The Travelling Philanthropist

Sue Rumens

This first chapter encompasses elements of thriller and sci-fi genres, as the protagonist is transported to 18th century London in the search for a missing child. Rumen’s considered commentary draws influence from various theoretical approaches learnt during her Creative MA module, and details the feedback, and ongoing craftsmanship involved in writing prose fiction.


Wednesday 2nd September 2015

Clutching her mobile, Tamara was weaving in and out of couples sauntering along the Embankment, her way lit by the multi-coloured fairy lights of the restaurant boats. Westminster Bridge spanned the Thames just ahead of her. No flashing blue lights, thank God, but what will I say when I get there? 

She hadn’t even stopped to message Matt. Must be nearly midnight - he’ll wonder where I am. Her last text had told him she was just leaving the bar - but she’d sent it before listened to Kalianne’s voice mail:

‘Thank you Tamara for try to help, but Mrs Gee, she says I don’t work, she find new nanny - go back to America without me. I don’t have no hope now, but okay. “Never calm so deep...” I decided what I must do.’

Tamara knew that verse. It was from the Wordsworth poem on Westminster Bridge – her magazine had featured it in her article, Walking Tours around London

With lungs fit to burst, she took the curved steps two at a time. Reaching the top, she leaned against the balustrade and, waiting for stitch to subside, read the last few verses from the poetry plaque:

‘Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep! The river glideth at his own sweet will.’ 

She scanned the bridge from east to west, but who was she looking for? She hadn’t met Kalianne - just knew her kid was missing - stolen by the Guatemalan government. A mother would NEVER give up her own kid. Tamara looked down at the angry black water. Would Kalianne do something silly? Shoving her mobile into her shoulder bag, she made a careful appraisal of the people on the bridge: Just a few straggling city workers making their way back for the last train. A woman, standing alone, was looking towards the London Eye. Tamara started towards her, then hesitated as a man approached – the couple linking arms and heading towards the City. Walking on, she noted barriers erected across sections of the bridge. Someone could easily stand there undetected before dropping unnoticed into the churning waters below. Perhaps I’m too late? She shivered. What am I even doing here? 

It was a complete fluke that she’d taken Kalianne’s call - her boss would go mad if he knew - but in eighteen months working for Tube and Eye, it was the first time she’d felt a real buzz. It was this she wanted – not writing stupid tourism articles. A chance to investigate a real story.

Feeling a jolt, she spun around to face a hooded figure jerking at her shoulder strap. The more rational part of her brain knew it was best to let go, but she wasn’t prepared to lose anything else tonight. She clutched the bag tightly, hanging on for dear life. 


The mugger took a quick glance around to check no-one was close, then snarled: ‘Let go bitch!’

For a moment they were both tugging, equally determined not to give in. Then she gasped as the mugger’s fist caught a glancing blow to her chin. Her grasp momentarily loosened, the attacker legged it towards the south side of the river. 

She heard Big Ben strike midnight. Her legs trembled - her body had given up the fight. As she sank, the back of her head collided with the carved stone balustrade.


Wednesday 2nd September 1752

Frederick Tweedie made minute adjustments to the equipment. Beside him, Thomas Pestlemore huffed and puffed. 

‘Have patience, sir,’ said Tweedie. ‘These things cannot be hurried.’

He tweaked the aperture by another miniscule amount to ensure the lens was pointing at the darkest space between the stars. Pestlemore leaned in over his shoulder.

‘Damn it, sir. Give me some room.’

‘S…sorry. Yes... sorry.’

Pestlemore stepped back, gazing out across the dark waters of the Thames. He looked up at the sky and, with his fat thumb, traced a line, tracking the projection from the equipment to the horizon.

‘Perhaps a little higher, Tweedie?’

Tweedie glared at him. 

‘Sorry, sorry,’ he repeated.

‘Who is doing this, me or you? Who, sir, is the scientist here?’ Tweedie strutted forward, tapping his chest: ‘Oh yes. That would be me.’

