Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.

My Oldest Story

When I was going through a box from my parents’ house, I found some of my old stories. These are the first stories I wrote with serious intent in middle school and high school. Among them was a faded purple folder (because that is apparently what happens to school folders after almost twenty years). In it were two stories that I remember, and a third story that I have no recollection of whatsoever.

It is this last story that I want to share with everyone. I don’t remember why I wrote it or what it was inspired by, but the organization of it impressed me. I have scanned the original outline, written on narrow-spaced notebook paper. If I can figure out how, I’ll share it, but for now I have digitally transcribed it verbatim below.

What I thought I would do this week is review my oldest story (that I have unearthed so far) and see if we can make some tweeks to bring it into the 21st century. Thoughts, comments, and giggles are welcome. ;)


It didn’t have a title, but I’m calling it MILITARY PRINCESS.

Middle Age setting, near winter (rain)
Country – Thelestra
Capitol – Lindransbherg
Port – Shajansport
Castle on top of hill with town ringing hill
(Geez, could a setting get any more generic? By this time I had read a fair amount of fantasy. I’d like to think it was enough to make me want to change things up, but I guess you have to emulate what you know first.)

Norvath – militaristic king of a small island country
Cahlien – independent princess wanting to see the world
Gerad – a curious carpenter’s apprentice with very odd luck
Ashrivenes – dishonored knight turned mercenary through necessity
Azidhaka – king’s bodyguard (dark elf)
Strian – king’s bodyguard (dark elf)
Zerin – shepherd friend of Gerad, simple, much knowledge about mountains
(These names are soooo bad, and the place names above are unwieldy too. Even typing them makes me want to cringe. And I think I was really into RA Salvatore at the time, so that explains the dark elf thing.)

