Origins

Is anybody reading this a fan of comic books? I used to be. My collection was massive until I was foolish and gave it away to a friend just before one of my families many moves. I collected all the classics, Iron Man, Thor, Avengers, X-Men, Silver Surfer, Captain America, and on and on. And in every series my favorite issue was the origin. That’s the issue where you learn how the superhero came to be, gained his abilities, what set him on the path to right all wrongs and defend the innocent. I know I’m not a superhero, or a hero, heck…I won’t even question a cashier when they give me incorrect change back, but I do have an origin story. My chronicle of the moment I became a writer. Some of my longtime followers may have read this tale before, so feel free to click through to the next blog if you wish. Hopefully the rest of you will find this enlightening, and maybe entertaining.

It was the late-spring of 1974. I was a junior in high school and the summer break was just over the horizon. Our English lit. teacher, whose name escapes me now, wanted to do something different for the end of the year. She devised an unusual project that the class would work on in teams and broke us down into groups of four members each. When she announced the names in each team it was clear she utilized some un-decipherable logic for selecting who wound up in what group, but when I heard the other names in my group I broke out in a cold sweat.

One boy I was friends with, another I vaguely knew, and the final name continued ringing in my ears. It was Vicki M. Everybody knew Vicki. She was a cheerleader, but not just any cheerleader. She was the prettiest, friendliest, most popular girl in school who was also blessed with intimidating intelligence. I had never spoken a word to her, not even to bless a sneeze. I was quite certain that if she said anything to me, all of my clothes would suddenly disappear and there would be no recovering from the depth of my nakedness.

I was just getting over the shock of finding out I was going to be on a team with the Vicki when we received our assignment. Each team was to create a ten-minute audio recording in the style of an old time broadcast serial such as Dick Tracy and Little Orphan Annie during the golden years of radio. The material used for the show also had to be from an original idea, meaning the groups had to write their own scripts.

The teacher let us devote the last thirty minutes of class to getting started on our projects, so everybody shuffled around chairs and we formed a circle. Vicki quickly took charge and asked if anybody had any ideas about a story. I lost myself in her hypnotic blue eyes and before I knew what I was doing, I volunteered to write the entire script. A bold move, certainly, especially considering up until then I had never written a story of any sort. But I had an active imagination and I knew it would be a surefire way to impress Vicki, so what the heck. Working together the group decided it would be easiest to do a radio spot along the lines of a Thriller Theater. Everyone looked at me and wondered if I could come up with something by the next day. “No problem,” I said, my sphincter now clamped so tight I couldn’t pass a microbe if I wanted to. What had I done?

That night I barricaded myself in my room with a legal pad, pen, a tall glass of milk and stack of Oreo’s. I was motivated by two forces, a deep desire to impress Vicki and become a blip on her radar, and a bone-chilling fear of failure. Surprisingly, the words started to flow almost immediately. I wrote a simple story involving a family who purchases an antique floor-standing mirror and the strange things that happen when their small son starts playing with a mysterious friend he sees in the mirror.

The rest of the team, especially Vicki, LOVED the story. We set about the task of recording the episode. There were acting roles to be assigning (Vicki was the mother), proper background music to choose, and figuring out how to create the different sound effects. The entire project took two weeks to finish, most of the time working at my house because I was the closest to school. Having Vicki in my house everyday was magical! My mom’s house the plants seemed to bloom brighter and the snacks she provided us never tasted so sweet.

Then the day came when all the teams were due to present their project. By luck of the draw, our tape was scheduled to play last. One by one we listened to each group’s tapes and I have to say the talent on display was truly impressive. Then it came our turn. While our tape played I stared down at my desk top, unable to look at my classmates faces, worried that my story wouldn’t be as well received as it’d been with my team.

Our tape garnered the loudest applause of the day and Vicki gave each of us a genuine hug.

But then our teacher called our group aside and demanded we tell her where we got the story we used, upset that we had not used original material as she had instructed. When we finally convinced her that I had written the story myself, she was so impressed that she urged me to submit the story to several writing contests. But I never followed through with her suggestions, preferring to stay out of the spotlight and be content that the act of writing itself was rewarding enough for me, that and the admiration of Vicky M.

I ended up writing for the school newspaper my senior year, but after high school my creative writing took a back seat to life. College, a career, a wife and three kids all ganged up on me and successfully forced my urge to write into an extended hibernation. But now it’s awake again…with a vengeance! I still carry the original copy of that script in my backpack, as a reminder of where my writing started.

How about you? What is your origin story?

43 comments

  1. I loved reading your story! I wish I had a cool one like that. :)

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  2. I've written since I was little. I won a writing contest when I was nine and got to meet a published author (who I don't remember) and take a tour of the Leaning Tree Publishing company in Boulder, CO. My father was convinced I should write greeting cards for years after that.

