I've been getting a lot of messages and comments saying things like, "omg, you're an amazing writer, ugh I give up" and "I'll never be as good as you"
guys, don't ever say that. you don't understand: my first draft of Paper Stars was horse-shit. So, in order to show you guys that anybody can get better at writing, I will now show you a scene: one copy of it written by me as an 8th grader, the other of my final manuscript.#1: circa 2009Suddenly, the silence was broken by the drunken voices of two soldiers. We stopped, waiting quietly as two SS soldiers staggered down the street towards us, taking swigs out of their flasks. One of them stopped in front of me, his lips turned into a drunken smirk. "Well whaddo we haf here
?" He slurred, looking down at me. I felt Benjamin's hand tighten on my shoulder. "A pretty 'ittle thing for a Jew, ain't she, Viktor?"
The other raised his flask to his mouth and downed what seemed like a gallon of spirits. The first man reached out towards me, but I drew back, afraid of his touch. The man's face turned into a frightening grimace. "Jewish swine, look at me when Imma talkin' to you!" The man hit my belongings out of my hands, and I watched helplessly as what little possessions I had left rolled into a mud puddle. He guffawed, and I recoiled as the reek of his breath reached my nose. I glanced up at Benjamin. His face was contorted into a searing glare, and I could hear his teeth grinding together. I just prayed that he wouldn't do anything rash.
The man took my chin in his hand and forced me to look up at him. The soldier's skin was ashen, and I could see stubble beginning to grow on his chin. There were dark circles under his grey eyes, which were clouded by the effects of the alcohol, and his whole body reeked of whiskey. I wrinkled my nose. "Get away from me!" I snapped, and the man slapped me so hard I swear I could see stars.
"You need t' learn some 'spect for yer betters," he garbled. "Yer lucky you ran across merciful 'uns like us, else you'd get a lot worse, little mouse!"
With a sudden burst of ferocity, Benjamin pushed the soldier in the chest and took a step in front of me, forming a protective shield between me and the men. "You get your filthy hands off of her!" He snarled.
The man's face turned into a deviant grin. "We've got us a fighter here, don't we, Viktor?"
"Now you listen to me, you piece of scheiße," the man growled, grabbing Benjamin by the collar and hoisting him up until his feet dangled about an inch above the ground. "Now, I'm feelin' awful nice right now
so if you apologize and bow to me-" He burped, and Benjamin's lip curled in a mixture of fear and disgust. "I'll let you go, but I'm not so sure about you're little friend here- me an' Viktor like us a piece of rebel, don't we-"
Benjamin promptly spat in the man's face. The man bellowed and threw him to the ground, but not before delivering a swift blow to his stomach with the butt of his gun. Benjamin hit the ground with a sickening thud, retching and holding his stomach. As the first soldier started delivering brutal kicks to him, I rushed forward. "Don't you dare touch him!" I yelled, and I tried to hit the soldier, but his companion grabbed my wrist and twisted it. I bit my tongue as waves of pain ran up my arm, and soon I could taste blood. I felt another blow on my head, and after I sank to the ground, I only remember three things before lapsing into unconsciousness. I remember seeing the first man cocking his rifle, I remember seeing
Benjamin struggling to his feet, fists balled up and ready to strike, his nose streaming blood.
Shudder-inducing, huh? It reads like a bad fan fiction. Once again, keep in mind that this was only three years ago.#2: circa 2012The two of us began walking again after that, just our footsteps on the cobbles and our rushed breath. But suddenly, the silence was broken by drunken voices and we stopped, waiting quietly as two guards staggered down the street towards us, taking swigs from of their flasks. One of them stopped in front of me, his lips turned into a drunken smirk.
"Well what do we have here?" he slurred as he looked down at me, and I felt Benjamin's hand tighten on my shoulder. "She en't too ugly for a convict, is she, Günter? Maybe even a little pretty."
I stiffened, biting my lip to prevent myself from saying anything reckless that could get us killed as the vile creature raised his flagon to his mouth and downed what seemed like another gallon of spirits. But then he reached out towards me and I instinctively shied away from his touch, scowling at him, and his face turned into a frightening grimace.
"You disrespectful swine!" he bellowed, hitting my belongings out of my hands. Speechless, I could only watch as what little possessions I had rolled into a mud puddle. I wanted to call him every malicious and hateful thing I could think of, I wanted to lash out at him, I wanted to hurt him. But I was smarter than that, so I just glared as balefully as I could. He sneered, and I found myself glancing up at Benjamin:
The usual gentleness that vacated his continence had drained and his brows were drawn down low in quiet anger, his grip on my shoulder tightening every moment. I just prayed that he wouldn't do anything rashthat was usually my job in our relationship.
"Just let us go home," entreated Benjamin sharply.
"You need to learn some respect for your betters," growled the soldier, ignoring him as he stared, instead, at me. "You're lucky you ran across merciful men like us, else you'd get a lot worse, little bird! Maybe some time alone with us would soften up that fiery temper of yours." He took my chin in his hand and forced me to look up at him. His skin was the colour of cigarette ashes.
"Let go of me!" I said, pulling my face away, and the man slapped me hard. Before I had even time to gasp, Benjamin had pushed the soldier in the chest with a sudden burst of ferocity, taking a step forward and bracing himself in front of me.
"Get your hands off of her!" he snarled.
This was not the boy who taught me how to draw in the attic. This was a different person entirelythis was a fire-ridden young man with rigid shoulders, with wide eyes that smouldered despite the fear suppressed inside them.
