Yet Another Reason Why Young Writers Grow Up Paranoid

A South Carolina high-schooler got hauled in by the police for questioning because “when [he] was given an assignment by his teacher to create a Facebook-type status report telling something interesting about himself, he allegedly wrote ‘I killed my neighbor’s pet dinosaur. I bought the gun to take care of the business.'”

Which would, in point of fact, make a great short story opening – it’s got the story problem right there up front, plus a good dose of implicit worldbuilding, and it’s also got a distinctive narrative voice. And it’s clearly fiction; I don’t think that the police and school officials in South Carolina believe – well, I certainly hope that they don’t believe – that the kid’s neighbor, or anybody else in town for that matter, actually owns a pet dinosaur.

(I dunno. Maybe they think that “dinosaur” is some kind of special troubled-teen code word for “golden retriever” or something.)

Always, when I read one of these stories, I think back on the stuff I was writing, back in my larval-writer high-school days, and I thank God that a) the times were different then, and while they were more uptight in a lot of ways, they were also more relaxed in ways we’re only now beginning to appreciate, and b) I was a “good girl”, which is to say I was an A student with no social life, and therefore got cut a lot more slack for minor eccentricities and crosswise encounters with the system, and c) I already knew better than to put anything into the hands of the educational authorities that wasn’t bland and non-threatening and well-behaved.

These days, I’m not sure even being a “good girl” would save me.

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