I recently discovered a TREASURE TROVE of my old writing files. Old backups that were on Chloe’s computer that I thought I’d never *have to* look at again. I had a vague idea that these files were probably still around somewhere, but I honestly thought all this old stuff was garbage that I was better off without. I would cringe every time I remembered these old stories and novels I wrote back in the day. (“Back in the day” in this case meaning about 10 – 20 years ago.)
And then my laptop died (along with my hard drive that had my visual novel on it, that I hadn’t backed up in almost a year, because it was fun and easy to write and “didn’t matter” -__-; but hopefully I can have it repaired someday), and I needed to look at some backup files, and, well, long story short, I now have a folder on my computer with ALL my old stuff in it.
And it’s, like, actually good. I mean, not all of it. Especially the old novels. Some of those are pretty bad. But not nearly as bad as I thought. But a lot of the short stories are pretty good, and none of them deserved the harsh judgments I made and have been carrying around with me for decades. Geez. And many “truths” that I’ve thought about myself, like that I was terrible at writing 3rd person past tense and didn’t find my voice or get good at writing until I switched to 1st person present tense, are complete nonsense.
Just a side note: I don’t consider myself a short-story writer. I “hardly ever” wrote any of them, according to my memory, which I’m starting to not trust at all, yet I have probably about 40k of short stories lying around. Back in the day, it was considered “the thing to do” to get short stories published first, to build up writing credits, so you could then somehow transfer this success into getting a novel published, even though novels and short stories are extremely different and being able to write one doesn’t at all guarantee you could write the other, and I’m not sure that advice ever made sense. For the record, writing short stories didn’t get me anywhere, but looking back on them now is kind of fun, and there are some real gems in my new treasure trove.
So, I thought I’d share some of these with you guys, starting with a short (and incomplete) mashup of The Muppet Show and Silent Hill that I started one year as something silly to do for Nano. This is 2,601 words, written during the first hour of Nano in… maybe 2010? 2009? There was, like, some kind of writing race where whoever writes the most words in that first hour gets a prize, and I like prizes, so I wrote super fast and won. (No idea what the prize was now. Maybe a pen that changed colors based on mood or something?) I’m usually a 500 – 1000 words an hour person, and while you would think writing faster than that might make the quality go down, if anything, writing as fast as I can tends to make it go up. (And yet, even knowing this, getting myself to do that instead of worrying constantly about every little choice I’m making is super hard.)
For instance, one of the things I found in that old treasure trove was my prewriting for Renegade X. It was about 35k, written super fast over a week, and it’s mostly just him talking about his life and explaining it to the audience, a.k.a. me, and I don’t think I ever read over a word of it after writing it. I thought for sure it was garbage. But… it reads just fine. It could have been the book, except for the fact that it would be weird to tell the whole story that way, with him just telling us about his life. I might post a little bit of this later. We’ll see. But I remember it as having no voice and not sounding like Damien at all and being just complete garbage up until the moment I decided I was now writing “for real” and that it was the start of the book. But, like, it totally has voice and is funny and is Damien, and I’ve apparently had no idea what I was talking about for the past 12.5 years. O__o
I think there’s a lesson to be learned here about perfectionism and judging things too harshly and writing like the wind and not worrying about things being good enough. Which is all easier said than done. I have a tendency to think whatever I’m working on in the moment is terrible, and then look back on it a few days or weeks or years later and realize it’s actually really good and that all my self-doubt was just me being crazy. (But having faith in yourself when your brain is telling you it’s bad for realsies this time is hard.)
Not sure who else needs to hear this besides me, but I think the takeaway here is that the sky’s the limit, you are awesome, and you’re capable of more than you think. Yes, really, even now.
Anyway, onto The Silent Muppet Show! The premise is that the muppets lose their studio and are going to have to move to Silent Hill. I only ever worked on it for that first hour, probably because I had no real idea what I was going to do with it.
This is completely unedited.
The Silent Muppet Show
by Chelsea M. Campbell
When the crew of the Muppet Show lost their Hollywood studio, there were a lot of frogs and pigs and dogs and crazy animals with nowhere to go. Kermit promised them everything would be okay, they just had to stick together, but things were getting bleak.
“This came for you, boss,” Rizzo the rat said, handing Kermit a very official looking piece of paper. It had a seal at the bottom and everything.
