This month’s post is a fairy story I wrote some years ago (all rights reserved, folks!).
I hope it will amuse everyone and appeal to writers especially. See if you can identify the different writing gurus, they are all connected with freewriting. If you spot any resemblance to TV personalities or shows of the past, these are entirely co-incidental.
The Makeover by Kathy Hopewell
Once upon a time, a woman called Charlotte sent in her video tape. On the film were pictures of her dressed as normal. She wore Peter Pan collars, ugly brown glasses, and the most hideous beige skirt with a fallen hem, but secretly she had always wanted to be a novelist.
— Help me! she wailed, like a desolate child.
In the studio, the style guru is on the sofa watching Charlotte’s video. She beams with anticipation as it comes to an end and swivels round to face the camera.
— Well, we thought we could help, she says, and we picked Charlotte out of two hundred hopefuls to come in and give herself up to us, body and soul. We started by showing her exactly what she’s been doing wrong all these years.
Cut to Charlotte herself, looking sheepish in her baggy grey underwear. She steps into the magic room of mirrors to confront her misshapen and bulky outline.
She is prodded and spun on her heel.
— It’s such a waste! The style guru shakes her head. You’re simply not making the most of yourself. And she puts an arm around her pale, wobbly waist.
This unexpected kindness brings out Charlotte’s tears.
Then it’s time to show her some new looks on shop dummies.
The first model is an American poet living in an adobe house in New Mexico. The style guru explains that the way the skirt flows over the body, skimming the hips and giving the impression of slenderness, is achieved by completely letting go of the internal censor and writing whatever comes into your head without stopping for ten minutes.
— But do you really think I could get away with this? asks Charlotte.
— Yes! Yes! she shrieks, Just try it! Try it and see!
The second model has confessed in the past to hiding under a baggy alcohol addiction but now gets up every morning to three clean sheets, which she covers with her hopes and fears. After that, she knows exactly what to put on for the day. You can see the clarity and sense of direction in the strong lines of her suit.
— But I don’t have a lot of time in the morning, says Charlotte.
— Oh for goodness sake, do stop being so negative! scolds the style guru.
Charlotte looks doubtful.
— You always wanted to be a writer, didn’t you? Ever since you were a child?
— Yes, says Charlotte, Yes, I did.
— So what stopped you?
— Well, the truth is I didn’t think I could ever show my legs.
— That’s so common! We hear it all the time! But Charlotte, what’s the worst that can happen? Are you afraid that someone will think you are too old, or too slutty? Well you’re not and you’ll just have to trust us on this. Do you trust us?
— OK, she says.
— Well done, Charlotte! You won’t regret it. Now, off to the shops!
The next day Charlotte clutches her pen, hoping she can afford what she wants. The choice is amazing! There are brightly-coloured chick-lit books, elegant and exclusive poetry collections and row upon row of horror novels. She desperately tries to remember what she’s looking for, but her mind goes blank. She is saved by the shrill descant of the style guru approaching.
— No, Charlotte, not the black! Didn’t we say ‘no black’? You have to give up this ‘do or die’ attitude, it’s too dark for you. Look, before you try for a whole outfit, you need to get the underlying approach right. Did you know that two out of three women are wearing the wrong underlying attitude? And it shows in the way that they hold themselves. Once you get that right, everything will look better on you.
They go to an exclusive boutique. The walls are lined with shelves of frothy lace and shiny satin, and when Charlotte pulls one out, it is the most intricate and beautifully-designed quotation she has ever read. By chance, she has picked up her exact cup size. She reads: I shall not Reason and Compare: my business is to Create.
— Charlotte! It’s just right for you, and William Blake is the best. It’s always worth risking that extra bit more.
— Try it on!
So she does, and it fits perfectly.
— You can come here whenever you want, there’s lots more pieces you’ll like. You must try a Chekov some day.
— But what about the owner? Charlotte feels a bit strange just helping herself.
— A genius! So sad to lose her. She had the best eye in the business, and she even developed her own lines.
The style guru pulls out a drawer labelled Idleness and inside is something that will cure the drooping that you get when you feel guilty about doing nothing. It is cleverly designed so that the rounded shape of the imagination is restored, and the lace is very forgiving.
— And look, she goes on, here’s one of her really racy black numbers. She holds up the quotation in front of Charlotte’s entranced face: Be careless, reckless! Be a lion! Be a pirate! Write any old way.
— Oh, I want that one too! cries Charlotte.
After this, finding the right things is easy. Charlotte moves instinctively towards the muted greens of Virginia Woolf and prefers double-layered constructions, always in the well-tailored limited omniscient: she’s too heavy around the hips for the first person, apparently.
Finally the day arrives when Charlotte must reveal her new self. She is sent to the hairdresser for the finishing touches. John is quite severe and he won’t allow her to wear her long style any more. He proposes to cut, dramatically.
— Well, all right, I’ve come this far, says Charlotte, looking for the last time at her haphazard, plentiful curls and embellishments.
He smoothes and snips and divides her scruffy tangles. He brushes a last ink-black lock into the sleek shape of a comma. Now, the strong lines of her cheekbones come out and it’s as if her real personality has emerged for the first time.
At last Charlotte stands in front of the covered mirror. She feels a sort of fizz in her fingers.
— Ready? asks the woman, fidgeting with anticipation.
Charlotte shuts her eyes and thinks the word ‘eagle’, then nods. Off comes the cloth. Her knuckles prickle, and feathers start to appear, wetly snapping out from her hands and elbows. Her back feels tight and uncomfortable; something is trying to grow, very quickly, from her shoulder-blades. At last she begins to beat her large, new wings. The style guru is speechless, which has never happened before. With a deafening sound like falling rubble, Charlotte flies to the open window and away into the sky.
A few weeks later the style guru is on the sofa once again, armed with the remote control.
— So let’s see how Charlotte got on, after her transformation. Has she kept to our rules or is she wearing those awful slippers again?
She shoots her remote at the screen like a gunslinger and Charlotte appears, resplendent in gorgeous caramel and vanilla plumage.
— Wonderful! See how she’s mixing and matching and creating her own look! Then the woman leans in close to the screen. Hold on a minute, what’s that? I think it’s an egg! Well, she’s done magnificently to lay that all by herself.
The egg is small but robust. Charlotte has had to sit on it, to keep it warm, pretty much all of the time, even when she’d rather have been watching television. Suddenly, a crack appears and a corner pokes out.
— My goodness! It’s a paperback! exclaims the woman.
It takes quite a while to ease it out of the rigid shell, but soon the pages are dry and Charlotte beams with maternal joy. She cradles the young book.
— I just can’t believe it! she says, See how bright and glossy it is! And it’s all mine!
Great fun – and very clever!