Humbled, Pestlemore lowered his head and, as much as his rotund stomach allowed, he examined his feet. Meanwhile Tweedie moved forward to make one final adjustment.

‘There,’ he said at last. ‘That should do it.’

‘Oh well done,’ said Pestlemore, clapping his skinny friend on the shoulder-blade.

Tweedie eyed him with contempt, but Pestlemore’s enthusiasm could not be dampened. He hopped from one foot to the other: ‘Are we ready now for the Prism?’

Tweedie nodded his head.

Pestlemore bent down and lifted the object reverently from its wooden case. As he held it aloft, light from the moon caught the crystal sides, and a rainbow of colour cascaded far out across the rippling black Thames water.

Tweedie reached out to receive it and, with meticulous care, positioned it at the heart of the assembled equipment. Both men stepped back, regarding it with awe. This was the culmination of many months of calculations, design and planning. The moment of truth. For the first time, each component joined to make a whole. If the prism did not begin to spin now, of its own volition, then everything had been in vain. There was a heavy clunk as the prism began to rotate. It was nothing short of miraculous.

As they watched, the equipment vibrated, yet the lens remained steady, fixed on its target.

Pestlemore cast an eye over his shoulder to ensure the bridge men were nowhere in sight. The watchman on the north side of the bridge had been bribed with a jug of gin and it was not yet time for the south side guards to take their hourly patrol. It was important they were not observed. The whole project had been carried out under such secrecy. Their goal was to gain an accolade for their invention from the Royal Society. As they peered into the depths of the blackest spot in the sky, faint light began to appear.

‘Look,’ said Pestlemore. Tweedie nodded. Silenced by the apparition before their eyes, they were mesmerized as the light grew stronger, reflecting a ray back onto the bridge. Tweedie felt Pestlemore clutching at his arm: ‘What is that?’

Straining their eyes, they peered along the bridge, dazzled by the brightness. Slowly, at the very core, an image was appearing.

Tweedie squinted. He heard Pestlemore gasp as the shape became clearer… a figure, slumped against the balustrade. 


1752 DAY ONE

Tamara opened her eyes to shimmering haze. Although it was still dark, she was bathed in a soft beam of light. Her head was throbbing - she couldn’t make out where she was or what she was looking at. As the bright light diminished, objects around began to take shape. A figure was standing the other side of the bridge, looking out across the river:


Her voice was croaky, unlike her own.

Mercy stood gazing into the dark waters below. Although mist had dampened her woollen clothes, it wasn’t really raining. If I be soaks to me skin, t’will be easy enough to let go... She shook her head. Not brave enough e’en for that. Shivering, she felt the last bit of hope desert her body. Nought ahead but this dull ache…

A sound invaded her thoughts. Someone calling… She turned her head – something, no, someone - over other side of the bridge. Peering through the gloom she could see arms reaching out to her. Fella or lass? She took a step forward. Sounded like a lass, but can’t be certain… No - by the attire it be a fella. Can never be too careful… it may be some trick… and yet… Taking another couple of steps, she watched as the figure slumped to the ground. Whoever it be, they need help. 

‘Who be there?’ she called. 

There was no reply. 

Crossing the road, she looked down. Yes - it be a lass. She knelt down just as the woman opened her eyes. 

Tamara looked up at her Samaritan, dressed all in black. She reached out to grasp the proffered hand, then fell back. 

‘Take it slowly Miss.’ 


‘No, me name be Mercy.’ 

Tamara pulled herself to sitting:

‘Damn.’ Anger and indignation was returning. ‘He’s taken my bag. My mobile - I need to get to the tube…’ She stopped in mid flow, looking around frantically. Everything was so dark – like someone had turned off all the street lights. It was as if she was sitting in the middle of a thick, wet cloud of fog. There was a strange, metallic smell - or was it taste – she couldn’t tell. Her head throbbed. Raising a hand to her crown, her fingers met a sticky mass. Involuntarily her body began to shake:

‘Where am I?’ 

