Legends in the making

Pupils at Wilmcote CofE Primary School have been trying their hand at writing their own legends following a visit I made there at the end of April to run a morning’s story writing workshop. I worked with children in Years 4, 5 and 6 and during the session, helped them to plan an original story in the style of a legend and have a go at drafting a powerful story opening.

I was told that the children had been learning about Ancient Greek myths as part of a history project, so we began by exploring the difference between a myth and a legend. I then gave the children a Writer’s Toolbox, containing tools that would not only make the story writing process easier and more fun for them to do but would make their writing stronger and more intriguing for the reader. For example we explored how to use imagery and point of view, and how to show the reader how a character is feeling and behaving, rather than tell them.

To set the children on their way, I read one of the legends from my own collection The Ghost of the Trenches and other stories from the First World War which I co-wrote with the UK’s first Storytelling Laureate, Taffy Thomas MBE. I also demonstrated how I blend real events, people and places with imaginary ideas to write my historical fiction novels like No Stone Unturned which is set in the same village as the school – Wilmcote – and also in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon.

Since the workshop, the children have been developing their legends in class, and will be sending me their finished stories for some feedback.Inspired by the story writing workshop, Year 6 pupil, Katia Tibbits, wrote the following, rather wonderful story.


The Invisible Cloak

Non opus est anima tua … I never thought it would be me uttering these words; words that brought me here. The people called me “schizo” because of my invisible conversations on the landing of the old miner’s cottage that my mother and I had recently moved in to. I had no friends, and I never will.

The first time I heard it, it was little more than a whisper, like a shadow passing through me. The faint ticking will haunt me forever. Non opus est anima tua … Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Non opus est anima tua … Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick …

Every day on the landing the words would haunt me, with the faint ticking of the invisible clock like a slowing heartbeat. Not knowing what it meant, I wrote the words down day after day: Non opus est anima tua …

At first the words were as clear as the stars but soon they began to morph into a misty whirlpool of horrors, with the faint ticking lurking… Under. The. Floor. Boards. Tick. Tick. Tick. I knew it meant something. And it did. Non opus est anima tua …

One night the horrors of the whirlpool came flooding into my soul. As I went to bed, I heard those words … With. The. Clock. Getting. Slower. And. Slower. And. Slower. Each. Time. I. Took. One. Step. Closer … to … death’s … door …

Tick … tick … Tock.

Now I stand in a ghostly embrace with my mother, watching as she weeps over my lifeless body on the bed. She hears the voice of her daughter whispering in her ear, words that she will not yet understand.

Non opus est anima tua … I need your soul.

Picture caption: Presenting Year 6 pupil Maddie Gamble with her copy of One Day In Oradour, after the story writing workshop.

If you would like to book a writing workshop, you can find more details on my Events page. The Ghost of the Trenches (9781472907875) and No Stone Unturned (9781472905406) are both published by A&C Black/Bloomsbury.

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