In which a dead twelfth century monarch inexplicably goes street

A funny thing happened to me this afternoon. I was drafting a short story for 42-Worcester, a local spoken word event focusing on the ghoulish and the speculative end of fiction. It’s an event I go along to quite often but very rarely perform at, because I tend to write novel length frothy romance, which wouldn’t quite be ideal to read aloud in a ten minute slot at a sci-fi and horror night.

Anyhoo, next month I’m down to perform and I was whipping together a little ghostly delight to share with the group; I alighted on the idea of writing about the ghosts of Worcester Cathedral focusing on Prince Arthur, the elder brother of Henry VIII, who is buried in Worcester. All was going swimmingly until the ghostly Arthur struck up a conversation with the even more longevitously deceased King John, and the dead twelfth century monarch starting talking like a 1990s rap wannabe.

“Wassup bro?” he said. This startled me somewhat, not simply because that’s a teeny bit anachronistic for a man of regal birth who died in 1216, but also because I had no idea he was going to say it, and still have absolutely no clue why he did. That is very very wrong. Ghost King John is fictional. He exists only inside my head. He should not say things if I don’t know why he’s saying them.

There is with writing, as with pretty much all creative endeavours, a sweet spot, where you get into a groove and the words just flow without very much conscious thought. It’s a beautiful and liberating thing. It happens, for me at least, for about five thousand words of an eighty thousand word book. The rest is sheer effort, but you stick with it in hope of alighting upon another few hundred words of magic carefree writing bliss.

King John going all street was beyond that though. This was a line that I typed with my own typing fingers which are attached to my typing arms which are attached to my shoulders which are attached to my neck which is attached to my head, which puports to contain my brain, and as soon as I’d typed them my brain yelled, “What?”

Ghost King John had properly gone rogue, beyond the control of his author. There are reasons history remembers him as Bad King John, and I’m increasingly convinced that an unwillingness to conform to his designated character arc is probably one of them. Bad Bad Fictional Ghost King John.

So that was weird. I mean, it’s totally fine. I can just go back and delete him. That’ll show him who’s in charge around here, but it leads me to a question for the writers out there – what do you do when a character goes rogue? Go along with it for the ride, or briskly reign them back onto the plan?

In which I acknowledge being a bad blogger and offer a small festive story in way of apology

I have been a bad blogger of late. I have failed to offer you Monday thoughts on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, David Cameron’s reaction to the Leveson Report, the freakishly rapidly decreasing size of Curly-Wurlys, or the upcoming festive season. And I have thoughts on all these things. Oh yes, indeedy, I have thoughts.

Alas, of late time has been short, and life has been busy so these many and fascinating thoughts have remained unblogged. Please accept my humblest apologies and this short festive storyette in recompense. Normal thought-sharing service shall be resumed in January. Promise.

 

The Shepherd

“So Bob,” Miss Pennydew shuffles slightly in her seat. “I think you know why we’ve asked you here today.”

“Aye.”

“It’s…” She coughs. “It’s about last Monday. We’ve.. em… we’ve talked to young Sam, but I just wanted to give you the opportunity to take us through your version of events, just as you see it, from your point of view.”

“Aye.”

Miss Pennydew pauses. “Just in your own words…”

“Aye.”

“Whenever you’re ready.” She waits for Bob to fill the silence. The silence extends. “Ok. Well, what if I run through Sam’s account and you can just jump in whenever you think?”

“Reet.”

“So Sam told us, with regard to the incident in question, that he initially noticed an unusually bright star.”

“Aye.”

“And then…?” She tails off. “Ok. And then Sam says…” She consults her notes. “He says that you were surrounded by a heavenly throng.”

Bob nods, apparently feeling that he’s said quite enough already.

“After which one of the…” She makes quotation mark fingers. “…’throng’ addressed you telling you not to fear.”

“Aye.”

“Sam said that this was because a…” She does the fingers again. “…’mighty dread’ had seized your troubled minds.”

Bob pulls a face, suggestive, he hopes, of the notion that Sam might do better with a bit less book-learning and a bit more watching of the flock by night.

“After which, and you’ll understand our concern here, it appears that both yourself and Sam, left the flock and went into town with the intention of visiting a newborn baby, apparently located in a stable.”

“Aye.”

“Just to be clear…” She smiles, the sort of smile that hints at men in white coats and the idea that Bob might like to take a little bit of time off quite soon. “..You didn’t know the family with the baby? They weren’t relatives or close friends?”

“No.”

“You, and Sam, simply decided to leave the sheep, and visit a baby because you were told to by a ‘heavenly throng’.”

“Aye.”

“And, still just so I’m clear – no one’s in trouble here – you hadn’t been erm… drinking at all prior to leaving the flock.”

Bob shakes his head.

“Ok. Not that I’m accusing anyone. I’m sure a little drink every now and then to keep the cold out won’t do any harm, especially at Christmas.”

She pauses and re-runs the sentence in her head. Bob crinkles his brow.

“Anyhow, you do understand our concern, I’m sure. Given that your current role is very much sheep-focussed, any time spent outside of immediate shepherding arena, should really be booked in advance using the green form, which then has to be approved by myself or Mr Hargreaves.”

“Aye.”

“Good. Good.” She does the smile again. “Well, so long as that’s clear.”