On Fairy Tales, Films and Fiction
What I didn’t realise, in these few mad weeks of HAVING A BOOK OUT IN THE WORLD THAT KEEPS BEING TAGGED IN PICTURES ON INSTAGRAM is the weird anti-climax of it all. Don’t be mistaken, I’m still walking on sunshine like Katrina and The Waves, but also, being you know, a human-being and all, my heart and gut and head said: BUT WHAT NEXT THOUGH? You know me. I’m unable to “take five”. I’ve got better at taking breaks and zoning out because SHUT UP TWITTER but I equally don’t want to get off my creative treadmill. I like to keep things turning. Plates spinning. Limbs moving. I like switching off to refresh myself but I don’t like the feeling of not being alert to new ideas. I believe, as Liz Gilbert says that “ideas come knocking” and I want to be ready to Catch Them All *cue Pokemon theme tune*. I have work and other projects going on that I enjoy but this book was the ultimate passion project. And I want another one.
Then the brain tricks you, like an evil witch: “HA! As if you’ll have any more ideas! You’re a bit greedy aren’t you? You’re not going to have any more good ideas again! That was your ONE! So just go and calm down a bit and don’t even THINK ABOUT trying to write another one for a long time.”
Piss off, brain.
It’s true: you think, OK, thanks! Sorry! You’re right! I am empty! No more ideas for me!
But this is the thing. I’ve got the bug! Of course I’ve got the bug, I LOVE WRITING! It’s like when you go to a far away country for the first time and it’s so exhilarating and you tell everyone you’ve got The Travel Bug and you wear shell necklaces and an ANKLET and wear a sarong like it’s totally normal a la David Beckham and can’t think of anything but travelling…that’s what I’m like with writing. It’s all I can think about, dream about and spending my time doing. Even if sometimes I look stupid.
So when I was invited to a fiction workshop hosted at Faber Academy, ran by Naomi Wood (author of Mrs Hemingway) with Universal Pictures and I said YES OF COURSE but also I’M SCARED WHAT DO I KNOW ABOUT FICTION.
Because fiction sometimes has an element of snobbery around it. Maybe something happened at school. Maybe an old English teacher said “fiction isn’t for everybody”. Maybe I was forced to read Tristram Fucking Shandy and while everyone tucked in, I was bored off my face. But I don’t believe in snobbery in the arts or in creativity or in storytelling. I believe it’s for everyone.
So I think that’s why I was nervous, because sometimes I forget that. Sometimes my default is thinking that things aren’t for me, they’re for other people, who write with quills and wear posh clothes and read massive books and know more flowery words than me. But that’s me being judgemental or scared.
After all, judgement is fear, disguised.
But this couldn’t have been more exclusive, welcoming, warm. We sat around with our notepads and learned about the structure of a fairy tale, the role of “power” in stories, obstacles, desires, regression, resolution, character, evil, good and overcoming monsters. How “a story” is formed. It was the first time I actually thought: this is for me, too.
We discussed why settings and location are important. How we should “show not tell”, how you can use tools and techniques to move the story forwards without simply spelling it out. The role of magic and enchantment and repeating motifs and clues and tests and signs.
We re-read old Brothers Grimm passages, dissecting how these age-old fables carry universal messages and how fairytales that are centuries old are preeeeetty problematic to a modern feminist society (LOL, DISNEY, FFS!!!!!)
Snow White and her white beauty. Rapunsel and her golden hair. The hair that is probably responsible for the entire Hair Extensions Industry. The fact that most “handsome heroes” are pretty creepy because if someone asked to marry you within 5 seconds of meeting you’d be like ummmm NO WHERE’S MY UBER.
We watched scenes from The Huntsman: Winter’s War (out on DVD on 15th) to understand how such fairytale narratives can be played out in film, and basically the whole session inspired me SO much to write my own made-up story. Something I’ve never really had an urge to do. I’ve always been a “real story, real people” type of girl. I’m the girl with my bookshelves crumbling under the weight of all the memoirs I own and re-read.
I left the little meeting room on the top floor of a central London building floating home, head full of ideas, notepad packed with prompts, and one magical idea in particular that I’m planning on taking forward.
How I Grew Up Online
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