Let me give you some backstory. During my middle school days, FictionPress and FanFiction.Net were two places I liked to explore. I could, on occasion, share my work, as well as delight myself with the works of other brave souls. There was this story—at the time, I think it was my favorite story—called “Embracing the Darkness.”
|Flickr Credit: NYCandre|
(Hm, I wonder if you can still find it. Ah! You can. If you have time for 66,000 more words in your life, here ya go.)
The specifics of my love have grown fuzzy. It resonated with me, because my fourteen-year-old self really identified with a young goddess in her twenties. It’s a Hades and Persephone retelling, and that story is always one of my favorites. And it was kind of edgy, if you think drinking wine is edgy, which I guess I did.
Me being me, I printed out the story, hole punched it, and put it in a binder to read as many times as I wanted. I can’t blame myself. Nothing on the Internet lasts, but paper stays. And my copy of “Embracing the Darkness” has. I have vague memories of reading it on my bedroom floor freshman year of high school, back when I was on my Greek Mythology kick (not that it’s ended—take note for Wednesday) and was still at an age where I would have found the writing of most superior quality.
Fast forward to last month. I am decluttering my room, emptying old binders, throwing away unfamiliar papers, and, lo and behold, I find “Embracing the Darkness.” Just like maybe-five years ago, it is locked safely between two plastic covers among other gems such as “For Esme—with Love and Squalor” by J.D. Salinger (which has only gotten better since the last time I read it).
I remember loving the story. I remember wanting to one day write a story as powerful and emotionally satisfying as this one. And what is there to do with a story you love but jump right in?
…Except. Except it wasn’t quite the way I remembered it. The words didn’t flow quite as beautifully as I thought they did. The characters weren’t as developed as I remembered. And my eagerness didn’t burst from my heart quite so violently.
The story didn’t change; I did. What surprised me more than that, though, was that I didn’t mind.
I can appreciate the story for what it was to me before, but I’m also glad I can see these things. I’m older. I’ve read more. I’ve written more. I’ve edited more. And, from that, I can see more—where the characterization lacks, where the prose feels stilted, where I would have changed things. I recognize these things, and feel confident that I’m better now—and if I can criticize someone else’s work like this, maybe I can do it to my own, too.
I’m glad I found “Embracing the Darkness.” I like knowing that I’ve grown. I like knowing that I have this story saved in the history of myself. And I like knowing that I can fully love and admire the writing mentors I look up to now—with great storytelling skills, craft, and characters—and not be afraid that someday I may end up criticizing them, too. I can change without regret, and that’s something I look forward to as I get older.
But even after all these years, I’m still a sucker for Hades and Persephone stores. I guess in that regard, some things never change.