It’s been about ten years since I started writing original prose fiction and posting it on the internet. I don’t think I was really conscious of it at the time, since I was still busy making fan fictions and sprite comics and all that sort of stuff, but it took until high school for me to really start making the things that would eventually make me the writer I am today.
Of course, because I was a little shit, though, one of the first short stories I finished was an “experimental” piece of trash called “An Hero is a Hero.”
(Read it and try to make sense of anything in it. I dare you.)
I wrote most of it in 2010, then a little bit in 2011, then finished the thing off and typed it in 2012. The name has absolutely no meaning, though it’s kind of offensive in retrospect with that edgy “an hero” 4chan thing (I’m not entirely sure I knew what that term meant when I started the story… It has nothing to do with that).
And it’s… Well, it’s that sort of incomprehensible thing you’d expect from a high schooler trying to do something experimental.
You see, this was originally a hard-boiled detective parody story, but I got bored a few paragraphs into the story. So I decided to turn this into the POV of someone with multiple personality disorder or something, but with the entire thing in the POV of the character going through a mental breakdown of the highest order. So in this story you have sudden shifts in narration that make it increasingly nonsense.
The main character named France (why) turns into a dog, a baby, a poem, briefly sees the world as a fantasy story going backwards… it’s all terrible and me intentionally half-assing everything because I thought it would be funny.
At one point in the story it appears to turn into homoerotic innuendo and then even discusses the fourth wall as it breaks the fourth wall.
As far as I can think, it’s the first original short story in high school I wrote from start to completion and published on the web. As bad as it is, publishing that story marked a turning point for me.
It’s all terrible, but I have a distinct soft spot for this story because it’s a preview of the kinds of dumbass shit I’d write for years afterwards and to some extent still write. Being experimental for the sake of it, trying out new points of view and taking absolutely nothing seriously… it’s the way I wrote most all short stories in high school, and even if practically nothing came out well, it was still great practice.
I always tell new writers that the path to honing your voice and figuring out the styles of storytelling you’d like to adopt is to avoid novels, avoid the big projects that will bog you down. Short stories, flash fiction, poetry, weird writing exercises… that’s the stuff that will help you write in wide ranging ways and get the training you need to become a better writer later. You can figure out how to write, what to write, what NOT to write, and you’ll actually be finishing stories rather than writing 6 chapters of some fantasy novel and then abandoning it. And that’s what I started here with “An Hero is a Hero.”
It’s terrible, but exactly the right kind of terrible I needed at the time.