The best place by the fire was kept for…

by M.J. Hearle

I used to draw when I was a kid. Monsters mainly, the more hideous the better. I don’t draw much anymore but when I doodle it’s invariably a set of teeth with extra long incisors. The kind sported by vampires in comic books. When I wasn’t drawing monsters, I was rendering elaborate action scenes. These varied from starship battles in deepest space to marines shooting aliens or zombies or zombie aliens, to anything with ninjas. I loved me some ninjas when I was growing up. What’s not to love about a guy in black pyjamas who carries multiple edged weapons around?

As you can probably guess, Welcome Reader, I wasn’t much for portraiture or landscapes – my crude art had to have a pulse. Things had to be happening or, more specifically, exploding, bleeding, firing, dying.

The games I played with my friends also reflected this preoccupation with genre and action. I’m not talking about video games (cruelly deprived of Mario and Sonic by my villainous parents, I didn’t have a game system until I managed to save up enough money to buy one myself at the ripe old age of thirteen), I’m talking about actual ‘games’. A concept I’m sure seems a little archaic to the iGeneration with their freakishly overdeveloped thumbs and microsecond attention spans.

I wasn’t content with Hide and Seek, or Tag or what have you – the games I instigated had titles like Space Convicts, The Vampires from Darkling Wood, and Dune Warriors. Each one had a carefully thought out mythology behind it which I would explain to my friends before we commenced. Of course the story behind the game changed every time we played it, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone. In fact I think this element of changeability made the games all the more fun. Nobody knew whether we’d be stalking the undead or battling mutants in a post apocalyptic wasteland. Not until I told them anyway and I probably didn’t know myself until a few seconds before I opened my mouth.

Now you might be asking yourself, Welcome Reader, what’s this got to do with writing? After all that’s why we’re here isn’t it? Not to discuss childhood games and bad art. While drawing and play don’t have much to do with the mechanics of writing, they are both perfectly valid forms of storytelling. I didn’t know it at the time but what I was doing was illustrating scenes from larger narratives, epic tales of the fantastic that I lacked the patience, discipline and skill to write down. From the beginning the passion for story was there, it just took me a while to find my medium. In my next post I’ll talk a little bit about what happened when I did, and my first experience in creative writing. For a boy who grew up drawing monsters and ninjas it’s probably unsurprising that the title of this literary opus was ‘Oraku, The Demon Hunter and his Magical Time Travelling Toilet.’ Shakespeare, it was not.

Until then,