Mercy was taking in the clothing - breeches and boots. Not a pauper, yet dressed as a fella. A lady would never be dressed like this - or cuss in such a manner. Words make no sense… yet there be something about ‘er... Why did I call ‘er ‘Miss’? Perhaps she’s a runaway? She be distressed and if I don’t get ‘er somewhere safe, gaud knows what might happen to ‘er. 

Own worries temporarily forgotten, Mercy removed her cloak which, although damp, still held some warmth. She wrapped it around the woman.

‘Laud, if you ain't chilled to the bone. Not from round ‘ere?’

The woman was staring about wild-eyed. Mercy began to wonder if she’d done the right thing… Perhaps she’s escaped from the asylum? Still, too late now, can’t just abandon ‘er..

‘Come on - can you walk? I’ll ‘ave to take yer home wi’ me ... see to that ‘ead.’’ With an arm around to steady the woman, Mercy guided her across the bridge. 


Tweedie and Pestlemore were concealed in one of the domed shelters. These octagonal recesses, positioned above each pier of the new bridge, had been designed for the protection of the wayfarer. However, they were often used for more sinister purposes, necessitating regular patrol by the watchmen. Tweedie had had the forethought to snatch up what he could of their equipment but, crowded in the shelter with them, it was a tight squeeze. Pestlemore’s girth was not helping.

‘Damn it, sir,’ said Tweedie. ‘You crush the very life from me.’

‘Sorry,’ Pestlemore replied. ‘Sorry.’

‘Can you see anything?’ 

‘I… I am uncertain. Let us wait a while longer.’

Pestlemore’s heart was thumping and he had a dull pain in his chest: ‘Did you gather everything?’ he wheezed.

Tweedie was carrying out an inventory in the gloom: ‘No. I am missing the alitude.’

‘Bother and blast,’ said Pestlemore.

‘Can you see it?’

‘I cannot see a damn thing with this fog.’

‘Move over then sir.’ They shuffled around so Tweedie was, at last, able to peer from their hiding place.

‘Are they still there?’ said Pestlemore.

‘Two figures.’

‘Both from the portal?’

‘I think not. I know not from whence the other came, but ‘tis a woman I think.’

‘Let me see.’ Pestlemore tried to squeeze his head between Tweedie’s arm and the stonework: ‘Ow.’

‘Patience, sir,’ said Tweedie. ‘They move away.’

The men ducked back into the shelter, waiting for the figures to leave the bridge on the south side.

After a few moments, Tweedie crept out, beckoning for Pestlemore to follow.

They scooped up the remains of their abandoned equipment, then, with furtive glances over their shoulders, set off in the opposite direction.


Thursday 3rd September 2015

‘Are you okay?’

Opening her eyes, Tamara looked up into the face of a stranger. 

‘Steady now,’ he said. ‘Ambulance is on the way.’

The pavement was cold and hard, but something soft had been wedged under her neck: ‘What… what happened?’ 

‘You’ve had a fall. Your head is bleeding, but I think you’re okay. Just stay put till we can get you checked out.’

The man was middle-aged, smartly dressed in a dark suit – his voice had a calming ring of authority. Somewhere, far away, Tamara could hear a siren. She closed her eyes. What a strange dream… 

‘Don’t go to sleep. Stay with me.’ The man was holding her hand. As she opened her eyes again, strange images of carriages and horses faded away… The traffic crossing the bridge was deafeningly loud. 

I was looking for someone... Kalianne. Her mind flashed back to a woman dressed in black, hair tucked up under a cap. Trust Americans to dress their nanny like Mary Poppins... I found her, but where did she go? 

Her head was throbbing… Her eyelids heavy…The voice of the stranger mingled with that of others somewhere far above her…


1752 DAY ONE

As Tamara stumbled along, soft drizzle refreshed her face, the thick woollen cloak scratched against her neck. Suddenly she stopped - Big Ben had disappeared and, turning to look the other way, the Eye was missing too. She rubbed her eyes. Is this a dream? Then, raising a hand to her head - Ow. No, hurts too much.

