#6: How I Became a Writer
But that addiction came with consequences. I soon realized that my life was boring. How come I never stumbled upon a jewelry thief, or a secret door, or another planet? Nothing exciting ever happened to me like it did to the characters in the books I read. So, I became a liar. Well, “liar” is a bit strong. Maybe “fabricator” or “embellisher” is more like it.
At first my fabrications were harmless – like telling my sisters I was actually from Venus and the poster on my wall with a big moon on it was really my portal to the mothership; or the scraps of bloody clothing I claimed to have found in the woods (a rag with red food coloring) and was sure someone had been murdered; or the gnomes I claimed to be friends with that I discovered living under some toadstools in the woods … Yes, they were all fabrications, but harmless.
Then in fourth grade, my teacher told us to write an essay about our summer vacation. Now, I had actually had an awesome vacation with my family, cousins, and grandparents that summer. We’d all rented cabins on Diamond Lake. We took turns getting up at 5 AM with Grandpa to go fishing. We swam in the lake, explored the woods, bought candy in the general store (I discovered Lemonheads that summer). Even though this still is one of the most memorable vacations I’ve ever had, I didn’t think it was interesting enough at the time for the essay. Where were the mysteries, the thefts, the magical beings?
So….I embellished a tad. I wrote a thrilling essay about how Diamond Lake got its name. These pirates had stolen a ship full of diamonds but then wrecked their boat in Diamond Lake one fateful October night when the gales of November came early (the Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald was a favorite of mine!). Oh the mystery, the intrigue! My essay was gripping and suspenseful.
The day after I turned it in, however, I panicked. Not because I realized Mr. Bennett, my teacher, could ask my mom or look up the history at the library and discover I’d lied. No, I panicked because I realized my story had a critical plot flaw: Diamond Lake was a lake surrounded by land. How could a pirate ship coming from faraway seas wreck in a land-locked lake?
Oh the doom! I made myself sick waiting for the reprimand, for the phone call, for the F. But Mr. Bennett never said anything. He merely wrote, “nice story” at the bottom. Looking back, I have no doubt he knew I made it up. Maybe he thought I had gone nowhere and had to make something up to save face, or perhaps he merely recognized the budding author in me and didn’t want to squash that.
No matter, even without being called on it, I learned my lesson:
Always check your facts and make sure each aspect of your plot works.
And I have been doing just that ever since!