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Living life to write life

I have a tendency towards the hermetic, especially when I have something of a deadline, or a great idea I want to get down.

But sometimes, you really do have to wave your sofa-office goodbye, put some actual, real life clothes on that are not gravy stained or, as is currently the case, your pyjamas, and go and see what the world has to offer.

And what better place to explore real life than in a pub?

I’m serious.

All walks of life go there: rich, poor, downtrodden, jubilant and those who have just won a trophy in darts. The old man with the dribble stained cardigan shares the same space with an eighteen year old girl wearing her new Ugg boots out for the very first time.

Best of all, you’re reminded that stereotypes, however much we shy away from them, really do exist.

I live in rural Somerset. The pub in my village is currently closed (I know. I KNOW!) so I drove the six long miles to my friend’s village, where their pub is still, happily, open. And, it being Somerset, that pub had five different cider varieties to choose from. The first song that was played on the jukebox was Combine Harvester by the Wurzels.  And everyone knew everyone else, even me, which I still find disconcerting after seven and a half years of living here.

The rare night out was useful in many ways, but posed one of the greatest problems when writing real life. How do you make a scene, which would widely be viewed as stereotypical, realistic and believable, breaking through the stereotype to the drama that lurks beneath?

The answer, for me at least, is seeking the humanity at the base of the stereotype. The reason why the old man was drinking, alone, with dribble staining his cardigan collar. The story behind the song choice, why it was played at that moment, by whom and for what purpose?

So, what did I learn from throwing off the garbs of my reclusive writing life and stepping out into the world? That the world is a pretty great place. And that everyone, even the most stereotypical of characters, has their own story to tell.

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