‘You be right shaken,’ said Mercy as they left the bridge, ‘but we can’t dilly dally - not safe.’ She’d noticed two men surveying them with curiosity. Perhaps the very ones who’d attacked this poor woman? 

Tamara allowed herself to be steered through streets she didn’t recognize – she’d wake soon. But, moments later, when a carriage sped past – horses’ hooves chucking up mucky water - the wet soaking into her jeans, it felt too real for a dream. Uneven cobbles pressed through the soles of her boots. Streets, narrow and gloomy, were lit by old-fashioned street lamps. It was so dark - thick, dense fog, like on Guy Fawkes night, when smoke from bonfires and fireworks hides everything from view. There was a horrid stench - as if drains had burst, spewing raw sewage onto the road. Several times she stopped, leaning forward, sure she was about to throw up, but Mercy urged her on. In places they were ankle deep in mud and rotting rubbish - the sweet sickly smell wafting around them, like composting vegetable peelings. In one place, Mercy dragged her down a side alley, where they crouched in shadow while a crowd of noisy revellers passed by. Further on two drunks staggered past, wearing what appeared to be old fashioned fancy dress. When the men leered and gestured obscenely, Mercy took it all in her stride, confidently leading her on. The streets were quieter now, more residential. But nothing was familiar – Tamara was completely lost.



Mercy came to a halt at a flight of stone steps disappearing into the basement of a tall townhouse. Tamara stared down. I shouldn't go in there… but what choice do I have? She had no idea where she was and, with no mobile or money, she’d never find her way back through those wretched, unknown streets.

‘It be all right,’ said Mercy. ‘Master and Mistress be away.’

Taking Tamara’s arm again, she guided her down. Then, lifting a huge metal key from a string around her waist, she unlocked the door. They stepped over a stone hearth into a large, old fashioned kitchen dominated by an enormous Aga style range. 

Tamara moved gratefully towards the warmth, almost jumping out of her skin as a cat leapt up, hissing loudly.

‘Shoo Jinks,’ said Mercy. ‘Thinks he be Lord o’ the Manor. Sit yerself down.’

Tamara sank into the chair vacated by Jinks, while Mercy lit two candles and got to work on the range - opening first one door, then another, to stoke the fire before putting a pan on the stove. By the soft light Tamara could see her rescuer was younger than she’d thought - perhaps only early twenties. Her skinny frame belied her strength and stamina and though her features were sharp, she had kind, brown eyes, the shadows around them hinting a life of hardship and disappointment. It’s like I’ve walked into a film set for a period movie. Where the hell am I? Tamara watched as Mercy tucked a stray dark tendril under her mob cap, before taking a bowl from a huge pine dresser dominating one entire wall, and filling it from the pan. 

‘Ere, drink this, while I looks at that ‘ead.’

Tamara reached for the bowl. Cupping it in her hands, she let the warmth thaw her fingers. Gingerly, she took a sip. The steam was soothing - it smelled of beef stock and, although watery, it was comforting. Meanwhile, Mercy had put a second pan on the stove. While it was heating, she brought a candlestick closer to inspect the wound under her matted hair: ‘Don’t seem too bad...’

Taking the pan from the stove, she stood it down on the bleached pine table. Then, using a piece of coarse brown fabric - which looked like sacking, she bathed the wound. Tamara flinched. Warm liquid dripped down her neck - she could smell vinegar. 

‘Yer’ll know ‘bout it the morrow,’ said Mercy, finishing her ministrations and seating herself on a low wooden stool, ‘but reckon it could ‘ave been worse.’ 

They sat in silence - Tamara surveying the room, taking in the flagstone floor, copper pans and deep butler sink. What the hell is this place? Must be some sort of stately home… National Trust… Why has this girl brought me here? Am I free to leave? She looked towards the door, then cleared her throat: ‘I don’t understand what’s happening, I shouldn’t be here.’ Her voice was wobbly - tears threatened.

