I went on a school visit last week, to talk about media careers, but it struck me just how much material I was seeing which could be useful for a writer.
Firstly, a thank you to all the staff and students at Bideford College for looking after me so well and such a great session -
I've often said an observing eye is one of an author's greatest assets, and I was seeing plenty to note.
Firstly, Bideford College is an excellent school, and you could sense that from the first moment. I was met at the train station, promptly and warmly, given a tour, and introduced to the Principal.
And there was a lesson in characterisation - a teacher and leader who was utterly committed to learning and excellence (and how it showed), and it flowed from her into the staff and students.
Even the lady in the canteen took great pride in making me a special sandwich, complete with complimentary cake (she must have dealt with writers before!)
I felt a remarkable contrast with other schools I've known, where there's not such dedication, and the feel of the place is entirely different. What an impact the characters can make to any story - be it real life or fictional.
There was also a lesson in setting - how the modern, bright and impressive surroundings of the college contributed to the upbeat and positive story they had to tell...
... and what a contrast with some schools which suffer with far worse facilities.
And then there's the plot -
Bideford College had set itself upon a story of success. Everyone would do their best as best they could, everyone understood that, and it worked.
There would be hitches along the way - that's life, not to mention the art of drama! - but they would be dealt with; there was no doubt about that. Nothing would interfere with the overall narrative, just like with any good story.
The day was a great pleasure on so many levels; for feeling I'd done my little bit for the future, but also for experiencing and learning myself, and that strikes me as a very big win-win.