  1. A festival is taking place in Lindransbherg
  2. Cahlien sneaks out of the castle and goes into the town (of course she does)
    1. While wandering, she is followed by a rattish-featured man
    2. She ducks into a carpenter’s workshop
    3. She orders a chair for the princess’s room
  3. She leaves and goes to the tavern for a drink (because girls want to go drink?)
    1. Tavern-knave tells Cahlien that the princess has run away
    2. Cahlien leaves, followed by rogues
  4. She loses the ruffians, runs into carpenter’s apprentice
    1. Flustered, she loses her dagger, and disappears (dagger seems to be important)
    2. Gerad tries to follow to return the dagger
  5. Cahlien changes out of soldier’s clothes and into a stolen dress (discovering our femininity?)
    1. She hides in a group dance in the center square
    2. She dances with Gerad and tries to retrieve the dagger (romantic interest, standard setup)
    3. The rogues begin to surround the plaza
    4. Cahlien and Gerad slip away
  6. A chase scene over the rooftops ensues (holy weathervanes Batman!!)
    1. A company of soldiers enter the town
    2. Cahlien and Gerad are forced to hide in the sewers.
  7. Before daybreak Cahlien retrieves her equipment, “borrows” some clothing, and unwillingly pays for two horses (I have no idea why the princess has a problem with spending money)
  8. Cahlien and Gerad head towards Shajansport over the mountains
    1. They are chased by a company of soldiers (theft was reported)
    2. Raid a metalworker’s shop and take a length of metal wire
    3. Gerad strings wire at head height across trade road
    4. Cahlien discovered while raiding soldiers’ camp for food
    5. Soldiers lead into death trap (Okay, this is pretty hardcore stuff for a princess story)
    6. Cahlien mourns lost friends (and then goes to see a psychiatrist)
  9. She begins to teach Gerad how to use a sword and bow
    1. Cahlien almost kills a doe (I assume she misses, not that she lets it slowly die)
  10. Gerad stumbles upon a wyvern’s den
    1. They kill it but Cahlien is wounded and falls unconscious (Ugh, swooning princess)
    2. Gerad takes her to his shepherd friend, Zerin (I have no idea why I made Zerin simple and it really bothers me)
    3. Zerin tends to her wounds and gives advice about weather and pass
  11. They leave and are chased by rogues
    1. Winter storm hits and they take shelter in the pass
    2. One of the horses freezes to death in the pass (Glad I didn’t make this easy on the heroine)
    3. Cahlien and Gerad follow river down north side of the mountain
  12. They travel to Shajansport
    1. They share a room together in an inn
    2. Gerad finds work with a carpenter
    3. Cahlien becomes a groom at a tavern’s stable
      1. Lifestyles and jobs keep them from seeing each other much (Wow, like real life)
      2. Cahlien works evenings and nighttime
      3. Gerad works during day (They sound like the most boring married couple)
  13. Cahlien meets Ashrivenes while she is working at tavern
    1. Mercenary and former soldier share similar interests (Yay, love triangle!!)
  14. Gerad misses seeing Cahlien and worries about her safety
    1. He makes her a quarterstaff (which is inconspicuous in town)
    2. Gerad takes his present to the stable and sees Cahlien and Ashrivenes talking
    3. He gives her the staff but gets jealous of the mercenary
  15. Gerad starts becoming known in town for his work (Making a name when on the run seems bad)
    1. Cahlien gets sick around mid-winter (deathly ill)
    2. Gerad makes enough money to pay for her
    3. Ashrivenes visits Cahlien rarely because of Gerad (This makes me think of a bad soap opera)
  16. The spring thaw comes, and the rodent-nosed man comes to the port (Why is he important?)
  17. Cahlien gets well and takes a ride into country with Gerad
    1. She is still weak and doesn’t return to work (These two points don’t exactly make sense)
  18. The mercenary finds a job guarding a merchant’s caravan heading for Lindransbherg
    1. Cahlien declines Ashrivenes’ offer to join him on the job
  19. Rumors start in Shajansport that the king is dying and wants his daughter to rule after he passes away
    1. Cahlien takes horse and returns to her father by trade road
    2. Ashrivenes sees her on the road but cannot catch her
  20. Rumors in Shajansport say that the princess has returned and that the king has gotten well (It’s a trap!!)
  21. King intends to marry the princess off (she becomes a lady, not a soldier)
    1. Cahlien talks to Strian about what she wants to do (Probably should set up this relationship at the beginning of the book)
  22. King summons Gerad the carpenter to do some work for him in the castle (Being famous pays off)
    1. Gerad gets Ashrivenes to accompany him, and they go to the castle
    2. Gerad sees Cahlien the princess while in the castle’s court
    3. He sneaks into her rooms and speaks to her (no longer a carpenter boy) (Not sure what that means)
    4. Cahlien wants to escape and ask him to return in a week to plan (Why plan and not just escape?)
  23. Her father arranges her marriage to an old, powerful baron
  24. Gerad returns a few days early and is caught in her bedchamber  (Woo hoo… I probably didn’t mean it that way)
    1. Ashrivenes breaks Gerad out of the dungeon (Which is easier than getting a princess out of bed?)
    2. They sneak up to the princess’s chambers and discover it empty
    3. While they are in there, guards return Cahlien to her rooms
    4. They kill the two guards and escape down the hall  (Action scene)
  25. Guards are stationed at the bottom of the stairs, and they are forced to the top of the outer wall (night sky with stars)
    1. Finally the three are confronted by the king himself and his two dark elf bodyguards (Final action scene)
    2. Azidhaka kills Ashrivenes and is killed by Gerad
    3. Strian and Cahlien fight; he is wounded by the king for not killing her by the king’s command
  26. Cahlien accuses her father of wanting her to be a son more than to be herself. She gives him the dagger because that was the only thing he gave her. Cahlien denounces him as her father. (Is abandoning the kingdom a good idea?)
    1. Gerad picks up the wounded Strian and the three people leave the castle (both Gerad and Cahlien exiles from homeland)
    2. Strian dies as spring ends and summer begins (at the dawn of the coming day) (Wow, that is just a depressing end to the story)

So there it is, the first story I outlined, as far as I know.  The stuff in the other port isn’t terribly exciting, but at least I didn’t make the princess a Mary Sue, I think.  Well, she does seem good at stuff, and three different guys like her, so I guess I’m not sure about that.  Let’s say that I did put enough obstacles in front of her that she didn’t sail through the book with ease.

