When I was about seventeen and eighteen, I wrote stories about my sisters and our friends in this red notebook. Then, we would all sit on the porch, and I would read it to the neighborhood. Everyone had nicknames but also knew who they were so it was hilarious, and they loved it.
When I moved out of my mother’s house a couple of years later, I carried that notebook. One day, while reading it, I decided I wanted to turn it into a play. There was only one problem:
I was not the teenager who wrote it.
By now, I was deeply biblical, had loc’d my hair, and changed my name. This hood tale didn’t fit the newer version of me.
I decided to keep the characters but change their names and give them more dignity. They were successful Black men and women instead of whores and hustlers. In the original story, Tina was a lawyer because when we were younger, that’s what my twin sister Tracey wanted to be when she grew up. In the red notebook, Tina was Tracey.
I published Pearls Before Swine in 2014, registered it with the Screen Writer’s Guild, and participated in my first book signing at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Chicago, which went well.
And then, I started this blog!
I made the mistake* of naming this blog after the book hence why it’s called thepbsblog. Over time, I decided to keep the name for a few reasons. You can read about that here.
*I don’t recommend authors start blogs and name them after the title of their book any more than I would advise authors to create websites with the name of their books. You will write more books. Are you going to create a new website for every book? It is easier to brand yourself using your name.
Although it did okay when first released, and I love the cover, I better understood how to use my voice and messaging after The Stella Trilogy. I had grown again and vowed to be more relatable. The story was also not properly edited and the plot was confusing to people outside of my immediate circle.
But instead of throwing it away, I reworked the first chapter and shared it on this blog.
Then, I shared another chapter.
And another and another until I was ten chapters into this crazy fantasy world that, to my surprise, ya’ll loved!
And that’s when it hit me.
The story would evolve again.
I would turn Pearls Before Swine into The Men with Blue Eyes. And then, for the last change, I decided I wanted these angels to be women, which is how The Women with Blue Eyes was born. I used the backstory and characters of PBS with a fresh plot.
TWWBE is still heavily spiritual, but in a way where even if you are not religious, you could still relate to it. This was intentional.
I would love for this story to take on another evolution: for Shonda Rhimes to turn it into a TV series. (Somebody tell her people to call my people.)
I am also considering sharing more of the backstory of PBS in another installment of The Women with Blue Eyes. The details about Ronnie and Big Sam and how it all went down was in the first book. This is material I can still use.
5 thoughts on “Don’t Throw It Away: How Short Stories from My Teenage Years Became An Urban Fantasy Fiction Novel”
Sadly, that advice is a little late for me. No, decades too late. My childhood and teenage stories have long gone! (Along with, thankfully, my teenage diaries.) I still vaguely remember one story I wrote, but as it’s not in either of the genres I write, I don’t think it will come in useful, but I’ll keep it at the back of my mind.
I understand that. However, this not about resurrecting stories from our adolescence. That’s just my personal example. This is about holding onto any story we’ve written that we might not have used. It could be a chapter you deleted from your current WIP that you can save to a draft to turn into a different story. It could be something you edited out you can use later. It could be anything you think is worthy of deletion that, at another look, can be repurposed.
Yes, I get that.
I totally agree with you. This is why I don’t delete or throw away any of my stories. When we’ve given ourselves distance from them, who knows what other stories they’ll birth?
By the way, I recently found my childhood diary, and I’m getting kicks out of it reading it. I’ll definitely use snippets in a few stories going forward.
Thanks for sharing.
Wow! Now that diary gonna birth something for sure, lol.