Once upon a time, there was a slightly disturbed twelve-year-old girl. This girl liked to write. She liked to write, and she liked to watch anime, and she somewhat liked to read, although most of the time she only read Harry Potter, and some assorted fan fiction written by people she knew on online forums. This post, as well as the Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain inspired me to go digging around for this story again. I remembered the URL vaguely, and was actually quite stunned to see that the Freewebs site I created is still up and running after 5 years of neglect … quite honestly, this isn’t the first time since its creation in 2006 that I’ve visited, just out of a strange, nostalgic curiosity that takes me back to what was an even stranger time, in my eyes.
Nanuko: an example of the villain protagonist.
So I’ll start with this: if you want to read it, you can read it here, but I really wouldn’t recommend doing it for your own sanity. Or if you value your eyes, because this is most likely to make them burn. Unlike most of my earliest writings, this is something I made very easy to access, because it was so damn good. I was assured that this was the best thing that I’d ever written – perhaps somewhere, some part of me took this to mean that this was the best thing written by any twelve-year-old ever. I was encouraged to write more, and write more I did … in a way, Underworldly grew into something that became more and more difficult to control, and this, combined with my computer dying spectacularly one day (I, too, have a venomous hatred for the Blue Screen of Death), and what my fourteen-year-old self considered quite a serious relationship (ha!) was probably what drove me to abandon it.
I was desperately proud of this story, though. It was my finest work, at the time, a story I was most definitely going to get published, that my parents encouraged me to get published, that was going to make it. I find it funny, actually, how this seems to be the case with every new piece I write; Dragon Badlands was going to be an incredible breakthrough piece. Underworldly, as I have just mentioned, was going to sell, and sell, and sell to people like me. Butterfly Black was this incredible, inventive idea that nobody else could write … nobody else, it seems, but Chuck Palahniuk. Contempt for The Blind is … a difficult one to place, but I had a great feeling about it, so positive, yet when I was describing the entirety of it to my ex it just seemed a little asinine. Where Jackals Lie was just something I was desperate to get out on paper, and I’m not sure I ever really felt as though it would go anywhere.
Anyway, I didn’t know, at this time, how much of a hack the idea was, or how cliché the characters were, and the historical accuracy? Well, my young self didn’t see much of a need for this at all. The names were made up ones that sounded Japanese, and bore a striking resemblance to the names of some of the characters from Naruto (I never really watched much of it as they pulled it from TV over here before I could) … never mind the fact that it was, essentially, a re-hash of Samurai Champloo. Never mind I stole heaps of plot devices from Bleach. Never mind countless other references, and probably a lot taken from Fullmetal Alchemist somewhere along the line … I really used to be quite obsessed with anime.
Unlike Dragon Badlands, though, I don’t really want to let Underworldly go, not just yet. If I’m being honest, it was the first piece I ever wrote that really enabled me to come to terms with who I am as a writer; it was the first piece to give me some genuine form of direction, that time when I knew what I could and could not write, and ever since then, I’ve been playing up to the idea that what I write always will be very dark. Of course, everything was still a little convoluted – in terms of writing, I wanted too much, too soon. I was trying for more complexity than was really needed for, or was of any benefit to the story, adding in themes and ideas that only a really messed up twelve-year-old could think about.
For the most part, Nanuko, the central character, turned out to be a Freudian nightmare with serious mommy issues. Of course, I thought I was being quite original, having the once-normal-if-slightly-messed-up boy’s soul being ‘tainted’ by a vengeful Hell-demon, thereby making him the villain protagonist, who then goes on to join forces with the assassin hunting him, as well as the attractive female action girl who shouldn’t have any real reason to follow him, seeing as he slaughtered the entirety of her home town. I’m not denying this one thing, however; I thoroughly enjoyed having my good guy be the bad guy. In terms of protagonists, since this point, I have never really been able to settle on a central character who always has truly altruistic motives, or does things that are considered ‘good’ all of the time. It is not so much that it’s just that much more fun to be the bad guy, or shall we say, to write the bad guy, as it was that by this point in my life, I think I had become disenchanted just enough to know that life is not black and white. Why should I have characters that are?
Similarly, Nanuko was always the outcast, when he was human, that is. He was ‘that weird boy from the village’ at fourteen, although later on I would note that he was most likely deemed the weird boy because his father was the King of Hell. I know. I know. Not content with having him be an evil demon himself, I had to make sure that he was an evil demon before he got ‘sewn’, too.
Even after all this time, though, the strangest thing is that I have this warped desire to rewrite Underworldly. It’s not something I’d ever consider publishing, or even self publishing, but may prove to be either a challenge, or just a little nostalgia and a little fun. I want to rewrite it because I see at least some potential there, masked by dust, bad characterization, a lack of research and a lot of influence. I feel that there are still places I could go with it, even if I’m not going to take it far, and that I could, almost, show my twelve-year-old self what-for. Strange and a little pathetic as that may sound, there is something at the back of my mind (not the salvages soul of a Hell-demon) telling me that I could take this somewhere – that it’s a disservice to abandon it.
There have been several attempts to revive this, though, since I originally abandoned it in, I believe, early to mid-2007. The first, notable attempt was during an art course at college that I later quit … I do believe this attempted rewrite had something to do with it, but that could just as easily have been my growing dissatisfaction with the course coupled with the feeling that I had made the wrong choice. The second attempted rewrite came after I had changed colleges and courses; after I had become a little too obsessed with Assassin’s Creed II and took Nanuko out of his home base of what was probably feudal Japan and placed him firmly as an artist in Renaissance Italy who is killed and then revived for sleeping with the woman he was supposed to be painting (daughter of some wealthy land owner or something like that). This rewrite was probably just an excuse to do some research on the subject of Renaissance Italy, and never worked out, although the concept is something I’ve brushed over time and time again since. Unfortunately, setting anything in a time other than the here and now has never really been my strong suit.
Speaking of which, I have a feeling I tried to resurrect Nanuko in the world of Where Jackals Lie once, too. Characters and everything. A hack in and of itself, and one that I hand wrote maybe ten chapters of before realizing nothing exciting had happened. At all. I dropped it.
It’s a strange feeling, though, having a work I keep coming back to. It doesn’t happen often, though this is mostly because I’ve shelved the works I have finished and mostly forgotten about the ones I haven’t. I’m not denying that Underworldly was pretty terrible, but I’m not denying that I wrote it when I was twelve, either – I had a lot of growing to do as a writer. This is no excuse, of course, but it makes sense of it. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that causes me to keep such a soft spot here for Underworldly By all accounts, I shouldn’t. I should want to bury it deep and pretend it never existed. I can’t. Perhaps it is because I received such good feedback for it, or perhaps just because I felt a significant sense of having evolved. Suddenly finding my way, even for a brief second – and it was around the age that I wrote this that I started to develop some kind of identity for myself. Ultimately, I was desperately proud of Underworldly, for all its faults, for everything that shouldn’t have belonged in that manuscript.
I’ve loved the projects I’ve worked on since, but they’re all done and dusted. Underworldly isn’t. It has somewhere to go, and I doubt I’ll forget about it until it has gone there.