What I want to do tomorrow is fix the names and dress up the story so it makes better sense and is more interesting.  I owe my middle school self that much at least.

What did you think of the story?  What do you think needs to be fixed or changed?  All suggestions are welcome.  :D

10 comments on “My Oldest Story

  1. ericjbaker
    June 24, 2014

    As I recall (I don’t have any of it anymore) my stories from my high-school days involved zombies and demons. Or demons and zombies. Where you had dancing and love triangles, I would have had setpiece sequences of graphic violence. I recall one about zombies breaking out of a hospital morgue and eating the staff as the two heroes try to escape but can’t find their way out for some reason. This hospital did not have arrow signs pointing to the lobby I guess. I had another one about an abandoned mansion in the forest (not sure why someone built a mansion in the middle of the forest with no road leading to or from) being found by two kids who accidentally free a demon trapped in the basement. Much demonic possession and slime ensued.

    I wasn’t big on character development back then.

    • tracycembor
      June 25, 2014

      I think your stories sound great. I enjoy stories closer to the source material instead of zombies going on dates and vampires that sparkle. Not sure what the new, worst twist on demons is. There is a remarkable lack of slime in fiction these days. I think you should stage a comeback.

      I don’t think I accomplished much in the way of character development here. It is a Journey and Return story (like Odysseus), although I didn’t know what I was doing at the time. But the story only works if the character learns something on the journey about herself and/or her home that helps her change things when she returns.

      All Cahlien accomplishes in this version of the story is leave, get people killed, leave again, and more people get killed. I need to make sure these deaths are not in vain.

      • ericjbaker
        June 25, 2014

        Every writing experience is part of learning and development, even the silly stuff I chucked in the recycling bin years ago. Those stories got me closer to where I am today (for whatever that’s worth).

  2. Arlene
    June 24, 2014

    Wow, it’s impressive that you had the whole story outlined. I usually wrote (some lame) beginning, maybe wrote a few character names in the margins with their relationship to the main character (i.e.: sister, brother, enemy) and then after a few chapters I’d give up on the story and start another one. Always starting and hardly ever finishing my stories. That’s been a hard habit to break, though I’ve gotten MUCH better at it. At least you had a full story from start to finish. I can’t wait to see what you do with it. This is a fun exercise! Thanks for letting us in on it. :)

    • tracycembor
      June 25, 2014

      I have enjoyed making lists from a very young age. (You should see the lists of horse names I came up with in elementary school. Hehe!!) Outlines seem to be a natural extension of this.

      Finishing stories is still a challenge for me. Outlining them has made it easier, but I feel your pain about getting to the finish line.

      Glad you are enjoying this project. I hope to have the next post up later today. :D

  3. hannahgivens
    June 29, 2014

    Wow, that’s very complicated and very organized! I think my first step would be to figure out some motivations… I’m not exactly clear on why the princess is an escapist klepto. :)

    • tracycembor
      July 2, 2014

      Yeah, I started working on some motivations for the characters. I helped me figure out where the story needed to go. (But then I started getting sucked into revamping this story so much that I needed to summarize and let go, otherwise I was going to be working on this story and not meeting my deadline for DREAMLESS CITY).

      And I’m not really sure why she is an escapist klepto. :D A lot of my characters seem to be into petty theft and vandalism.

      • hannahgivens
        July 2, 2014

        That would be a good title for an anthology. :D

  4. Pingback: My Oldest Story Redux | tracycembor

  5. Hannah
    July 2, 2014

    I read out of order (oops!) so I read the changes first–which are even better now! This is still so much better planned and understandable than my early stories…but it makes me feel so much better that you’re going back and reviving. I’m waiting until I can rewrite without cringing and wanting to throw things!

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on June 24, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .

Posting Schedule for 2014-15

Monday through Friday I will be posting about writing as business and craft, the science of creativity, all things steampunk, and progress on The Dreamless City.

Weekends are reserved for my Music Playlist.

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About the Author

Tracy Cembor attempts to juggle a preschooler and a baby, a full-time job, random geekery, and the writing life. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a steampunk urban fantasy novel. Come join the adventure.
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