How I wrote my writing group piece: wood

Our writing group had the topic of ‘Wood’ which opened it to many different ideas; someone wrote about a man with a woodyard, the different types of timber and its end-products, the different trees which had  provided it, and the dangers of fire, someone else set their story in a lovely old cottage in a wood where an elderly lady lived alone, vulnerable to ne’er-do-wells but saved by an avian protector, someone wrote about a man visiting a DIY store to buy a length of wood to make a shelf a comic tale about is adventures there, our poet wrote the story of a Mendip lead miner walking home – a wood was the passage – the transition-way from his filthy and dangerous subterranean work to the light and joy of his loving family, and someone wrote about a weary traveller pulling off the road to seek calm and peace walking in an ancient wood, forest-bathing among the nighttime trees.

I had an idea about a mystical magical wood, where someone entering experienced something which changed them so they left the trees a different person from the one who had innocently entered.  I couldn’t work out whether it would be time-travel, a magical transformation, or quite what exactly would happen to the character. Eventually I did hit on a slightly different idea and wrote my story. Here’s a link to my story, if you want to read it first and then come back here to find out why I wrote it as I did!

In my story a little girl goes happily into the wood – I don’t mention her age but hope I convey it by her skipping into the wood with a daisy chain round her neck and holding a bunch of buttercups. She listens to the birds and goes looking for bunnies and baby deer – I deliberately called them bunnies, and had baby deer not grown creatures, and she has her eye open for fairies.  She sits down on on  a mossy log and takes a notebook out of her pocket and begins to write; I hope I begin to suggest she may be older, she is doing homework and wants to include metaphors and similes and other grammatical terms. I tried to suggest she was no longer the little girl by what she wrote: I sat on the lichen covered log, and listened acutely to the sounds of the lush woodland all around me. Was that a turtle dove which cooed… and when she put her things away, it was no longer a notebook and pencil into her pocket, but a journal and biro into her bag. She now saunters, not skips among the trees.

She begins to take photos for an art and design project, moving on from what the younger girl was writing for homework. She comes across the secret pool which she obviously (I hope) has been looking for.  She has a backpack and she decides to swim, and as she floats she thinks about her hair getting wet and I mention that she has a perm; surely no-one these days has perms, so I hope this dates not only when the story at this point is set, but the age of the character who is now a woman, not a child. As she leaves the pool, she has a twinge and spasm in her back, something an older woman would experience. She walks back out of the wood and she has a stick and takes care where she steps, watching her feet as an older less able person might. She reaches the way out of the wood and turns carefully to look back; she now has two sticks and needs them to keep her balance. She takes out her iPhone, bringing the story right up to the present, and with arthritic fingers takes a picture – previously she took photos which I hope suggests a camera. Without using the analogy of a life being like the seasons, the springtime of a child, the summer of a woman, and the autumn of an old lady, I have tried to suggest it by the lushness of the early part of the story, the lazy summer warmth when she bathes in the pool, and the multicoloured autumn leaves beneath her feet.

I’m not sure if my fellow writers picked up on all of it – one person certainly did, another mentioned the transition of time, but one thought it was a magic pool which changed her from a child to an old lady. It was difficult to write because I wanted it to be subtle, but I wanted it to be understood – maybe I was just a little too subtle! I’m not going to change it, as the current popular saying has it, ‘there you go!’


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