Friday, 20 January 2012

The power of the boarding school myth

What is it about us Brits and the whole boarding school thing? Very few get to personally experience the rite of passage that is the paid-for, residential school - personally I went to a bog-standard council comprehensive.
But the boarding school thing is so much part of the culture that it fascinates my generation and, thanks to JK Rowling, seems to have its teeth into a new generation too. 
Somehow the boarding school thing is taking over Begsi, my spanko-novel in progress (working title Beryl Gets Stuck In). First I thought a flashback to Beryl's schooldays would be a good way to establish character, but now the school section has taken on a life of its own and threatens to take over.
Last night Beryl (Bee to her friends) had arrived at that classic 'waiting outside the head's study' moment:

Just next to the housemistress’ door stood an old pew from a redundant church. Bee sat on it back straight, knees clenched together and fingers picking nervously at the hem of her grey, pleated skirt.

“This is another fine mess you’ve got me into,” she hissed, trying to keep her voice at whisper level.
Cassie was pacing up and down, all nervous energy, but stopped when Bee spoke. “Doesn’t that make you the fat one and me the thin, dim one. Which one’s Laurel and which one’s Hardy?”

“Keep your bloody voice down, can’t you,” Bee said sharply.“And, you should be sitting down.”
“Who says?”
“It’s the rules, everybody knows,” said Bee. “She’ll expect you to be sitting. If you’re not, it’ll be worse for you – probably for both of us.”

I'm not sure I'm on the right track with this school stuff. I love the way writing fiction defies planning. You start off in one direction, but then imagination takes you off in another direction altogether.
But then if you wander off too far you end up writing scenes that, to use movie editor terminology, end up on the cutting room floor. I suppose I could give in to the flow and do a school story instead - why fight it?


  1. Sounds very promising!

    I've always wanted to write a novel. A spanking novel would be even better. Maybe someday?

  2. You should give it a try, it's really fun to do. I'm a journalist by profession and have to churn out thousands of words a year to pay the mortgage, so the idea of writing as a recreation seemed crazy. But once I got started...
    And, they do say write what you know. So stories set in Spankoland are the obvious choice!