Kermit took the roll of paper from the rat. “Gee, what could this be?”
“I don’t know, but it’s from the studio execs. It looks real important…” Rizzo stopped talking, distracted by a snack cart someone was rolling through the studio. “Uh… I’ll be right back!” he shouted, forgetting about Kermit and the letter and running after the food.
Kermit scratched his head.
“Oh, Kermy,” Miss Piggy said, running up to him, “what is it?”
“I don’t know, Piggy. Looks like something official from the studio executives. Maybe it’s that bonus I’ve been asking them for. You know, so we can all get real beds instead of sleeping in the studio locker room.”
Miss Piggy clasped her hands together. She was wearing white gloves and a sparkling purple evening dress. “I hope so. And then maybe just the two of us can take a teeny tiny trip to France, just you and moi.”
Kermit swallowed hard, making a “gulp” noise, and ignored her. He held up the rolled parchment paper. “Well, here goes.” Slowly, he broke the seal and pealed it off. He carefully unrolled the paper, with Miss Piggy holding her breath next to him. This could be their big chance to get some extra funding, to finally get the break he knew everyone deserved. He’d been promising them big things for a while now, and while the show was doing well, Kermit felt they could go so much farther if they just put their hearts into it.
He finished unrolling the paper and held it out so Piggy could see it at the same time. He read it out loud: “‘Dear Muppet Show cast, we, the senior executives, hereby being much bigger, better, and richer than you, have decided to close the studio. You have five minutes to get out. Sincerely, the people who own your studio.'”
Kermit stared at the paper. Was it real? Was this a joke? Did they realize how many animals they’d be putting out on the street?
“Oh, Kermy!” Miss Piggy whined. “They can’t do this to moi! I mean, us! Think of the children.”
“What children, Miss Piggy?”
“The ones we were going to have someday. Two little girls with darling blond curls who look just like me.”
“Piggy, I think we have bigger things to worry about than our, um, possible future together. We have to tell the gang we’ve only got–“
The lights in the studio died, sending everything into pitch blackness. A voice over a loud speaker shouted, “Muppet Studios closing forever in one minute!”
There was a crash sound and Gonzo’s rough voice screaming, “Whoops!” Kermit heard him skidding on the floor and landing in a pile of film cans with a loud clang. “Oh, oh, Kermit!” he shouted, getting up. “Is that you?”
“No,” Miss Piggy growled. “If you know what’s good for you,” she said through clenched teeth, “you’ll Get. Your. Hand. OFF of me!”
Gonzo chuckled to himself and backed away. “Sorry, Piggy.” He turned to Kermit, feeling for him in the dark. “Is that you, Kermit?”
“It’s me, Gonzo. We’ve got terrible news. The studio executives are closing down our building. This is…”
“This is TERRIBLE!” Gonzo wailed. He flailed his hands around, accidentally smacking Kermit in the face and knocking him over.
“Calm down!” Kermit said, picking himself back up while trying to avoid getting hit by Gonzo again.
More muppets joined them, crowding together in the dark.
“Kermit,” Fozzie’s voice said out of the crowd, “is it true?”
“Yeah,” Rowlf said, “is this really the end of the show?”
Dozens of voices burst into argument and complaint, bewailing the loss of the Muppet Show already.
“If everyone could just calm down,” Kermit said, “then we could figure something–“
“We’re all going to be homeless!” a voice shouted.
“And I’ve got nine hundred brothers and sisters!” Rizzo cried.
“Could everyone just BE QUIIIEET!” Kermit screamed at the top of his lungs.
Everyone shut up.
When Kermit finished panting after his outburst, he said in a calm voice, “Listen, gang, we’ve fallen on hard times before. The important thing is to stick together and not let this divide us. We’re… we’re going to be okay, and so is the Muppet Show. We’re not going to let a little thing like the studio shutting us down get in our way! We’re not going to let a little snag like getting turned out on the streets stop us from being happy! We had a dream, and that dream came true, but now that it’s threatened, we’re not going to let it die! Isn’t that right, guys?”
There was grumbling, and then the sound of everyone walking away.
Miss Piggy put her hand on Kermit’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Kermy. I won’t leave you. Even if you are a homeless frog with no income or future and… I’m just going to step over here and use my cell phone for a teensy tiny minute.”
