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  • Writer's pictureJ.M.

Someone should write a story about that...

Updated: Sep 10, 2019

This challenge, posted with this photo, you can read about the photo here, set me off on my journey to write The Wonder Girls.

A sepia photo from 1930  of a 'Bugsy Malone' style gang of eight girls

I had ideas to do with a dastardly villain and stolen children that had been percolating over time, but writing about a gang wasn't really something I was comfortable with, especially not a gang like these girls.

Though they were at school a long time before me, they looked like the kind of girls I would have avoided, kids I'd never have fitted in with. Sassy, yes, and with attitude, but kids who would probably have bullied me because I wasn't their type of cool. I wasn't their tribe.

So, the photo prompted me to write about a good girl, Ida, a girl who would never dream of hooking up with this lot.

Until she had to.

Lexico defines 'gang' as an 'organised group of criminals'. There are other definitions but most of them are similarly bad – street gangs, gang warfare and something that feels very familiar from school, 'to gang up' nearly always against something or someone. Which reminded me, also from school, of the chant - 'you can't be in our gang because...' and the reason was usually 'you're not like us'. These definitions and connotations are at best, unfriendly, at worst, murderous.

So I wanted to redefine 'gang'. I wanted to give my gang a mission, fairly essential for a story - what did they want? And I wanted them to be the misfits, misfitting with, but caring for each other too. I wanted them to be unlikely friends. And I definitely wanted them to be inclusive rather than exclusive.

But all that loveliness could be so boring.

So as Mathilda says, 'sometimes you have to be have to be a little bit naughty' to do the right thing. With a healthy disregard for the law, my girls are.

Which makes an 'organised group of criminals' not far off the mark.

No wonder Ida's not keen.

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