Writing from personal experience #1


Date: 18th September 2014

I love drawing – loosely – on personal experience when writing my books. I can’t help it.

What informs a writer’s life is likely to inform a writer’s work, to some degree. Let’s face it, our experiences are what make us unique as an individual and, equally, as a writer.

Sometimes, experiences can act as a trigger for a scene. Sometimes, writing about an experience can becathartic. Sometimes, it can just be about sharing an amusing memory by weaving it into your story. And, sometimes, the real experience has to be edited and toned down because it’s too extraordinary or coincidental to be acceptable in fiction. Go figure!

I can certainly own up to tapping into all four of the above.

Let’s take the using experience as a trigger for writing. One key feature of my life, living in a village, has been our summer fete. Amusingly, these parochial affairs can be riddled with political tension.

Some years ago, I was a member of the village fete committee. We, the committee, which included both churchwardens, decided to include a fortune-teller amongst the side-shows. My friend, Annie, who is an astrologer and reads Tarot, was to be our resident seer.

The Rector viewed the minutes of each meeting and didn’t object. However, once the publicity hit the parish mag…well…somebody objected most strongly, with letters and phone calls to the Rectory.

Despite our arguments that the fete also included gambling and countless bottles of alcohol, (not to mention four divorcees on the committee and three members living in sin – gasp!) the complainant wouldn’t budge. So the Rector over-ruled us and there was a gap on the turf where Annie’s tent should have stood.

That wasn’t the end of it. Members of the committee started getting all twitchy that the Rector’s stance suggested a vote of no confidence in his committee – they wanted him to attend our next meeting and explain himself….blah, blah, blah.

Me, I couldn’t get that upset but I did feel sorry for my friend, who was looking forward to the occasion and had already made her costume.

Instead, I placed an apology in the programme which read:  “Due to unforeseen circumstances Ho! Ho! we have been forced to withdraw the fortune-telling stall.”

None of the above appears in my book, Millie’s Game Plan, but my heroine does find herself roped in to helping at a village fete. And yes, I did draw some inspiration from my experiences for that scene.

Here’s an extract:

‘My mother wants to know if you’d like to help her with the teas at the village fete on Saturday,’ Lex asked.

‘What about Classics at Clavering?’

‘Oh, the fete’s all over by five and the concert doesn’t kick off till seven.’

‘Well…’

‘Say “no” if you don’t want to. She usually press-gangs at least half a dozen women into volunteering.’

‘Where do they hold it?’

‘In our bloody garden. Same every year. You know, the usual country fete stuff: hoop-la, guess the weight of the organist, fondle a boy-scout…that kind of thing.’

I laughed. It sounded like it might be fun. ‘Will you be there?’

‘Christ, no. I’ve endured enough fetes to last a lifetime. No, I’ve got a bit of business to deal with. Some chap’s coming over from France. I’ll meet you at Clavering. Old Reverend Warwick’s going, he can give you a lift over.’

‘What? I mean…he doesn’t have to. I can easily drive.’

‘And stay off the champagne all night?’ His voice dropped to a deeper, sexier level. ‘Where’s the fun in that?’

‘You make a very good point. Okay, I’ll travel over with…the vicar. If you think he won’t mind.’

‘Course he won’t. Benevolence is in the job description, isn’t it?’

‘Okay. I’ll call Vonnie, tomorrow, and she can let me know what I’m in for.’

He made a humming noise. ‘If I call you tomorrow, will you do the same for me?’

I grinned. ‘See you on Saturday.’

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