Sunday, 30 November 2008

Writing triggers

One of the marks of a great author is the ability to use a sparse few words that trigger off a whole gamut of feeling and memory. However good, though, these generic triggers are but a pale imitation of the personal memory triggers. I had a good example of one of these today. On the radio, someone mentioned Strawberry Studios, and all of a sudden I was 14 again.

When I was at school I was a stalwart of our very accomplished school choir. We sang a number of times with the Halle Orchestra, both at the sadly demised Free Trade Hall and at the Festival Hall in London. But the outstanding memory, imprinted on my brain, was singing in Strawberry Studios, Stockport - 10cc's own studio!

We'd been hired to sing on a record being put out to celebrate some anniversary of Stockport Social Services. No, really. It was, arguably, the most inane song known to man. I still have etched on my brain from nearly 40 years ago the opening lines: 'The Council for Social Service is/a big umbrella shield./It helps groups grow/and lets them go/into far reaching fields.'

Umbrella shield? Hold the sick bucket, please. Even back then I knew this was garbage. And yet. And yet we were performing in the very studio 10cc used. We had headphones and everything, just like a real recording, to hear the instrumental part of the track. For those long minutes, our bunch of schoolboys were stars.

So that's all you need to do to be a great writer. Use a handful of words to conjure up that sort of response. Go on, what are you waiting for?

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