So I just turned a story over to the writing group for crit. This is an old, old story, written for one of my creative writing courses in college. It’s a good ten years old.
Personality-wise, I was in a pretty tumultuos period at the time. I was changing quite a bit, my mind expanding far beyond the confines under which it had labored in small town Texas just a couple of years before. The foundations for who I am today were being laid, brick by brick. The philosophy with which I view the world today saw its early birthing pains in the dank first floor of UNT’s Language building and the couches of the University Union. I was encountering music and writers I’d never heard of before, but which were old hat to everyone else. I was making many friends who didn’t have preconceived notions of me based on the high school years. It was a glorious time, in many respects.
Mostly I watched girls and tried to be moody so they would notice me.
In any event, it is interesting going back and reviewing this story from that time. There is a theme and everything, it’s not just written for fun and entertainment. I don’t know if I’m better or worse in that regard than today. My stories usually still have themes, they just have a tendency to change to fit the events of the story as it unfolds (and sometimes they get dropped altogether). The theme is not especially complex – in fact, I clearly remember making it simple so that I could focus more on the storytelling. I didn’t want to get too hung up on the ideas of the story, I just wanted to get a story down on paper. No one will be blown away by what the story says about humanity. But that wasn’t the point of the exercise.
What strikes me the most is the way its written. There are certainly many of the standard amateur mistakes – too many adverbs and what not. But I’m impressed by how moody and introspective the piece is. The narrator is moody and introspective, and the story matches that, from the language to the plotting. You definitely get the impression that this character is suffering from some serious ennui.
It’s so different from how I write now. I think in the intervening years I’ve become far more influenced by television/film and comic books. I stress action and dialogue now more than anything else. Those are the tools I use to describe my characters and how they think. But back then I was a lot more invested in inner monologues and using the setting to reflect the characters. I’m looking at an entirely different type of writer as I look at these old Word Perfect documents than my current stuff. Alex ’99 was better at setting a tone and establishing a mood, Alex ’09 is better at dialogue and focused story structure.
I feel like I need to figure out how to merge the two. If I can whip together the best ingredients of both, I feel like I’ll become a much better writer.