If you’ve been paying attention you’ve noticed I’ve been posting pictures of interesting gateways or portals in my recent blogs, asking readers to send me a few alluring sentences describing what might lie on the other side. Kind of like a creative writing prompt. I have many more such images in store for you in the future (insert readers groaning about Michelle’s obsession with portals). But today I wanted to talk about a different kind of gateway. The metaphorical gates whose doors open to our pasts. The picture of the photo album above might lead you to believe I’m about to post family photos. But I’m not. You might be dying to see that photo of me when I was three years old and my family was on vacation in Florida. You know, the one where I’m wearing high heels, Garbo sunglasses, a sun hat, beads and not much else. Sorry, that’s a completely different blog.
I came across this album on my last trip home to my mom’s. It represents some of the earliest proof of my adoration for worldbuilding and story creation. It contains the fodder for a wonderful sci-fi romance staring a team of approximately five women and five men sent as explorers and initial colonizers to some far distant planet. Or at least I think that was the concept. There’s no actual narrative in this collection. Instead, it consisted of a series of pictures, maps and profiles of my intended group of intrepid adventurers. Of course they’d be stranded and be responsible for beginning an entire new civilization after falling in loving with one another, pairing up into alluring combinations, each couple with a love story of their own. I was going to title the novel Origer 5. Call it my initial attempt at story scrapbooking. It’s funny because although I’ve attended seminars on this subject at writers’ conferences, I don’t see myself as the type to do much story scrapbooking in the future.
But, back to my album. I’m guessing I put it together in seventh grade with extensive plans to build a novel around its contents. Bad news. I never wrote this story. But the archeological excavation of my childhood bedroom unearthed this gem of a world-building reference. So I thought I’d post a few pictures to give you a taste of what I included. The photo quality is bad. I have no patience for image editing. But I got a kick out of my discovery.
Excuse the glare, but here is a hand drawn map of the planet. I threatened one of my artistically talented friends and made him create the drawing for this world. It’s hard to make out, but the topography was complex.
Here are a handful of the women’s character profiles. They outlined each women’s height, eye and hair color, occupation, weapon of choice, horse they rode on the planet, and their companion animal on the new world. Boy, this is sounding a lot more fantasy than sci-fi to me, but I always had a penchant for mixing the two. I believe I put myself in the role of a character I named Elise Templar. Below is a picture of Elise. What was I thinking?
I guess I was going for sexy to replace the mousey, quiet little thing I was as a kid. Apparently Elise Templar was the 5’9″, green-eyed leader of this group of ten. She was a geologist and mammal biologist by training and was proficient in the use of a crossbow, dagger and sword. She played the role of one of the hunters in my group of characters, helping to provide the group food on a regular basis. Looks a bit like that Sheena character doesn’t she? You remember that movie? She rode a zebra. What was it called?
Here’s a very dim picture of one of my leading men. I guess the actor whose photo I swiped was named Michael Damian, but I’d renamed this character James Drake. He was 5’11”, an astronomer by training, with his weapons of choice the crossbow and short sword.
Most of the other men were even cleaner cut types. Not the type I’d choose now for my heroes.
I even had a section on the fashions the women would wear.
Now tell me how this is practical for hunting? (LOL) Again, I have no clue why I included this section. I am so not a fashion diva. Give me a mail order stack of turtle necks, a few hand me down fuzzy sweaters (from family members who have good taste) and a pair of jeans and I’ll be content to survive the winter with not one fashionable moment in sight.
I have so many ideas catalogued for stories just from my recent past. But sometimes I think it would be fun to go back and explicitly choose one of my earliest ideas and run with it. What got me started writing seriously was the discovery of an unfinished story from my early twenties. I was in my early thirties at the time when I read the forty or so handwritten pages I’d written just after college graduation. It was a shapeshifter story set on a typical fantasy world. My hero and heroine were lion shifters, although the hero did not know he was such and had been raised the Prince of a nearby realm. In my tale he discovered his legacy and fell in love with a powerful female shifter of the local pride. She went into the relationship kicking and screaming. There was a bad guy out to enslave the population of the world, so of course the hero and heroine had to save the day as well as life, the universe and everything. But, bad news again. Despite this story launching me into my serious writing career, I never finished it. I wrote about forty more pages longhand and gave up. It was a year later that I sat down in front of my computer with the fully fleshed out idea for RULING EDEN and began this new chapter of my life (key dramatic sweeping music).
So here’s my question for you. What artifact do you have from your childhood which might be a metaphorical gateway to your past? If you write, do you have any artifacts from your childhood that foreshadowed that destiny? Or even something like I have, the remnants of some actual story building from that time? I kick myself every day that I lost the very first completed novella I did write in middle school. I would pay a pretty penny to find those pages again.
Thanks for indulging me my walk in the past. Be well. Stay warm and Happy Holidays.