We've all been enjoying the investigation of my childhood writing, so how about another installment?
My fourth grade class did a ton of creative writing under the guidance of the aforementioned wonderful Mrs. Martin. It appears that all my short stories and personal essays from that era were saved, so there's an abundance of material to sort through. I'll choose the "best" of these cursive masterpieces to share.
Longtime fans of my early work may remember the Flutterina series. Flutterina is a mischievous, adventure-loving fairy who lives in the enchanted forest and gets up to hijinks with her friends, Sparkle and Flower. That's the premise established in the opening paragraphs of the original story, but the adventure that follows is pretty tame due to a pacing problem:
Once upon a time, there was a fairy named Flutterina and she lived in an enchanted forest with all the other fairies. Flutterina was brave and she loved adventures.
One day Flutterina was playing with her friends Sparkle and Flower, when she said, "Let's go exploring."
"No," said Flower, "We might get lost."
"No we won't," insisted Flutterina.
"Well you can go but I'm not coming," decided Flower, and as she flew away. [sic]
"Come on, Sparkle," called Flutterina, "We can go without her."
"Well, okay," said Sparkle doubtfully, as she flew after her.
After awhile Sparkle said, "We'd better go home before we get lost."
But Flutterina said "We won't get lost."
"Well I'm going home," said Sparkle, "And you had better come too."
"You can go home but I'm not coming[,"] said Flutterina, so Sparkle went home.
Flutterina flew on and on. Her surroundings were not familiar. She tried to find her way home but she could not.
Then it started to rain. Flutterina was cold, wet, tired and hungry. She crawled under a leaf for shelter.
Suddenly she saw something. It was her parents! When she had not come home for supper they had asked Flower and Sparkle if they knew where she was, and at last they had found her.
"Mommy, Daddy!" Flutterina cried, as she rushed into their arms.
"Looking for more adventures?" teased her father.
But Flutterina didn't care. She was just so glad to be with her parents, going home.
This story would be more effective if Flutterina remained in peril for a larger percentage of the text. As written, it's mostly setup for the adventure and then the rescue that provides the resolution. (The compression visible in the last lines suggests a space constraint.) We're told Flutterina is brave, but she doesn't have a chance to demonstrate that. Additional obstacles would make her a more active protagonist and add excitement to the story. There's the potential for this to be a real Hero's Journey, but right now it's not a strong foundation for a series.
Happily, the stories get better, or at least funnier, though the humor doesn't come from quite the source that my young self intended. Three more of the Flutterina stories follow, and I hope you'll find them amusing. (I'm not including photographs of the rest because they all look basically the same as the first one.)
Flutterina and the Fish
"Come on Flower!" called Flutterina, "Let's go to the swimming hole."
"O.K.!" called Flower from upstairs, "Just let me get my bathing suit on. Go get Sparkle. I'll be ready when you get back."
"All right. I'll be back in a minute," shouted Flutterina, as she ran out the door.
When Flutterina returned, Flower was waiting on the front porch. "Where's Sparkle?" she asked.
"She has a cold. Her mom says she can't go swimming," said Flutterina.
"How could anyone have a cold in this weather?" asked Flower. It was one of the hottest days the enchanted forest had had that summer.
"It doesn't matter how hot it is, someone can still get a cold," said Flower's older brother Copper, who had just come outside.
"I know that," said Flower, "Or at least now I do."
Flutterina and Copper burst into peals of laughter.
"Flower," said Flutterina, "this talk about colds isn't cooling me off. Let's get going to the swimming hole. That will."
"O.K.," giggled Flower, so off they went.
At the swimming hole they both dove in. Suddenly Flower cried, "Look! It's a giant fish."
"Of course it's giant," said Flutterina, "We're fairies. Fairies are small."
"But even to a person it's big," said Flower, "By the way, how do you think it got here. Fish only belong in the stream."
"I don't know," said Flutterina.
"Wait, I've got it! Remember when it rained so much the day before yesterday?" asked Flower.
"Yep. We really needed that rain. But what's that got to do with the fish?" Flutterina looked puzzled.
"Don't you see?" asked Flower, "The rain probably made another stream between the stream and here. And the fish swam through. Then when it stopped raining, the water dryed up so he couldn't get back."
"Makes sense to me," said Flutterina, "While he's here, let's make use of him. I'm going to ride him."