Miss Piggy took out her cell phone, its blue screen the only light in the building, and stepped into the corner to make a call. “Hello, Frank?” she muttered into the phone, “this is pig. Got any new gigs for me?”
Kermit sighed. They’d been closed down for less than ten minutes, and already even Miss Piggy was giving up on him. “Well, I’m not giving up!” he shouted into the darkness, pounding his fist into his open palm. “I had a dream, and I’m not satisfied with letting it go just like that!”
“We’re with you, Kermit,” Fozzie said.
Kermit heard muffled agreement from a handful of his friends still standing by him. In the corner, Miss Piggy grumbled into her phone, “What? No one wants to hire a pig? Don’t you dare bring up my thighs–” She snapped her phone shut, then came over to join the others, tripping over Gonzo on the way.
“Ha ha ha,” she said, forcing a laugh. She cleared her throat. “That was… My mother. So, Kermit, do you have a plan?”
Kermit knew Miss Piggy was here because her agent hadn’t had any other jobs for her, but he appreciated her presence anyway, even if he questioned whether her heart was really in this.
“Yeah, Kermit,” Rowlf said. “Tell us the plan.”
“I, well…” Even in the pitch blackness, Kermit could feel their eyes all on him, looking for answers. Sometimes Kermit didn’t have the answers, but when you were the leader of the Muppet Show, you had act like one, and sometimes that meant giving people hope, even when there was none. “Of course I have a plan! We’re… We’ll just have to find another studio!” It was so simple, it had to work. Why couldn’t they find one? There had to be tons of other places out there, and the Muppet Show was doing really well. They’d find another studio interested in their work, and everything would be great again. Maybe this was an opportunity in disguise. They could find an even better studio with a bigger locker room and more snacks.
“Another studio?” everyone said at once.
“Another studio,” Kermit confirmed. “It’s our only choice.”
They spent the night in the street. It was cold, and they had to huddle together for warmth. Unfortunately, or maybe thankfully, Rizzo’s giant family abandoned them for a restaurant with poor health standards, leaving them with nine hundred less warm bodies to huddle with. But that also meant nine hundred less to feed, and no offense to Rizzo, but rats were kind of filthy.
“It’s going to be okay,” Kermit kept telling everyone. He looked out at their miserable faces, sleeping on the streets of Hollywood in the middle of winter, packed close for warmth, and wished he could offer them more than a little hope. He was their leader, and he was leading, and sometimes that made a real difference. People needed someone to look to in times of trouble, and if Kermit had to be that person, then he had to be that person, no questions asked.
“Kermy,” Miss Piggy whined, “I’m cold.” She snuggled closer to him–a little too close.
Out of a studio full of animals, there was only Kermit, Piggy, Gonzo, Rizzo, Rowlf, Scooter, Fozzie, and Gonzo’s chicken friend, Camilla. That was nine muppets to take care of on the mean streets of Hollywood.
“Don’t worry, guys,” Kermit assured them. “We’ll find a new studio in the morning.”
Everyone slept terribly, and it was cold and it rained partway through the night, so they had to try to find shelter. They ended up sleeping under the overhang of the roof at the Chinese theater, with all the footprints of famous stars in the cement. Kermit’s own footprints were there. He liked to compare his feet with them, to see if they were still the same, but tonight it didn’t seem appropriate, just sad.
In the morning, nine disgruntled muppets woke on the busy streets at the crack of dawn. Their breath puffed out in front of them in the freezing air. Kermit, true to his word, lead the gang all through Hollywood, looking for a new studio. By lunchtime, they hadn’t had any luck, and they were all starving.
“Okay,” Kermit said, addressing the gang, “let’s split up. The rest of you go with Gonzo to find some food and hopefully some lodgings, in case this… in case our new studio doesn’t have accommodations. And I’ll keep up the search.” He smiled at everyone, doing his best to reassure them in a terrible situation. Nobody looked all that assured, though. In fact, they looked plain miserable. But they hadn’t given up on him yet, and that was what counted.