‘Nonsense,’ said Mercy. ‘I told yer, Master and Mistress be away – they be none the wiser. Anyway, couldn’t ‘ave left yer there, now could I?’

Tamara shook her head. She leaned back in the chair, suddenly overwhelmed.

‘That’s it,’ said Mercy. ‘Nothin a good night’s sleep won’t mend, I’ll warrant. You’d best be staying the night. Can’t be sending yer out again, what with that ‘ead.’

Mercy made her way to the back of the room, where she disappeared in the shadows. Moments later she returned, picked up the candlestick and tugged gently at Tamara’s arm. Tamara pulled herself out of the chair, then with one final glance towards the door, allowed herself to be lead behind a curtain to a single wooden cot. Exhausted, she lay down, falling into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Mercy watched her visitor a while longer. Reassured her breathing was even and not laboured, she went back to the kitchen, dropped the broth bowl into the sink and made herself comfortable in front of the fire. ‘Hope I don’t wake ter find the silver gone,’ she told Jinks who had jumped up and was kneading her lap. ‘Reason enough ter sleep in this chair - make sure she don’t get up to no mischief.’ As she stroked the cat, he began to purr noisily. ‘Funny – ‘aven’t even thought ‘bout me lad all night. Took me mind right off, finding ‘er... just as I be praying…’

She sat forward so fast that Jinks was thrown to the floor. He stared at her accusingly, then flicked his tail and walked haughtily away to lick his wounded ego on top of the pine dresser. Of course... ‘twas a message. God has sent someone to help me. Flooded with renewed hope, Mercy closed her eyes, and began silently to mouth the words of The Lord’s Prayer.


Thursday 3rd September 2015

With no mobile phone, it took time to track down Matt. A kind nurse loaned her own mobile, but then Tamara couldn’t remember his number. So stupid - must be the shock. For some reason, Zoe's number popped into her head, but then several minutes were wasted talking her out of hopping in a taxi herself, rather than ringing Matt to tell him what had happened. 

When Matt finally did arrive, Tamara was still in triage. She laughed when she saw his pale face: ‘You look worse than I do.’

‘That’s probably true.’ He rubbed his hands on his jeans to rid them of the sticky disinfectant gel, before kissed her gently on the forehead. ‘You seem remarkably upbeat for someone who just got mugged.’

‘Must be adrenaline.’ She wriggled over on the trolley bed, patting for him to perch.

He shook his head: ‘I’ve been going frantic wondering where the hell you were.’

‘Thought I stood you up?’

‘No. I thought you’d had a few too many and gone back to Zoe’s. But when my calls kept going to voice mail… I started imagining bad things.’

She squeezed his hand. He scrunched his eyes in reply - to tell her she was loved.

‘So… what's occurring?’ He nodded towards the Nurses’ Station, where two doctors were consulting over a screen.

‘They want to do a CAT scan.’ Her finger traced the numbers inked on the starched white sheet: ‘If that’s clear I’m allowed home. As long as someone’s there to wait on me hand and foot.’

‘Might make you a cuppa if you play your cards right.’ 

She shoved him: ‘Could be a long wait,’ she said, gesturing at the curtained bays and occupied trolleys lining the corridor.

‘Plenty of time then, to tell me what you were up to.’


Reflective Commentary

‘Writers don’t just hold, as “twere, a mirror up to nature” by creating an imitation of life; they create a moment of life itself.… the writer works to find or create a voice that will stretch out to the reader, make him prick his ears and attend’. 

My journey towards finding my authentic voice has drawn upon various theoretical approaches, explaining how they have influenced my writing process and my novel, The Travelling Philanthropist. Blog journal entries have reflected on taught sessions, incorporating responses to tutor and peer feedback.

The importance placed on maintaining a balance between flow and planning, led me to resume morning pages and dabble in poetry to encourage creativity and playfulness in my writing. Proprioceptive free writing - a more considered method than stream of consciousness writing - encouraged me to reflect on my thoughts as I wrote. Al Alvarez stressed the importance of authenticity, warning that ‘the authentic voice may not be the one you want to hear.’ He acknowledged two methods of refining work – cutting away and carver/modeller, suggesting that the ‘voice... is the vehicle by which a writer expresses his aliveness.’My writing favours the modeller approach - dashing down the story before multiple rewrites, attempting to achieve that elusive perfection.

