hawkins joined Long John Silver at the end of Muppets: Treasure Island?
I wasn’t getting answers I wanted so I turned to what I could find on the Internet. Mistakes were made. Especially after I discovered Quotev.com. Quotev was a fanfic website that had stories, quizzes and blogs.
I dug into every story I could find. These ranged from trilogies based around the events of Avenger films to short stories called One-shots that were mainly one scene snippets between characters. Most exciting of these were the stories written in second person.
I know, I know: second person, isn’t that the cardinal sin of the writer? Yes. Unless of course, you’re writing a reader-insert fanfic about dying in Loki’s arms.
I read these voraciously. They became the potato chips of my reading buffet. I gorged myself to the point where I wasn’t even tasting the stories anymore, I was just hopping from one to the next with no memory of what had occurred in the last story. This binge was not to last. Soon these chips too grew stale, just like the films and TV I watched.
I needed more.
More exciting dialogue, more interesting characters, I wanted to BE in the story. I was sick of reading about stupid about Your/Name and her clumsy behaviors and habit of falling asleep on Captain America’s shoulder that somehow made her irresistible. I wanted someone with superpowers, who didn’t take crap from anyone and messed with the plot of the story itself.
So, I started writing myself into my favorite films. I started with The Avengers and followed it quite closely. It was harder than I thought to break away from what I knew so well. I didn’t want to change things too much. Just give myself a few lines and maybe see if Loki pays me any attention. He tried to kill my character a few times and had some overdramatic love confessions so I guess that sort of counts.
Slowly, I started branching out and writing more scenes. Scenes that didn’t necessarily happen in the movie but potentially could have. My characters started doing funny things too. Funny things like not being who I wanted them to be.
What happened to the bad-ass girl with fire-powers armed to the teeth with sarcasm? Well, her tragic backstory started to shape her into someone with trust issues that made her more difficult to pair with whoever I wanted her to. She started saying things I didn’t want her to and doing things I didn’t want her to do either.
In short, she started coming alive.
Suddenly, she was making the sacrifice play and willing to die for her friends even if it meant the end of the book. I was furious. That wasn’t her call. It was mine to decide when the book ended. But here my character was, making decisions of her own. Arguing with her significant other, Leonard Snart (I had moved onto The Flash by this point) over who could die for their friends. She became someone I never intended her to be: a dorky hero.
The writing I did in my middle school and high school years, makes me cringe. I look at it and want to crawl into a hole and bury myself. But it was some of the most intensive writing I did. I wrote daily for a long time, pulling out my blue notebook and scribbling away, page after page stained with colored ink as I brainstormed ideas and short stories about the Avengers.
I left my work up on whatever sites I “published” on. Mostly for the laughs but also for the comments that people left. There were people like me, snacking on garbage that had stumbled onto my garbage.
It was haphazardly made: a mix of a sprinkling of comedy, dash of plot and a whole can of melodrama dumped over the stove. Plot holes were wiped up but left residue on the end result. I made a soup and called it soufflé but yanno what? Some people ate it up.
And that’s the most I can hope for.