Monday, March 19, 2012

Into the Trench

As I've mentioned before, I'm teaching a creative writing class at me younger kids' school. It's an elective course in the middle school. What I don't think I've mentioned is that my younger son (the middle child) is in my class. This has been both rewarding and frustrating. It's rewarding in that my son is, actually, an excellent writer. He has great ideas, and he's able to relate them in a manner that is actually readable. Not to mention that his writing has great voice.

It's frustrating, though, in that he writes like I do. Not in the same style as me (although, I do see similarities), but by the same process as me. What that means is that it's hard. Writing is not something that I am able to just sit down and do. It's a struggle. Every time. I often feel like it's equivalent to having a huge mass of hard clay and having to beat it into shape with my fists. The good side of this, though, is that I don't really have to do huge amounts of editing afterward. I tend to get it the way I want it the first time. My son writes like this, so it can be painful for me to watch him needing to write for an assignment. The blank page is his greatest enemy, and he can sit and stare at it for, literally, hours without putting down a single word. Having to motivate him to work on assignments for class is a nightmare.

What I'm about to share with you is something special. Well, it's something special to me. But, first, why I'm sharing it:

Briane Pagel has been running The 100-Day, 100-Question Great Star Wars blogathon. That's pretty much what it sounds like, and I've mentioned it a few times at this point. Recently, however, in order to motivate more writers to get involved, he added a twist to it to make it a bit more interesting. You can go here to find the links to the various rules and stuff, but the gist of it is that there are now writing challenges along with the trivia questions. All of you should go sign up, write your piece and get involved. [Remember to say I sent you :)] The current writing challenge has to do with writing a piece of fan fic. Personally, I'm not a big fan of fan fic. However!

See... I'm breaking all the rules with my entry. The first one I'm breaking is that I didn't write this. My son did. I'm sharing it, because it's like a piece of double fan fic. It's fan fic based on The House on the Corner and Star Wars! And, if you've read The House on  the Corner, you'll know just how perfect a melding this is. The entry is also too long, but this is a great little story by my son, and I just couldn't cut it in half. And, well, Briane seems to think it's cool for people to break the rules, but I think that's just because he's a lawyer. The more people break the rules and get caught doing it, the more business he gets. heh

Anyway... This is what my son turned in for his very first writing assignment this year in the creative writing class, and I feel privileged to share it with you. As I said, this is special to me, and I hope you all enjoy it. Oh, I did do some editing on the piece, but that was mostly confined to punctuation and paragraph formation. I suggested one word change and one spot where I thought he needed to move a word, so, really, my input was very minor. What you're seeing here is what he wrote. He was 10 at the time. Just to throw that out there.

Into the Trench

I was bored. There was nothing to do. I thought about what I could do, but I didn't feel like building with my Erector sets or going outside to play. Suddenly, I had an inspiration! I would go to the Imagination Room. Why hadn't I thought of that before? I would invite Tom, too.
As I was looking for Tom, I thought about what we were going to do. I decided we were going back to the scene in Star Wars when Luke blew up the first Death Star. I had been daydreaming all the time I had been looking for Tom. Leading Red Squadron, flying in the trench, tar... I'm sorry, using the Force to target the gas exhaust. And flying from the wreckage of the Death Star.
When I finally found Tom, he accepted with an “Are you kidding? Let's go!”
Before I knew it, we were in the Imagination Room, and I was thinking about Star Wars as much as I could. Then, suddenly, we were in the hangar at the base on Yavin 4! There were so many ships to choose from! From A-wings to B-wings to Y-wings to X-wings, we just couldn't choose! I finally settled on a nice Y-wing, and Tom chose a trusty X-wing.
Somehow, we knew how to fly the ships. I didn't really care how we knew. We must've gotten the skill when we crossed over to this world.
A few seconds after I left the hangar, I was hurtling through space. I saw Yavin looming over me. It was big. Very big. Maybe even bigger than Jupiter. Of course, I had never seen Jupiter up close like this.
I turned on the telecommunications, and immediately hailed Tom, “Tom, are you there?”
“So what's our plan?”
“We were supposed to make a plan?”
“Well, duh, stupid-head, what did you think?”
A new voice crackled in the radio, “Lock s-foils in attack position.”
That's when I finally saw it: the Death Star. A large gray spot on a black background. The battle had begun.

