Merry Fates High School Retrospective: Brenna at Fourteen

In keeping with Tess’s rundown, this is the first section of what was clearly going to be a Very Awesome Novel. It had everything I liked—precognition, accidental death, morbid, overly-dramatic narrative, and you can’t really tell yet, but it was going to feature a Love Story From Beyond the Grave. Except (as with all my projects at that age and for the next four years), I got bored after three more sections, and abandoned it.

Dear Miranda,

Frank is dead. They told me today, with their eyes red, their hands holding twisted handkerchiefs, they told me. Then they cried. I didn’t.

Don’t you see? I’ve been expecting this. He told me all about it in the letter. He even told me the date. Well, he was right, Miranda. It doesn’t seem fair.

They say he died quickly. When he swerved, he hit the wall, that wall next to the cemetery out on Route 25. The other driver is still alive. It doesn’t seem fair at all.

They’re crying a lot. I haven’t. The only thing that’s different is that vase, the one in our living room with the roses on it, it’s broken now.

It felt good to smash something, something I’ve always hated. My mother cried when I did it, but I don’t think it was because of the vase, since she’s always hated it too.

Frank left me his leather jacket. When my mother told me is when I threw the vase.

She said, “Cheryl, calm down.” And started to cry. Cheryl is her cousin, who she hasn’t seen in years. I still haven’t cried yet.

Love,
[Character who was apparently not important enough to warrant a name]

Okay, so this excerpt is revealing in a lot of ways, showcasing both my unrepentant pantster plotting style and my love of the run-on sentence. As I recall, when I was writing this, I had absolutely no plan whatsoever. Each line materialized out of thin air, with no forethought, and very little to do with the line before it. Also, it didn’t really occur to me that if I knew no fourteen-year-olds named Frank, there probably weren’t many sixteen- or seventeen-year-olds named Frank, either.

Despite his evident precognition, I was not actually very interested in Frank. I can’t tell if I designated him as uninteresting by giving him the leather jacket, or if the leather jacket is only a symptom of how undeveloped he was in my head.

“Why epistolary,” you might ask? And if you did, I might say, “I have no idea.” Perhaps because I had recently learned that it was, in fact, a novel-writing style.

16 thoughts on “Merry Fates High School Retrospective: Brenna at Fourteen

  1. This is awesome. And by awesome I mean it sounds like a telegraph. Every period reads like “stop.”

    I like how you're all voice-y and telling. Just wait till you see mine. It's like I thought showing meant describing everything my characters wear because the color of their buttons is the key to their souls.

  2. I’m loving the run-on sentences 🙂 Frank reminds me of James Dean with his leather jacket wearing and car crashing ways.

  3. You have to start somewhere. These early words were the fundamental experiences for your future. I say this to you and myself. I have similar stories in a box in my closet.

    Truthfully? I think for the age, you did well. If you tried to publish today . . . well we may have to consider delusional disorder.

  4. But Frank came back/the very next day/Yes
    Frank came back/thought he was a gonner but Frank came back…

    (just a little melody my kid won’t stop singing. Made me think of Frank:)

  5. it sounds like a telegraph

    I know, right? This was the year before I discovered imagery (which yielded a whole different kind of mess).

    Also, I make a point to browse buttons every time I go to the fabric store, in the unlikely event that I will one day find the exact ones that reflect my soul. However, if I do, I will probably keep it to myself.

  6. Frank reminds me of James Dean with his leather jacket wearing and car crashing ways.

    I think you’ve just hit the heart of the Frank situation! He was not actually a fully-formed character, because he was smothered under my (extremely vague) impression of James Dean.

  7. I’m glad we decided to run with the high school exercise 😀

    Sometimes, especially if I get frustrated or complacent, I forget that writing is this ongoing thing, with improvements and plateaus and setbacks. I like being reminded that we’re always just refining our techniques.

  8. This particular story ran out of steam pretty fast, but we’ve got more adolescent writing excerpts all week 🙂

  9. On the front of putting one-word-after-another, I’ll admit I was relatively solid relatively early. On the front of telling a story where one event followed another . . . we’ll leave it at that.

  10. It was actually not bad… Okay, it was kind of funny…

    And, yes, you’re right… each line had nothing to do with the one before it.

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