    In eighth grade, I somehow became the designated love letter writer for some boys who wanted to impress their girlfriends. I'd write poetic prose, and they'd sign their names on it after writing it again in their own handwriting. Weird hobby, I know.

    I won some writing contests in high school, was published in the yearly literature journal, but when I graduated I got married and had kids, got a 'real' job, and almost never wrote anything but checks for bills.

    Six years ago I discovered fanfiction online, and in writing two pretty long stories, I got some fans and they all urged me to write something original. I pretty much ignored them until last summer. But an original idea stirred me, and I wrote it, and now I'm querying - and failing miserably. Zero interest so far. I've about 40 rejections.

    But I'm writing a new one, and after that I imagine I'll write more. My muse has returned, and I'm having fun with it. I'll probably never be published with as bleak as the market is right now, but that's not why I write anyway. I write to entertain, and if my only readers are my blog friends, I can live with that.

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  3. Love this! (I'm a comic book fan, too, all the ones you mentioned and more. My dad has huge boxes full that kept me entertained as a kid.)

    I started writing when I was 9 years old. Not sure what the impetus was, but I sat down with a spiral-bound notebook and basically haven't sat back up, 15 years later. I won at state-level in essay writing competitions in high school, became an English major in college, and have boxes full of paper to prove it.

    I'd love to read that story sometime!

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  4. i AM a comics fan. X-men primarily, since i was old enough to read.
    Funnily enough i was never overly interested in origin stories in comics, but i AM hugely interested in writer origin stories.
    Weird, huh?

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  5. Don't laugh. I wanted to be a writer because John-Boy Walton wanted to be a writer. (I KNOW you remember him.)

    I read voraciously as a child and then when I turned 15, I found an old copy of a romance novel someone left at the beach house. I knew right then I found my niche.

    It's taken almost 30 years to realize the dream, but with a query out and a partial requested, I'm gaining, I think.

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  6. So I guess Vicki was your muse--an a-musing tale. Sounds like you and I have had a similar life path of putting writing on the backburner for life, but it happens to many I think.

    I wish I still had the comic books from my youth-- and the baseball cards, Tonka trucks, Matchbox cars, etc all in pristine condition. It would have been like money in the bank. But who thinks of that when you're a kid.
    Lee
    Blogging From A to Z April Challenge

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  7. Hey - We graduated high school the same year. Pretty cool!

    No - never did get into comics. Wasn't my thing.

    I guess my first venture into writing was in my sophomore year of HS. I had to write a story for English. I enjoyed writing it (it really was fun), but got such bad comments from the other students (not the teacher - she thought it was great), I never pursued going any further.

    Flash forward to last year (last April, in fact), and I finally decided to try writing a book. I found my love & passion. I won't ever give it up again.

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  8. What a great story!

    I started thinking about writing when I was in the sixth grade. I had a wonderful teacher who saw potential and encouraged me.

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  9. What a great story!! My first writing success was taking second place in the Daughter's of the American Revolution Essay contest. I was in fifth grade and shocked to have placed. I didn't really understand it all at the time. Through high school I was that girl that wrote dark poetry in every morning in study hall, to have it passed around all day long. I still smile when I think back on those days...

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  10. Behind every grat story there's a woman!
    I wrote some in high school, mostly to go with the graphics I'd draw.
    And I was an avid comic book reader, too. I'd like to design a graphic novel one day.

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  11. "I was quite certain that if she said anything to me, all of my clothes would suddenly disappear and there would be no recovering from the depth of my nakedness."

    LOVE THIS SENTENCE! (Yes, I'm yelling.) I only wish I could read the story of the boy and the mirror.

    My origin story was written at about age 9 and was called "The Gemini". It was about a little girl who meets an alien from a distant star, aka The Gemini. He has traveled to Earth to bring intergalactic peace and needs the help of our heroine to achieve this.

    Years ago, I typed up the story to preserve if for posterity...or at least for good laughs.

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  12. Great story, D.L. I loved it.

    Hey - could you tell me how you posted your flickr photostream to your blog? I love the way you did your awards, and I've been trying to copy your idea. He he. I made a photostream, but I can't figure out which gadget will post it.

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  13. When you publish your book, you must send a signed copy to Vicki (your first muse?) ;-)

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  14. It is amazing what motivates us. That must have been really good for the teacher to question it. We are all glad it is awake in you again so we can read your tales!

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  15. Aw, what a sweet story!
    I picked up a book by Anne McCaffrey when I was 13 and was so taken by the way she wrote, I envisioned my name on a book cover one day. I started writing - and never stopped.

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  16. Great GREAT story! Congrats. Have you looked up Vicki?