To ‘create a moment of life’, it is important to establish the world in which the story will be set. The Travelling Philanthropist brings challenges due to its two world views – contemporary and eighteenth century London: 

‘Because my novel involves a time slip I have issues to resolve with the plot… I felt I was losing my way… put it on the back burner. Time to look at it with fresh eyes.’ 

It is important for a particular place and time to ring true for the reader. Ron Rozelle says the ‘infusion of particulars is a good way to convey the era and the locale to your reader.’ James Miller makes useful suggestions - walking the area; maps; google earth. My research of eighteenth century London included guided walks of the area, pouring over old maps and reading books and novels written and/or set in the same period. Research revealed the original Westminster Bridge had a very different design - its domed shelters providing a suitable hiding place for Tweedie and Pestlemore. I have also attempted to overlay old maps to create more authentic routes by foot or by carriage between Janus’ house and the Foundling Hospital.

It is critical for the reader to have a real sense of the world - an understanding of 'where am I?' In The Grass is Singing, the description of the store is used as a metaphor for South Africa. Later, the reader views the farm through Mary’s eyes, but also through sound, touch and smell. Rozelle advocates making use of the readers’ five (or even six) senses: ‘When they can relate to the tangible nature of things and places and characters, then you, the writer, have taken a giant step towards bringing them fully on board.’ Lessing conveys changes in characters mood by the way she describes things – the oppressive heat that becomes an obsession for Mary. In addition, the use of African terminology (kopje, veld) adds to the atmosphere of the setting. In Belonging, Umi Sinha similarly uses Indian terminology - ayah, punkahwallah, I have attempted to do this in my novel: the inclusion of unusual terminology for the time-travel equipment; smells and sounds of the eighteenth century; vinegar and brown paper remedy for Tamara’s head injury. Feedback from my tutor, Umi Sinha, highlighted some terminology too modern for the eighteenth century - ‘give me some space, man.’ She referred me to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, where I noted ‘sir’ was used consistently in the meeting between magicians. I have therefore revised my line to - ‘Damn it, sir. Give me some room.’

In terms of making writing alive, the stylish effects of nouns, verbs and adjectives are important. Dickens uses nouns to layer things up: ‘the dense fog is the densest, and the muddy streets are the muddiest.’ Dyer creates movement by his use of verbs: ‘The car was like a snowplow, shoving darkness to one side, clearing a path of light.’ Carter conjures dreamlike imagery, reminiscent of Arthur Rackham illustrations, through her use of adjectives and personification: ‘the stark elders have an anorexic look.’ Verbs are particularly useful in an action scene to create movement - Tamara’s mugging scene: ‘jerking’; ‘tugging’. William Noble recommends using the active voice rather than the passive: shorter, snappier sentences create movement; images and active verbs - ‘leaves that quiver or shrivel rather than rustle.’ Noble also suggests shifting POV: ‘Go back and forth a few times and the conflict is fully laden.’ I have adopted this method when Tamara and Mercy first meet after the mugging.

Hooking the reader early is strongly recommended by Les Edgerton. One technique for this is foreshadowing: ‘Foreshadowing strives to let the reader know that the issues to come are larger than the reader might assume.’ In my first scene I use foreshadowing: ‘A mother would NEVER give up their own kid. Hooking the reader can also be achieved through characterisation. Umi Sinha says, ‘Characters are the lifeblood of your story or novel…it is the characters with whom the readers identify…they do have to believe in them and be interested in their fate.’

‘Need to draw in the reader to sympathise with Tamara. More interior stuff’. 

Tutor feedback suggested my contemporary scenes read ‘a bit thin’ in comparison to eighteenth century dialogue, which was ‘engaging, well written and humorous’ - the voices ‘ring truer’.

