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ACHILLES’ HEELI wrote what was needed – but I found the added element of self- exposure testing.This is because it involved writing about what was happening to me in 1997, including problems in my marriage; which meant writing about my ex-husband. This relates to the ethical issues in memoir and biography. I gave him the story to read, out of courtesy and respect. Publication gives words a power that privileges one person’s account– and I’m not comfortable with simply assuming that power. Being open with someone about what you’ve written isn’t the same as ‘asking permission’; it’s a way of rebalancing that power.Other stories in the book involved similar discussions – though not with Tony Blair! ❐ALISON MACLEOD is a novelist, short story writer and essayist. Her collection all the beloved ghosts, is out now (Blooms- bury). Her most recent novel, Unexploded (Hamish Hamilton)was longlistedfor the 2013Man BookerPrize. Sheis Profes-sor of Con-temporaryFiction atthe Universityof Chichester.ALISON MACLEODTRY THIS► Don’t ‘swerve around’ the facts. Write whatever you yearn to write, however much it might reveal. Be bold. Play. Dare.► Experiment with combining actual facts with an imagined narrative. That combinationcan reveal a different or deeper truth inherent in your story. One way to begin is simply by asking ‘What if?’ to extend the reality. ► When you have gone as far as you can creatively, it is time to consider personal and ethical questions. There is no universal right or wrong. Each writer finds her own answers.The biggest challenge in my new collection was the tightrope walk between fact andsame tiny theatre bar as Tony and Cherie. The experience sowed the seeds of the story – what if I were to bump into Blair now? Another story arose froma visit to Sylvia Plath’s grave. As a fellow North American, I wondered if she felt similar to me on first arriving in the UK.The difficulty in all these stories was how much of myself to include. I have always been described as risk-taking in my work, but I did worry about appearing self-indulgent or gimmicky. That worry clashed with my writerly commitment to do anything necessary to bring a story to life.‘Dreaming Diana: Twelve Frames’ is about seeing Princess Di in a hotel lobby when I was 16 and she was still a young woman. The story is mainly about the tension between her private and public lives. Butmy editor at Bloomsbury felt there was something missing. She wanted to see the teenage me advance through the years to 1997 when Diana died. In retrospect I realised I’d been protecting myself, and of coursefiction. Every story in the book is based on memoir or biography. As a young writer, I neverwrote about my relationshipsor experiences. Now I’m older, I have amassed more personal material, and I’m less self- conscious about exposure. But it’s still an issue for me.I don’t know if a desire for privacy is an Achilles’ heel, butit has certainly exercised me from the point of view of craft and ethics. What if the facts are more evocative than anything you’d invent – and yet memoir or biography is not enough? What if ‘displaying’ rather than ‘disguising’ the facts makes a more powerful story? When does a fiction about a real person turn into a lie? Is blurring that line justifiable in the pursuit of a wider truth?One story in my collection features (a version of) me making a citizen’s arrest of Tony Blair. Years ago, before the Iraq debacle, I found myself in theFlash genreTo submit any genre to the next Flash genre, see p80They’d been searchingfor her for months, sometimes getting so close her perfume still hung in the air, taunting them. Never, though, had they managed to close their bird-like hands around her and squeeze. Not until today.She wrenched away and, screaming, flung herself from the rooftop. Their squawks of fury followed her three storeys down, but none had the courage to jump. None had the robust skin she did either.Still, as she hit the floor she heard something snap – a tendon in her knee, tearing in two like an elastic band – but before she could cry out, the wounded tissue had already begun to sew itselfback together, cells attracting cells with magnetic brilliance. Glancing up, she saw her pursuers retreat, turn on theirheels and seek out another way down. She staggered upright and sprinted across the road, attracted to the hidden alleys there.She checked her watch and felt her heart lurch. All she had to do was stay alive until her eighteenth birthday, and she was safe. Safe from that particular curse anyway – the one she’d carried from birth, that had prophesied her death, that had kept her running since she could remember.Just one minute.A neon sign sprang to life overher head, illuminating a sinister smile.‘Princess,’ the bird-creature purred. ‘Just in time.’‘I’m no princess,’ she snarled, hefting a sword from her belt. She lunged and struck the gremlin’s ear clean from the side of its head. ‘And this isn’t a fairy tale.’With that she drove her blade into its heart, wincing away from the screech that tore from its thin grey lips.It fell down dead just as the clock welcomed her birthday; welcomed the start of the rest of her life. ❐EVANGELINE PAYNE is a 22-year-old student studying Creative and Critical Writing. She writes frequently about women in literature and theatre. So far her greatest publication success is a piece in the collection Lessons from Losers in Love by Dr Alonda Alloway.FLASH FANTASY BLOOD RED RIDING40 Mar/Apr/May 2017 mslexiaPHOTO: VALERY SIDELNYKOV / SHUTTERSTOCK

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