A Head Full of Budgerigars

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

As a child, I would read a book and become consumed by the story. I read as I walked to school and have been known to bump into lamp posts and post boxes and apologise to them. I would take on the tragedy or the joy of the characters. One week, I would slay witches and devils with a silver dagger in my hand and the next, I would be a famous ballerina pirouetting along the pavement. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was never a secretary or a teacher. I wanted to be an explorer or a private detective, an artist (obviously starving in a garret in Montmartre) or a spy. With a book in my hand, I could be anyone or go anywhere I pleased. Like the children in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I could enter a fabulous new world by climbing into a fusty old wardrobe.

Lily went down the stairs to her parent’s bedroom. The curtains printed with bright copper leaves fluttered in the open window. She ran her hands down the fabric of her mother’s clothing that hung in the walnut wardrobe. She could smell ‘Midnight in Paris’, the scent that Mother wore. She climbed into her secret hiding place among the floral dresses – a perfumed midnight garden.

So do we still read books as we did as children? Can we still open our minds and let
the words rush in? More importantly, how do we write a book? Is it
alchemy? Can we turn words into heart grabbing stories? Base metals into gold?
How much is art and how much is science? Does the rhythm of the words come
from some secret place within? Should we unchain our thoughts and set the words
free upon the page or tie our minds in knots with grammar and precision, word
counts, deadlines and writers block? Undoubtedly, good writing is a marriage of art
and science but like a good marriage it requires warmth and subtlety, shades of
darkness and light, humour and imagination, seduction and spice.
Sometimes it helps to take inspiration from other writers. I have been looking at
the opening lines of novels
. Among my favourites are Joanne Harris:
IT IS A RELATIVELY LITTLE-KNOWN FACT THAT, OVER THE COURSE OF a single
year, about twenty million letters are delivered to the dead (The Lollipop Shoes)
and irresistibly, Peter Mayle: The year began with lunch (A Year in Provence).
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