The guard's lips turned into a grotesque, ear to ear grin, and I was suddenly reminded of the Cheshire cat. "We've got us a fighter here, don't we, Günter? Now you listen to me, you piece of Scheisse," he said, drawing so near to Benjamin that their chests touched. "I'm feeling extremely kind right now, so if you apologize and give me a little Heil Hitler, I'll let you go. But I'm not so sure about you're little friend hereI think we'll have ourselves a good time in the alley, make this girl a woman-"
Benjamin swung his fist and the soldier's nose cracked.
The man stumbled back a bit, shock written across his face along with his own blood, and the other soldier rushed forward. Benjamin turned, giving him a hard shove, and the drunkard toppled over and fell into a pile of barrels near the alley, temporarily immobilized. But then the first man, scarlet running down his lip, regained his balance and delivered a blow to Benjamin's stomach with the butt of his rifle. I could hear a sharp snap and he gasped, crumpling to his knees. Without thinking, I rushed to them and set on the soldier, grabbing the nozzle of the gun and shoving it downward as it went off. The bullet meant for Benjamin rattled into the ground and the recoil made my body throb. I could hear the man swear as he tried to pull his weapon from my grasp, but I bared my teeth and tightened my grip, reaching one of my hands up and sinking my nails into his fingers. Letting out an animalistic snarl, he struck me hard and his fist hit home upon my eye, throwing me to the ground.
"Übernachten Sie Schmutz," the brute hissed, returning his attention to Benjamin's bowed head, "Stay down, dirt!"
The dirt did not stay.
Benjamin struggled to his feet and launched himself, elbow-first into the soldier's gut, throwing them both to the ground. For a brief moment he had the man pinned and he began raining his fists down upon him. But the guard soon recovered and retaliated, his knuckles carving a mould into Benjamin's nose. A faucet of blood erupted from it, running down his mouth, and several more kicks and punches followed him down.
"Run, Sara! Go, go now! Please!" Benjamin screamed between blows, but just as I was getting to my feet to go to him, I felt the one called Günter wind his arms round my stomach and thrust me backward. When thrashing and scratching proved useless, I swivelled round, tearing an arm from his grasp, and then I struck out as hard as I could. The blow fell upon his lip and tore it, but before I could do any more damage, he grabbed my wrist and twisted it so brutally that I was shocked it didn't snap.
He was almost robotic in his movementsmechanical as he shoved me to the ground and crouched over me, pinning me down with his knees. "We'll have a little fun while your friend's occupied," he whispered in a scratchy baritone, blood smeared on his teeth as he leaned in closer.
He smelt of nicotine and aftershave.
On my worst nights, the scent still vacates my nose.
As I fought him, his hand drifted down towards my skirt, gripping it roughly, trying to pull it down, and I began kicking at his stomach, screeching and spitting at him as I clutched onto what little humanity I had left. I could see Benjamin get to his feet again from the corner of my eye, and he staggered towards me.
"Sara!" he cried out, but before he could reach me, the first man lunged forward and hit him in the temple with his gun. Benjamin's head jerked sideways and he fell to the ground again. I called out to him, my voice stretching, breaking with panic, but I was trapped. All I could do was look about wildly for someone, anyone who could possibly help us. As my eyes fell upon the surrounding buildings, I could see curtains being pulled back, faces at the grimy windows; but after a moment they would step away and the drapes would fall back into place. I was screaming for help, but nobody came. They heard, but they were too selfish, too human to heed. Any one of those people could have helped us. But instead, I was witnessing a savage attack upon the boy I loved as I myself was sexually assaulted.
Rise, fall. Rise, fall. Digits dripping blood, heels embedding skin. A heresy of blows painting Benjamin's body red.
Still he kept getting up, his lips and cheeks rusting, the skin round his eye darkening. Still he swung his fists, still he fought as if all of the fury and bitterness he had ever felt had burst from inside him.
"Stop it, Benjamin! Just stay down!" I wailed, but I was cut short when Günter's hand cupped my mouth, smothering my cries. His other was travelling up the length of my leg, sending violent, dreadful chills up my spine. Exhaustion was at war with the adrenaline and my writhing was growing weakermy eye throbbed, my lungs were heaving, there was blood in my mouth and my desperation had brought me near to sobs. And I was not the only one tiring. The hope-finder, the soft-speaker, the match-giverhe was being continually beaten down, and he was waning.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five more strikes.
Finally, after being thrown to the ground for the ninth time, Benjamin did not rise. He lay in the gutter in a puddle of dirty rainwater as bruises spread across his arms and face like ripples, as his breath caught through clenched teeth. He coughed up blood into the sullied water. "I'm sorry, Sara," he whispered.
The soldier cocked his gun and pointed it down at him, and time seemed to stop. I couldn't breathe and I couldn't see past my swelling eye and my tears. All I could do was look away and press my cheek into the damp cobblestones as I waited for the shot.
I'm sorry, too, Benjamin. I'm sorry, too.
There was a click. Another click. And another. But nothing more.
"Fuck. Gun's out of bullets. Günter, can I have yours?"
My assailant straightened a bit, his hand still pressed against my lips. "Left it in my bag at the bunker. Didn't think I'd need it for drinking-"
"You stupid swine!" A short silence followed, a sharp groan as he kicked the felled body of Benjamin, and then an exasperated sigh. "Well, you let those cuts heal up, you snot-nosed Jewish shit. It'll frame that baby-face nicely. All right, Günter, come. I'm too tired for any more of this."
"What? After all that trouble? I've just gotten started-"
"Not now. Look at your face, you look like shit. We've got to clean up before Schmidt sees us. We'll get flagged."
Günter slapped me, but stood up, and I almost wept of joy when the relentless pressure of his weight lifted off my arms. And just like that, they walked off into the fog and disappeared round the corner.
See? If that rookie purple-prose-er who didn't even know how to indent paragraphs can do it, so can you!