Now that that's out of the way, let's get on to the actual post!
Every writer has a humble beginning. It may be a story that you're extremely proud of, because it won in a local contest and proved you were talented. Or perhaps you cringe even at the thought of your first story; it's currently hidden away in your room, cursed to never the see the light of day again. Whatever the case, you had to start somewhere.
I did too. The first project that really convinced me I could write was an attempt at a fantasy novel. The plot? Three guys travel through a portal to another world that must be saved from an overwhelming evil. That's the boiled-down version. It may not be super creative or unique, but it's still a valid plot.
Thing is, I wrote this back when I was . . . I'm going to say, 12 or 13. So it's pretty awful at times. What I want to do is give excerpts from this story and poke fun at it. I'm going to harsh and sarcastic with myself, because I can be. Some people might think this is a weird thing to do, or maybe even that I shouldn't judge my older writing. I'm going to get a kick out of this, though, and I hope you guys will find it funny as well.
The sun blazed overhead, scorching the landscape. A wind shifted the grains of sand. If someone thought this was an ordinary day in the desert, they would've assumed wrong. For this day would soon turn into a very unusual day.
Really? This is the opening paragraph? Talk about a lame hook. I probably wouldn't even continue the book after reading this.
Sometimes [the soldiers] would stop and carefully dig [a land mine] out of the ground. One would carry it to a waiting truck, where soldiers would carefully place it in a box among boxes.
Okay, there's a number of things wrong with this portion. First off is the fact that you don't just dig a live land mine out of the ground! How inexperienced are these guys?! (I obviously knew nothing about the disposing of land mines and didn't bother researching it.) Secondly, why did I have to specify that soldiers were the ones putting the mines into boxes? I thought we already knew soldiers were the guys doing the work. And "a box among boxes"? Seriously?
"How many more mines until the load is full?"
A tall man looked at the vehicle. "I'm guessing thirty-seven more. Let's keep at it, boys."
If they've been doing this for a while now, shouldn't they know how many mines fit into the truck? And no POV has been established yet. Tsk-tsk.
Colonel Smits had black hair, which was starting to turn gray, and stood at the height of six foot five. He was very kind to everyone and was experienced in the removal of land mines.
Okay, now that we finally have a POV, let's address the fact that he's reminding himself of his hair color (which could've been called salt-and-pepper) and his height. No one, on a regular basis, thinks to himself, You know, I'm so glad I'm six feet and five inches tall. Readers don't care what the specific height is, unless it's one of those thrillers where the author wants to establish the fact that the protagonist is a big tough guy. We already found out that he was tall in the last paragraph. And if he's so experienced in removing land mines, why the heck is he allowing his men to dig them out and have them transported live?
As he watched the soldiers, he recalled why they were here. Egypt was covered with land mines, approximately twenty-three million, and requested help in the United Nations. The U.S. had agreed to assist Egypt and sent a trained squad of deminers.
Oh, how convenient of you to randomly remember your mission so that readers know why you're doing what you're doing. (#RandomFactDumping) From the sounds of it, the U.S. evidently sent one of their poorer squads. But I will mention that "deminer" is an actual word. Look it up yourself and you'll see.
"Something's wrong with my metal detector. It's going bonkers!"
Because "bonkers" is part of a soldier's everyday vocabulary. And we're only done the first page now... yeesh.
"I have no idea," Smits said, clearly perplexed. He said into his radio, "Houston, I want you here right now. We have a problem."
"We'll be right there," a voice answered. Soon, an army tank climbed over a sand dune and slowly drove down. When the tank stopped, the hatch on the turret opened, and the gunner hopped out. He saluted Smits. "John Houston, at your service. What is your problem?"
Yes, Smits is clearly perplexed, indeed. Since, you know, he's so experienced that he relies on the tank gunner to tell him what the problem is with the metal detectors. Not to mention he made an uproariously funny joke. He better quit now, or we'll never be able to finish the story since we're laughing so hard.
The two soldiers in the truck climbed out, apparently finished their work. One said, "I think it's something supernatural. Like a message from heaven, warning us of something."
"Get real, Xander," a soldier scoffed. "Are you off your rocker? Or are you some sort of religious fanatic?"
A message . . . from heaven? Sure, Josiah, just make the Christian soldier a nutty one, why don'tcha? And then there's the obligatory anti-Christian guy, who says stuff like "off your rocker," even when no one else does.
Then [Nathan] vanished.
"Where did he go?" a soldier asked frantically.
"Don't panic!" John said.
I dunno where he went. It's kind of a ridiculous question to ask, since he just kinda poofed right before your eyes. And we have another prime example that these soldiers aren't fully trained, since we got one guy freaking out.
If there was one thing Smits hated, it was making a decision on the spot. But it was something he had to sometimes do.
Dude! You're a man in the army! You're going to have to constantly make on-the-spot choices. Ugh, what is wrong with my characters?
Smits said into his radio, "Tank, follow us very slowly. The last thing we want to do is deactivating a land mine."
You're bringing a honking big tank to the mysterious spot where someone just disappeared right before your eyes? Boy, this colonel is full of bright ideas, and he can't use proper grammar either.
"This is stupid," Alex said. "There's nothing there." With that, he ran to the spot where Nathan had gone. When he reached the spot, he disappeared.
