I find it wholly interesting to learn about a writer’s first stories. Just as some might want to see their favourite Hollywood actors in their first films as speckly teenagers, it is fascinating to me to see where writers started. And I don’t just mean their first published work. Yes – fellow writers I can hear your very bones a-quivering – I am talking about the first story the writer ever wrote in their lives.
What got me thinking on this subject was a recent clear-out that excavated a lost treasure from my youth – the first story that I ever wrote.
Well, all right, it isn’t exactly the first. I’m sure I must have written something that resembles fiction before this time but the document I found (written on papyrus and covered in the dust of ages) was probably my first attempt at a proper story with a somewhat developing narrative. It could have been utterly cringe-inducing but actually it brought me a chuckle.
Many writers wish to bury their childish scribblings six feet under an impenetrable Artic glacier in a strongbox made of steel (and just for good measure they would probably eat the key too) but there are some out there who are able to look back at their original dips into the metaphorical authorial pool with fondness. I once asked Steven Moffat about his first story for Doctor Who Magazine which turned out to be a script entitled ‘Night of the Bards’ which involved a big doomsday button (something that he in fact put in the Who fiftieth special last year). According to an interview he gave last year, it might even find the light of day sometime in the future.
Neil Gaiman also revealed his first work, when I asked him on The Guardian website, to be about ‘a kid, a professor and an alien frog who had adventures.’ The stories sound delightful and also slightly reminiscent of his recent children’s book Fortunately, the Milk which starred an eccentric, professorial dinosaur who lived in a hot air balloon. I think Young Neil would be proud of that one.
And that’s exactly why I love to look at writer’s first stories. If you look past the excitable, childish style and, no doubt, the wholehearted plagiarism, there’s a hint at the characteristics of the writer that will be. For me, the first stories I remember writing featured a duo of schoolchildren who kept getting caught up in a variety of situations – mysteries, alien invasions, ghost stories ETC. Of course, now I have matured greatly and most of my writing now focusses on a group of characters who end up having adventures. I also have a penchant to experiment with different genres.
Thank God, I don’t write anything like my childhood self!
Are you brave enough to root out your first stories? Are they anything like your writing now? You might just be surprised…