Kermit spent the rest of the day cold and hungry and looking for a new studio. He pitched the show to a dozen studio execs, but they all shook their heads before he’d even gotten through with his spiel. It seemed like nobody wanted a variety show about dancing pigs and chickens and a dog that played piano. Kermit thought they had a good track record, but maybe no one was watching anymore and that was why no one wanted to see it and why their studio had been closed down in the first place. He hoped the others were having more luck.
When he met up with them in the park later, he was starving. His stomach growled and his head hurt from not eating. He was dizzy and worn out and, worst of all, every studio in town had told him no. They’d all turned him down. This had never happened before. Even in their darkest hour, the muppets had always found someone willing to take them on. Had their ideas gone stale? Did no one care about a zany show full of animals dancing and singing? Well, no one ever said life was easy, or that living your dream meant things had to stay that way.
But when he met with the others in the park, Gonzo was bursting to tell him some good news. “Kermit!” he shouted. “Guess what!”
Camilla made excited clucking noises at him, tilting her head back and forth and flapping her wings.
“Camilla!” Gonzo whined. “I was going to tell him!”
“Tell me what?!” Kermit shouted.
“Oh, Kermy,” Miss Piggy said, stepping up, “we’ve found another studio!”
“You did?” He couldn’t believe it. His heart pounded, threatening to burst out of his chest. “Where?”
“It’s in a resort town,” Gonzo said quickly, beating Piggy to it, “called Silent Hill.”
“They’ve got everything a muppet could want,” Rowlf continued. “A piano, and a… piano. Well, that’s all I need.”
Kermit looked from one face to another, scanning his friends’ expressions. “A resort town?”
“Yeah,” Rizzo said. “My cousin Murphy hooked us up. The town’s a little down on its luck right now, and they could use our, uh, colorful brand of entertainment.”
Kermit was a bit hesitant to trust anything that had come from one of Rizzo’s relatives, but how could they turn it down? It was perfect. “That’s just what we need! A town that needs us. We’ll not only bring back the Muppet Show, but we’ll cheer those folks right up and they’ll see, before they know it, their town will be thriving and full of people again!”
“Good,” Gonzo said with a nod. “Then we’ll leave tomorrow.”
Getting on the bus was difficult. They didn’t have the fare needed for even one of them to go, let alone nine of them. Getting across the country was going to be hard. Especially when Miss Piggy refused to sell her jewelry. In fact, she pretended like she didn’t have at all.
“Why, plain old moi?” she said, batting her eyelashes and laughing. “You know I prefer to show off the plain beauty of a country sow. Ha ha ha. Why would moi ever need a flashy thing like jewelry? It would only take away from my natural sophistication.”
“Please, Piggy, this is important,” Kermit pleaded, but Piggy wouldn’t budge.
That meant if they were going to get to Silent Hill and get their new show up and running, they were going to have to walk. But even Kermit couldn’t help noticing what a long trip that meant it was going to be. It would take them days, maybe even weeks, for nine muppets to walk that far. their only hope was to appeal to the kindness of the bus drivers, which wasn’t going so well.
Kermit swallowed when the doors of the bus opened, all eight of his friends standing hopefully behind him. “Excuse me, sir,” he said, pleading with the driver, “but we’re in a little trouble, and we were wondering if you could take us to Silent Hill.”
The bus driver didn’t look up from the steering wheel. “Yeah, this bus goes to Silent Hill.”
Kermit cleared his throat. “You see, kind sir, we’re a group of muppets down on our luck, and we’re a bit short on funding right now–“
“We’re dirt poor,” Miss Piggy said, shoving Kermit out of the way. She batted her eyelashes at the driver and smiled. “Please, Mr. bus driver, if you could just let us on, just this once, we’d be extremely grateful.”
The bus driver raised his eyebrows in confusion. “Are you coming onto me, lady? Because I’m not into pi–“
“Watch it with the pig jokes,” Piggy said, glaring hard at the bus driver.
“Fine,” he said, holding his hands up, “but nobody gets on for free. I’d lose my job. Now, if you’re not payin’, I’m not drivin’ ya.” He waited a second for the muppets to make up their mind. Kermit emptied his pockets and found only half a ball of lint. Sadly, he looked up at the driver and shook his head.
The bus door closed, almost snapping shut on Kermit, and the bus zoomed off into the distance, leaving a huge cloud of dust behind it. If they were going to get to Silent Hill, this obviously wasn’t the way.
Kermit walked with the gang down the road.