Fine Arts Student of the Week: BHS senior who likes to write unhappy endings honored for his work

Advisers in the fine arts programs at Brainerd High School name a Fine Arts Student of the Week every week. This week it is for a senior for his creative writing. skills.

Douglas Mikkelson
Brainerd High School senior Douglas Mikkelson takes a moment for a photograph after talking about his creative writing class. Mikkelson was named this week's Fine Arts Student of the Week. Jennifer Kraus // Brainerd Dispatch

Douglas Mikkelson

Grade: Senior.

Age: 18.

Art focus: Brainerd High School creative writing.

Adviser nomination: “Douglas is an exceptional writer. His word choice and sentence selection in conjunction with imagery and figurative language bring both his fiction and nonfiction works to life.”


Artist most admired: Stephen King.

What do you enjoy about writing? What I enjoy about writing is being able to make up a story and write it how I want it to be told. I also like to write poetry more than I like to write short stories or nonfiction, even though it’s mainly what we did in the class. I feel like in poetry you can express emotion and feelings, more than you can through short stories or nonfiction. I feel ... you are sharing more intellectual stuff.

What do you like to write about? I like to write about situations that I make up in my head. I like to add my own twist on things that I see when I go places. Like a story in a movie or in a book I read that is kind of what I base it on. Like when I read a story about two characters in a book by like by Stephen King or something, then I'll kind of have a similar beginning, but what I put in the middle and the end is way different.

When I write stories, I like to have the story go how I think it would actually go in real life, as opposed to all the stories that we read where it's happy stuff throughout and then happy stuff in the end. That's not usually how I write my stories. A lot of my stories don't have happy endings. That’s what I like to do, as opposed to pretty much everything else that I hear and read. I like to have more realistic endings. So I guess for as far as creativity goes, I like to take ideas from other places and then put my own spin on them and have them end in a more realistic fashion.

So no happy endings? I don't think I wrote one happy ending in the class. Mrs. Sanford (creative writing teacher) said she was jokingly concerned, but I have nothing against happy endings. I just told her I like to end my stories in a more realistic fashion. ... I like to reflect life in how I write, because in life it's not always happy endings.

We had to do a story on suspense and I ... wrote eight different endings for the one story, because the first eight didn’t feel right. I started off with happy endings and then I moved to the not happy endings, and I just kept flashing back and forth between the two. And I went with a really complicated ending that wasn't happy at all. I had three people read the story, and all of them were really saddened by the ending, but they love the story. They liked a character that they rooted for and the character was taken away.

Proudest story? I wrote a story about a character named Dewey. The story was based roughly on real life experiences. He went to high school and he was bullied. He was in high school and there was this girl that he really liked since elementary and middle school. She was always nice to him, but she was a very popular student, and he was not. He wrote down a note for her and he had it in his pocket and he was going to give it to her that day, but the bullies ... took the note and they read the note out loud to the student body that was there by the lockers at the time. So the main character runs home and he's like crying. And he's contemplating killing himself. And at the same time, he's having these really fond memories of his best friend and this girl he likes. The memory with his best friend was they were walking in the woods and they came to a part where they had to choose to go left down a path or right down a path. They were trying to get to the beach, and if they had gone left it would have taken them to the beach. But they went right and ended up getting lost in the woods. His best friend actually ends up getting mauled by a bear and Dewey blames himself for that because he chose for them to go right. So he has a lot of guilt over that and feels like he's nothing and nobody likes him, so he is contemplating suicide. And just as he's about to kill himself the girl calls because the girl was in the crowd when the bullies read the note. She tells him that she likes him too. And he's super excited and they set up a date for after school. He lives close to the school and he had to run home and when he's walking back to the school, the girl was going to get a cup of coffee at the gas station down the road, and he's texting her and she's texting him while she's driving. He's crossing the street to go to the school, and he texts her how excited he is to be with her. And when she looks down to text him back she actually hits him as she is going through a red light. And that's how the story ends.

Strongest writing skills? To make the reader feel for the character in every story I write. Mrs. Sanford commented that she felt attached to my characters and felt like she was actually feeling the story with them ... The first story I wrote was a personal experience story. It was nonfiction about ourselves and my story was a very sad story and it was from my point of view. Mrs. Sanford said the story made her feel so much like she was in my shoes that she almost cried. ... I make it so real that the people reading it feel like it is real.


How do you bring your pieces to life? I use words that are easy to understand so anyone who reads it can feel it. You don’t need to be smart to read it. I don’t try to make intellectual stories, by any means. I just want to make stories for people to enjoy.

After high school plans: I don’t know. The lowest grade I ever got was a B plus so I've had a 4.0 and the counselor and my peers want me to go to college. I thought about a lawyer, but I don’t know the process to be there and I thought about wanting to be a mailman. That has OK pay and it’s a federal job, but I’m not sure.

Favorite movie: “Deadpool.”

Favorite TV show: “Shark Tank.”

Favorite book: “Misery.”

Favorite song: “Strawberry Fields Forever” by The Beatles.

Favorite band: The Beatles.

Favorite restaurant: China Buffet.


Favorite subject: Mathematics.

Perfect meal: Sirloin steak with mashed potatoes and veggies. That is what my dad used to get when we went out, until he lost his teeth. I’m not a fan of steak but it reminds me of him.

Biggest pet peeve: The lack of empathy with people now. And it’s just not with people in my grade, it’s everywhere. People just don’t put themselves in other people’s shoes. I didn't do that until ninth grade, now I always try to put myself in other people’s shoes.

Hobbies: Reading, writing short stories, writing poetry, drawing, listening to music, reading the news and watching football.

Favorite football player: Dak Prescott, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback. My father loves the Cowboys and he is not from Texas, but he has always loved them.

Parents: Steve and Lynn Mikkelson of Brainerd.

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