Every writer starts somewhere; it’s all a matter of putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard. When I was younger, I was an avid reader, and naturally, I wanted to write a story of my own. My first attempt at being a writer was a fantasy adventure about a group of misfits who get pulled into a battered computer and go through a series of trials and quests to save a crumbling kingdom.
On the surface, that sounds like a promising concept. However, upon reflection, it was more of a fanfiction of books or films that I was a fan of as a child. One of the most apparent influences was Robin Williams’ Jumanji (1986), except my characters go into the game rather than the game pouring out into the real world. The world-building of the story’s first levels saw my characters in an ancient Egypt style world where they go through trials and somehow stumble into a Narnia world with Harry Potter cosplay.
As the kids battle a variety of evil forces and dark wizards, this was also the first story where I really tried to develop my characters. Matt was the protagonist and older brother to Amy and Ron, making the sibling relationships the centre of the story. Matt did find love in his best friend, Zoey – I don’t think I planned it because it happened right at the end, but this may have foreshadowed my panster writing style. For some reason, I cannot remember, they broke up in the unfinished sequel.
Ron was clearly the Edmund of the story, who has to go on a redemption arc once he betrays and leaves his siblings for the false promise of power. However, Amy was the first character I’d written that was disabled and, more specifically, had my disability. In this fantasy world, she was the brains and the only one who used a magic wand to battle the evil forces. Her disability was not a part of the plot, nor did it hold her back from being the hero of the story.
During that time, it was practically impossible to find a story where the character’s disability was not intertwined with the core of the story. It just was. Looking back on my first attempt as a writer made me realise that even then, I wanted to see myself in a story in a way that didn’t patronise the reader. Even to this day, I know people who are surprised by representation and diversity being naturally written into a story.
The Land of Wheelsbury – a horrendous title, I know – will most definitely not see the light of day, but it taught me valuable lessons that I have carried with me. To finish a book from start to finish at that age took time, dedication and a passion to tell a story that I wanted to know how it ended. Truth be told, pop culture and literature allowed me to expand my imagination and go on to create my own stories that I hope readers or viewers care about as much as I do.