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  17. So glad to have you back in the writing world, DL!! Whatever happened to Vicki?

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  18. That is a great story! Thanks for sharing. Any idea whatever happened to Vicki? Have you ever considered turning your script into a novel?

    I've always loved to tell stories, listen to them and of course read. I never really tried to write fearing I wasn't good enough and someone would find them. But, 18 months ago, after the birth of my second child, I needed a release of stress. I had a story in my head and decided that when the kids were napping, I'd write it down as a way to unwind. Well, about 4 months later, I had written my novel! I can't picture not writing now.

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  19. I loved that story. What a sweet boy you were (are). (And that clenched sphincter, poetic imagery.)

    Did you ever end up dating Vicki?

    Do we ever get to read the story?

    I'll do a post on my origin...I love the idea/theme. (Thanks for the post idea:)

    PS- you aren't even close to being my oldest follower.
    You're a spring chicken. Srsly. I have at least 2 over 65.

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  20. What an awesome story! I'm glad you still carry the script around and also glad that your teached recognized that you didn't plagarize it. =]

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  21. What a great autobiographical nugget. With that kind of start to your career as a wanna-be-writer, your passion wells from the deepest source.
    The first real story I wrote was about time - the setting was a bar: its barman is counting down to closing, each of the other characters had time or timing issues... somewhere else they need to be. Only one of them left the bar in time - the clock we'd been watching, on everyone's behalf had been ... yep, that one.
    The ticking and alliteration wouldn't work now, but I could do it with blinking over.

    I thought the original had been lost, it was only in my school exercise book. My Mum presented it to me last year when she heard I was writing again. She said she'd held on to it in case it was the only chance she'd get to hold my work.
    Thank you for this opportunity to remember how something I wrote affected people the way reading had always affected me.

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  22. What a great story!! Love it. I don't really have an origin story. I think my love of writing probably started with my love of reading. Then I caught Star Trek reruns on TV & started making up scripts in my head as I was supposed to be sleeping. It was years (decades) before I put anything to paper though. We didn't have "creative writing" in our schools.

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  23. What an awesome story!! You know, I remember writing something my senior year that one of the most popular boys in class said, after I was forced to read it out loud, "Well, no one's going to want to read theirs after that. Anything in comparison is going to stink."

    Funny how some people in high school can give praise that will ring louder in memory than professional reviews.

    And I always ate with chocolate covered grahams. Ah the days. :)

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  24. Mine is not very crazy, but it does involve a stripper and me as a high school boy. It's posted as one of my first posts on my blog.

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  25. I'm still trying to get past the part where you were a junior in 1974. I have never looked at your profile and seen how old you are. I would have never guessed it from your photo. Are you one of those who posts ten-year-old pics of yourself? We can forgive you for little white lies in your posts, but you don't have to use those highschool photos now. Fess up, mister...

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  26. DL! This tells me so much...

    Love, love, LOVE. IT!

    I thought for a second there you were going to say you married Vicki, which would have let to me promptly crapping my pants.

    Nicely done, my friend. :)

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  27. Kim ~ I bet your story is a cool one.

    Christi ~ That's an awesome origin!! Thank you.

    Summer ~ I'm kinda fond of girls who like comics!!

    Falen ~ LOL!!!!

    Anne ~ I do remember John-Boy, unfortunately. :(

    Arlee ~ Alot of us have similar origins. I've tried to get my youngest son interested in comic books just so I could start collecting again. :)

    Stacy ~ Go '75!! Boo-ya!!

    Jaydee ~ If the teacher in my class hadn't thought of an interesting new way to induce creative writing, where would I be now? Teachers are invaluable!!

    Nicole ~ Dark poetry??? Interesting.

    Alex ~ I love The Watchmen!!

    Wendy ~ I'm glad you preserved your story. :)

    Shannon ~ Check your e-mail.

    Portia ~ If (and that's a pretty big IF) I get published and I manage to locate Vicki, that most definitely happen!

    Holly ~ Thank you Holly!!

    Diane ~ Great origin. Thank you.

    DWM ~ I've never run into Vicki again, despite efforts to find her on Facebook.

    Amy ~ See my reply above.

    Kelly ~ The story would probably be old hat now, and I've actually seen movies with similar premises since then. Thanks for sharing your origin!!

    Lola ~ OH NOOOOOO!!!! The kiss of death! Do you know what it means when you call a boy SWEET? Didn't you know the girls only fall for the bad boys. Lucky for me my wife saw through the sweet to see the nasty inside. :)

    L.T. ~ Thank you!!

    Elaine ~ That was great of your mom, Wonderful origin!

    Jemi ~ I did the same thing with TV shows I didn't like.

    Heidi ~ Many of our origin stories have similar themes. Thanks for sharing yours!

