Telling tales


A lot of the action in Tamara Drewe centres around a writer’s retreat, I imagine somewhere in Dorset, where frustrated authors, as yet unpublished, are allowed to struggle away with their individual artistic angst, under the watchful eye of Beth, who bakes, and her famous novelist husband, Nicholas.

It’s a very wry look at middle class longings.

To stretch myself a little, I signed up to do an afternoon’s taster in creative writing at Balham Bowls Club. We weren’t even half an hour in before I began to chuckle on the inside – I’d signed up to exactly the kind of thing I’d laughed at the characters in Tamara Drewe for doing. ‘I ALWAYS write with a fountain pen,’ said one fellow. ‘It’s just so much lovelier to write with.’ Only he’d forgotten to bring spare cartridges and spent the rest of the afternoon searching for, and breaking, biro after biro.

I hadn’t realised, but we were supposed to come along with a story idea that we were working on or playing with in our minds. At the start we had to discuss these in pairs and then write down the problems we had with the story that we needed to be resolved.

‘I’m writing a story about a suicide bomber,’ said one woman, ‘after he’s blown himself up. But I can’t work out whether he changes his mind about what he’s done or not in the end.’

‘I’d like to write a story about a sex trafficked woman,’ said another. ‘But does she remain a victim? Is it grim, grim, grim but true to life, or does she escape and become a work of complete fiction? Or does she turn and side with her captors?’

Needless to say, I had not come with an idea, but I couldn’t bear the thought of making up something that would sound overly worthy so I said the first thing that came to mind.

‘Um… My story is a classic boy meets girl story. Set on a London bus…’

Everyone looked at me politely as I tried to make the randomness of my ordinary life into fiction without it sounding cheesy. Or worse still – dull.

But wouldn’t it be nice if you got to make the stories of your life work out the way they might in a film? What if you could write your own happy endings and have them happen? How would you make your story work out so that you got to live happily ever after?

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