Remember when I said this guy was the obligatory anti-Christian? He's also obligatorily idiotic.
One soldier looked at the others. "Pack up, boys. We're heading back to the base."
Well, finally we've got a level-headed soldier, although maybe he's too level-headed considering the situation. He just witnessed five guys and a tank vanish into thin air, and he's like, "Cool beans." (And now we're back to just floating around these characters.)
"They're getting reinforcements," [one of the strange figures watching the soldiers secretly] said. "We have to alert the boss."
"He kinda creeps me out," the other said.
The first punched him in the shoulder. "Don't be a wimp. He's just . . . different." He got up. "Hurry! We've got no time to waste!"
"Yeah," the second snarled. "Nobody finds the portal and stays alive. Nobody!"
Let's examine the dialogue from these two villains, shall we? We are first treated to info we already know, but is repeated just so we don't forget. Then one of said baddies confesses his fear of his boss, to give us the heads-up that we should be afraid for the main characters (who, believe it or not, haven't been introduced yet, even though we know the names of five characters). Finally, we get some campy dialogue to finish up this rousing, four-page chapter. Yay.
Nathan held up a hand. "There's no sense in wasting your breath by getting all huffed up over such a little predicament."
A "little predicament"? Since when was being transported into another world such a minor issue?
"A LITTLE PREDICAMENT!!" Alex yelled in a loud voice. "Look around you, idiot! This isn't a picnic!"
I'm pretty sure most people use loud voices when they yell, but thanks for letting us know.
"No, it's not a picnic. But it's an adventure," Nathan exclaimed.
*facepalm* Seriously, dude?!
Alex started to swear when Smits said, "Enough, Alex!"
The two soldiers swivled around and saluted the colonel. He marched over to them. "Alex, I never want to hear you say that again! Is that clear?"
Alex nodded. When Smits turned, Alex stuck his tongue out. Nathan rolled his eyes and thought, "He can be so immature."
Yes, I intentionally misspelled "swivelled," because that's what it was like in the story. And I'm uncertain as to whether you'd be reprimanded for using foul language in the army. What I'm not uncertain about is that you would certainly get the boot for sticking your tongue out at your commanding officer. (Plus, we're back to the floating POV.)
There was a moment of silence. Nathan spoke up. "I think . . . we're in another world."
Xander whistled. "Neat."
This reaction is just so illogical. It's like, "Oh, I'm in an alternate world away from all my loved ones and everything I knew, and I've got no hot clue if I'll ever go back. Neat."
"It's the tank!" Smits cried. Indeed, it had started to come out of the portal.
"Evasive action! Drive backwards!" Smits pleaded into his radio.
Who the heck says "Evasive action! Drive backwards!" He could've chosen some much better dialogue.
Smits turned to the others. "John, you're the stockiest of all of us. I want you to get in the tank and see if any of the soldiers are alive. Oh, yes, and also retrieve the laptop that contains all the information about our mission."
Calling someone stocky isn't exactly a compliment, Smits.
John ran to the boy, yelling, "Back away, you repulsive deformities!" The startled creatures came to a stop, confused.
John's hand whipped to his gun and let out a round of shots. Some of them ripped through one's heart. Several more dug into various places in the other's head. They flopped to the ground, lifeless.
I just don't what to say about the whole "repulsive deformities" thing. It's . . . it's odd. That's all there is to it. And John, you're wasting bullets, man! One shot to the heart and one to the head would be just enough, thank you. (In case you're wondering, this only the beginning of this book's violence. I was obviously a weird kid back then.)
Smits replied, "You can take us to your city."
"That's hardly a favor. I would've done that whether you had asked me to or not," Justin said.
Oh, real smart, kid. You just met these oddly-dressed people from another world, who shoot baddies up with guns that you've never seen before, and you're just going to march them back into town, eh? No suspicions? No thoughts on where they came from and if they're good or bad? All righty.
Smits thought for a moment. "See that tank over there?"
"In there is a laptop with secret info on it. I was going to send John in to get it. But you're slimmer than he is. Could you find it?"
And now Justin recognizes a tank when he sees one. Sure, it's a little obvious as to what Smits is referring to, but even so! Hold up, Smits. You don't got any doubts either? You don't want to hide the fact that your laptop (which apparently Justin'll recognize also without ever having seen one in his lifetime) has confidential info on it? What if the creatures your gunner just killed were the good guys? No? Well, ain't that swell! You're all buddies already.
"Get off of the [burning] tank!" Nathan yelled.
"Don't worry! I'm immune to fire!"
Thanks for that handy tidbit! This is so random . . . and has a bit of a deus ex machina vibe to it.
Okay, I had better stop, or we'll be here all day. I only went through two chapters, and there's stuff I had to leave out to ensure that this post wouldn't get too long. And we're only done 9 pages of 157!
One final thing I'd like to say: yes, I poked and prodded my story, but I still love it. It made me actually enjoy writing and want to do it more. This is the first step of my journey, and while it may look like a flimsy step with hindsight, it was still my first step. And that's what matters more than anything else. Be proud of your first step. If you can see you've improved, be glad for it. If you can't, don't get discouraged. Your writer's road is far from over. After all, life is all about making the most of the journey.
So what did you guys think? If you found this post amusing in any way, let me know! I'm more than happy to roast my old writing again in the future.