DIAMOND BAR - Natalie Rodriguez's school assignment in fifth grade was to write a creative short story.
Today, about six years later, Natalie's long-ago story is now copyrighted by the Library of Congress and the Writers' Guild of America.
The Diamond Bar High School senior, who splits time between her divorced parents' homes in Whittier and Diamond Bar, recently completed the third draft of "The Strange Wind of Skull Hollow."
"I just kept going back to it," she said of the story about four best friends - two girls and two boys - who experience life changes the summer before high school.
"It's a dramatic story with romance, action and a bit of sci-fi," said Natalie, 17.
The kids in the novel are middle school students "joined at the hip."
When one of them discovers a family secret, their lives change.
Rodriguez won't divulge the secret.
The characters are loosely based on Natalie, her friends and her older brother, Andrew, 20.
"I'm very proud of my sister and honored she based one of the characters on me," Andrew said.
It's not just one of the characters. It's the protagonist.
"I was surprised," he said of his importance in the book.
Andrew, who is a student at ITT Technical Institute, hasn't read the latest version.
Natalie finished it this past summer, spending about three hours a day on her story.
It wasn't a hardship not spending time at the beach or with friends.
"It started as a hobby, but it's what I want to do for a living," she said.
Her parents are proud of what she's accomplished.
"We both have high expectations for both our children," said George Rodriguez of himself and his ex-wife, Christine.
"Natalie said at age 4 she wanted to be an actress or a director," he said.
"We encouraged both our kids to do what they wanted to do," said Rodriguez, a mechanic.
When Natalie told her dad she was writing a book, he responded by saying, "Oh, OK."
"We never say, `I can't' in this family," he said.
Natalie, who is looking for a publisher and working to make the story into a screenplay, said she hopes her tale will show kids they can accomplish anything.
"I want them to be inspired to go for their dreams," she said.