* * *

It was barely three minutes until we got to the Death Star, now a 1000 ton ball of metal right there in front of my face. I admit it. I was unprepared. And scared. Very scared. No, Jedi do not have fear, I thought. It was too late for fear, anyway.
Then, there was the trench. “This is it,” I breathed to myself. I didn't realize that my communicator was still on.
“Oh, stop whining, Sam.”
“Yes... I mean, no, an Imperial TIE fighter come to destroy you all.”
“Tom, the TIE fighters don't even come at this point. We're not even in the trench yet.” I had started to lighten up a little.
“Yes, we are. Have you looked up at all?”
I looked up. “Oh, crap,” I thought.
There was laser fire blasting all around me. From the corner of my eye, I saw an X-wing explode. It went down in flames; then, just before it crashed, I heard a horrible, bloodcurdling scream, and the pilot died. That's when I realized the full danger of the assignment. Okay, it wasn't an actual assignment, but it was still dangerous.
There was blaster fire all around me, and I was trying desperately to dodge it. As I swerved madly about the trench, I heard something on the communicator, “All units, approaching TIE fighters coming up fast.”
I felt a sudden jolt as something exploded behind me...
And I knew it was my own ship. I spun out of control, careening straight for the wall. I was going to crash!
Fortunately, reality chose that moment to reassert itself, and I landed with a thud on the floor of the garage apartment. “Darn!” I shouted, as Tom tumbled past me. He looked angry. I probably pulled him out the second the Death Star was about to blow up.
“Definitely darn,” he grumbled.


  1. So did you plagiarize scenes from The House on the Corner from his stories?

    It's probably better than anything I wrote when I was 10 at any rate.

  2. I think you have a budding writer in the family!

  3. This is really good Andrew. You have a writing prodigy on your hands. Wow.

  4. I certainly wasn't writing like that when I was ten. Of course, you could probably make the argument that I don't write like that even now.

    Good for him.

  5. Grumpy: Shh...!

    Alex: I think so.

    Michael: Yeah, I just wish he felt the same. It's such a struggle for him that he often just wants to give up. The real challenge is going to be helping him to stick with it.

    M.J.: I wasn't either. Sometimes, he scares me with his brilliance. But don't tell him that.

  6. Tell your son he has a fan! I loved the part where Tom (I think) says "Have you looked up?" and then Sam says I looked up... Crap. Made me laugh out loud.

  7. That is pretty impressive. Me at 10 was writing stuff no where near that nice. Be proud.

  8. First off, I want to assure you, Andrew, that while the rules of the Blogathon seem to be increasingly aimed at toppling you from your lofty perch atop the standings, that's not the ONLY reason for the changes.

    Secondly, you'll get your own post highlighting this sterling entry; I do them in the order I hear about them. But I was excited enough to read the Leon Progeny's story that I took a break from taking a break from doing my work to head over here and read it right away, and all I can do is echo what the previous commenters have said about this: It's excellent.

    I hope you show these comments to your son. I think the hardest part of starting out writing is showing someone what you've written, for fear they'll tear it down. And while I'm a totally positive person who only happens to have a Twitter name about hating all of humanity, there are people on the Internet who will happily rip into you.

    Or say nothing, which is the easier way to express disapproval; nobody has to comment and say "great job," so the fact that they do says much about your son's efforts.

    Which, as I said, are great. I'm going to give him an honorary 100 points in the Blogathon (and give you 100 points, too, because sometimes the rules have to break in your favor even though you're in the lead, right?)

    I don't know your son's name, so he'll be listed as Sam.

    By the way: I guess I missed that you teach creative writing. So not only can we look forward to Brothers Keeper coming out


    sooner rather than later, but you're creating a whole future class of writers of your caliber. That's great for readers, and awful for hack writers like me who don't want the competition.

  9. ALSO! You made good points on the Whammy! at the Blogathon, so I changed it around. Details here:

    And now you know why your mortgage is 15 pages long.

  10. Lara: He'll love to hear he made you laugh. :) And that he has a fan. There will be more of his work coming soon. Along with some of the other kids in my class.

    Debra: I think so!

    Rusty: I am proud.
    Just to say it, all the stuff I wrote at that age went into the trash.

    Briane: Well, I'm not showing him the comments, but I am telling him about them. Keeping him encouraged about his writing is important to me, because it's not something that comes easily to him, and he often wants to throw his pages against the wall. The blank pages. I'll tell him you gave him 100 points, too. That will make him happy. And being listed as Sam will also make him happy, because that's his character in House.

    Hack writer is an inaccurate definition for you. Hack writers follow a common formula without wavering from it. Like being able to hire people to write Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books because they are just following the formula of how those books are written. You're nothing like that. You're stuff make me think, and that's saying something, since most books don't make me think at all.

  11. This blew me away! What a talent you have on your hands. And how fun getting to teach that class! I've pondered offering to do an after-school class for creative writing at my kids' school, but need to think it out before they send the forms home, rather than it popping into my head then and not knowing if I have a class inside me.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  12. I really enjoyed this. Your son has some real talent - I particularly loved the last paragraph - especially that last line :-)

  13. Great job! My son loves to write too. He is nervous about sharing his writing so I think he takes after me. That must be awesome to teach creative writing to kids they have the most amazing imaginations.....or at least the ones who haven't killed their imaginations with video games.

  14. Shannon: It has been mostly fun teaching the class. I have a couple of really prolific girls in the class.
    Of course, that's balanced by having one girl in the class that barely even reads much less writes.

    Sarah P: Yeah, he does. :) I'll tell him you said so.

    Jennifer: Mine isn't so shy about sharing his stuff. It's kind of surprising.