"Oh, I really don't think you should," Flower began. But Flutterina was already on the fish's back, zooming around the swimming hole.
The fish was on the bottom of the swimming hole, but since it wasn't very deep, Flutterina's head was still sticking up out of the water as she rode on the fish's back.
Suddenly Flutterina's head went under water. Flower expected it to come back up again, but it didn't. Flower looked all around for Flutterina but she couldn't find her. She became worried.
"Flutterina, where are you?" Flower called. No answer.
"Flutterina!" she called again. Flower heard a giggle coming from behind a tree. She looked behind the tree. There was Flutterina.
"Oh, Flutterina I was so worried," cried Flower.
"Last one into the swimming hole is a rotten egg," yelled Flutterina as she ran off.
Flower ran after Flutterina and reached the swimming hole just in time to get splashed by you know who. That mischievous Flutterina!
Did you "burst into peals of laughter"? This story displays an overreliance on the misguided humor technique that attempts to make something funny by showing characters laughing about it. Another issue is that the story is bogged down with logistics (preparing for the outing) and unnecessary explanations (how the fish got to the swimming hole), problems I still struggle with thirty years later.
Flutterina's New Skates
For Christmas Flutterina got a new pair of skates. They were made of daisy petals with pieces of a unicorn's horn that had fallen off for the blades.
Flutterina was very excited about her new skates. She cried, "Oh, Mommy, Daddy, can I go skating with Flower and Sparkle?"
"Alright," said her mother, "But be back for lunch."
So Flutterina put on her hat, coat and mittens, grabbed her skates and ran to Sparkle's house.
Sparkle said she would come but she wanted to try out her new skis instead of skating. When they got to Flower's house Flower said she would come and try out her new toboggan.
At last they found a good place to ice-skate, ski and toboggan. Flutterina put on her skates, Sparkle put on her skis and Flower pulled her toboggan up to the top of a hill.
At first everything went well. But then Flutterina heard Sparkle yell "Whee!" She turned to look at Flower and ran into a snowbank.
Flower and Sparkle thought it was hilarious. Sparkle laughed so hard she fell back and she lay there in the snow with her skis sticking straight up. Flutterina emerged from the snowbank looking like a snowman. She was very angry. "I'm leaving," she shouted and stalked off.
Sparkle managed to calm down but Flower was still laughing as much as ever.
"Oh, come on," said Sparkle, "It isn't that funny."
"Oh but look," laughed Flower.
Sparkle looked. And she saw Flutterina stalking off,!
The final phrase is double-underlined, another great tactic for imparting humor into otherwise uninspired material. I do like the description of the skates at the beginning, one of the few interesting worldbuilding details we get about fairy life. Really, most of these stories could just as easily be about human children.
Flutterina Makes Mischief
Flutterina's eldest sister, Daisystem, had a boyfriend. His name was Cloudy.
Now Flutterina had always wondered what Daisystem and Cloudy did on their dates. So one day she decided to follow them.
When Cloudy came to pick up Daisystem, Flutterina was hiding nearby. And when they started walking hand in hand, Flutterina followed them.
Once they almost found out that she was following them. That was when they stopped and kissed. Flutterina started giggling quietly. But she ran away, for fear they might see her. And it was a good thing she did, because as soon as she was far away from them she exploded into laughter.
By the time she had caught up with them they were sitting on a lily pad in the middle of a pond. Cloudy was saying something but Flutterina couldn't hear what it was. She crept a little closer, forgot about the water and fell Splash! into the water.
Daisystem and Cloudy turned around. Daisystem saw at once who it was. She flew to the edge of the pond, yanked Flutterina out of the water, and spanked her hard, seven times.
Flutterina struggled and finally managed to get away. She ran off calling, "I'm gonna tell!"
When she told her parents they wanted to know what she had done and so Flutterina told them guiltily. Her parents said that Daisystem was right, she should be spanked. Then they told her she'd have to wait for her own dates to find out what they were like.
There's not really anything I can safely add to that.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ Mary Robinette Kowal explains the intended meanings behind bad writing advice: "When you don't know a subject, such as what it's like to live on Mars, you extrapolate from your own personal experience. Never lived on Mars? No. But I have walked in a dusty place and seen the clouds of dust kick up around me. I've worn thick winter gloves, and know how hard it is to pick things up. I’ve been far away, without the ability to call home. When I combine what I know, with research, writing what I know can make a story more compelling."