    VW ~ Now that's an origin I'll be checking out!! :)

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  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  29. Kellie ~ LOL. Blame it on great genes. My profile pic was taken 18 months ago. I have always looked young for my age and the frustration I felt at being carded at 30 is paying dividends in my 50's. :)

    Anissa ~ That would be a story from one of our novels. :)

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  30. That's such a terrific story! Nothing like pressure to make you produce some good work.

    I didn't have comic books, but I do regret getting rid of my complete collection of Robert E. Howard novels.

    I'm planning on telling my origin story on my blog next week, so stay tuned...

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  31. Great story! Ah, adolescent angst!! C

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  32. Lorel ~ Even today I still do my best work when I'm under the gun. Makes for a lot of sleepless nights and a steady supply of Tums though. :)

    V & C - Thank you!!

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  33. I have an award for you today, D.L! Happy Friday! :-)

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  34. Great story! I love how you identify it as you 'origin story'. I'm not sure I can trace mine back!

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  35. This is awesome. I got turned around on what I was reading and actually thought I was looking at another entry for the blog fest over at Kelly Lyman's site. Then at the end I was like, oh wow...that was true.That's so cool! I want a neat story like that. :)

    I wrote a lot as a kid, got away from it during my teens. Got married, had kids, wrote a little bit off and on but barely anything.

    Then, two years ago I decided I should write a book. I had no clue how hard it would be...which is funny in retrospect. It's been awesome though. It's made me so much happier than I've ever been, like rediscovering the part of myself I was supposed to have all along. I wish I had started years ago. Now if I could only get the book right...

    Anyway, for all these writers on here, I'm having a contest on my site. All you have to do is write a paragraph to go with the sentence, "Her lips burned..." The prize is a $20.00 gift card to the bookstore and a critique of your first chapter. (we do critiques on the site I'm on--we have testimonials and stuff if anyone is interested) Anyway, the contest ends midnight tomorrow, so come enter!! :)

    Sorry for the novel length comment. I really like your blog!

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  36. Hello, AGAIN! No, I'm really NOT stalking you...really. It just seems like it. Don't tell your wife, k?! Ha ha. I just wanted to thank you for your help with my awards gadget yesterday and for giving me the idea in the first place. Your idea seems to be a HUGE hit. Everyone seems to want one like that now. So, basically, you are a genius and I thank you!! :-)

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  37. I love looking younger than I am, too, DL. I'm 43 and still get carded. It's a sweet thing...oh, yeah, and I can wear my teenager's jeans...well.

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  38. What a great story. It's funny how when I come here and visit I am always inspired. It gives me some spark of memory from my own life and somehow kisses it with fairy dust and illuminates it. I can find every moment in my life significant in some way. Thank You.

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  39. Ha. That's great. Of course a girl would be at the root of your story. Nice ;)

    Mine isn't so excited. I just always liked telling tales. My Mom called it lying. Eventually, it turned into writing.

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  40. I used to be a big comic book fan as a kid, even ordered the infamous "sea monkeys" out of them to see if they were really mini-monkeys (lol)...yes that *is* unfortunatly true. ;) Great blog you have, and you ARE a great writer! My story is somewhat similar, and now I am so thankful for the doors that closed in the past, because new beautiful doors are opening! Cheers to your passion and success! :)

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  41. DL, you are a great storyteller!

    I've always written. When I was really little I made up picture books. In junior high I wrote plays for the talent show. In high school I wrote short stories, and worked on ideas for screenplays but I never really thought about writing novels until after high school.

    I started my first novel, an epic fantasy, and I discovered the online publishing community. I started reading agent blogs. I started reading author blogs. I played with writing on and off but was never serious until I decided to just jump in and do it. I started a blog, settled on one idea (a YA contemporary fantasy), and stuck it through!

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  42. Yeah, I wrote my first story in high school, and still have the original draft.

    For most of my life I thought it at least OK. About five years ago I took up writing as a serious effort. Now I keep it as a reminder of how desperately change seeks us out.

    This was a lovely memory DL. Thanks for sharing it.

    ........dhole

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  43. Talli ~ Sure you can. Don't be shy. :)

    Callie ~ Your story is very similar to my own...and a lot of others like us. Do you think that going into hibernation is part of the process??

    Shannon ~ Glad I could be of some use. Yours looks much better than mine. ?? :)

    Kellie ~ Great genes as well!! :)

    G ~ Awwwww....thank you for saying that!!

    Carol ~ Writers have to be great liars...and you're a great one!

    Gretchen ~ Wow...it took a lot of courage to admit that whole sea-horse thing. :) Thank you for the kind comment!

    Kat ~ Thanks! Don't let your passion go into hibernation like so many of us others!!

    Donna ~ One day I hope to have mine framed. :)

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