‘Could consider starting with this scene and doing flashbacks to contemporary world.’ 

Umi highlighted the importance of setting the scene first, then introducing the character, before launching into the plot. I experimented. First, I tried introducing my protagonist in a wine bar scene, then I rewrote it to incorporate more interior monologue and sensory elements. I then tried adding an extra scene set in Tamara’s workplace. However, feedback from my second tutorial confirmed the additional scenes weren’t really working, and so it was back to the drawing board. Radical action was necessary. Umi had recommended listening to Colm Toibin talking about the importance of the first line: ‘First sentence will come to you and have full weight of the novel in it - like a melody or rhythm.’ This led me to consider that perhaps I had had that first line all along? Returning to an earlier version of my novel, I decided take Umi’s advice and start further into the plot, using summaries to get Tamara’s backstory across.

Umi had raised other questions: ‘How much do contemporary and eighteenth century Tamara know about each other? Does Tamara in eighteenth century have 21st century mentality?’ These points have been addressed later in the novel: a growing awareness of each other’s experiences; Tamara’s responses to eighteenth century male chauvinistic society. However, I have rewritten the scene leaving Westminster Bridge to show more of Tamara’s sensory reactions to the eighteenth century world. I have also increased the use of pronouns to draw the reader closer to Tamara’s experiences. 

The use of interior monologue (first person, present tense) and free indirect speech are excellent techniques to keep the reader close to a character - the reader can cope with moving from one to the other and back again: ‘He knew how it got there: nothing to do with Father Christmas; one father was enough, by Golly... Wake her up, she's only a girl.’ Chapter seven of Self Editing for Fiction Writers explains how character emotion may be placed in interior monologue: ‘On the page, readers can see how he feels because they have the opportunity to move from action to thought and back again without ever being aware that anything out of the ordinary is happening.’ However, it warns against constant interruptions - speech marks; italics. Interior monologue must be in the characters own voice. It can be set off: “he thought”, or written in first person: ‘Readers move effortlessly from seeing the world through your characters eyes, to seeing the world through your characters mind and back again.’ On Umi’s advice, I have used more of this technique with Tamara and with Mercy.

Writing exercises also allowed experimentation with internal monologue. A scene where Tamara experiences disassociation received positive peer feedback. A further exercise in group internal monologue received positive tutor feedback. However, some similarities were detected between two other characters, and so I will need to flesh out these characters in terms of back story and motivation. 

Beth Miller’s Masterclass focused on planning - outlining the differences between premise, story, plot, dramatic structure and narrative arc. Creating a premise and a plot outline enabled me to make final decisions on structuring my novel:

‘We had to write a one sentence premise. First attempt okay but didn't think it reflected eighteenth century story. Redraft.’ 

In terms of planning, I used a method of listing events. Chronological dates alternate between contemporary and eighteenth century worlds, also incorporating a ticking clock to keep the suspense. I have identified specific plot points/stages, using Michael Hauge's six stage breakdown: Set up- hook reader. Turning Point 1 - Westminster Bridge mugging and time-travel ‘incident’. Turning Point 2 - Tamara decides to search for Mercy's son (Kalianne’s child in contemporary story). Turning Point 3 - point of no return - threats from Prism Society (episodes of déjà vu/seizures in contemporary story).

Turning Point 4 -major setback - dead ends, kidnap, dark night of the soul (in both).

Turning Point 5 - climax - show down, asylum (hospital in contemporary story). Aftermath - the return, closure.

As The Travelling Philanthropist has two world views, the same plot structure is followed by Tamara in both the eighteenth century and contemporary story - everything must be done twice. However, in terms of process, I am writing the eighteenth century and the contemporary strands separately, following the method used by Kate Mosse when writing Labyrinth. Later these strands will be interwoven.

The session on Narrative Time clarified that story time is real time, whereas narrative time is the time it takes to tell. For example - a ninety minute film can cover a lifetime of story. We considered dramatized scenes, summaries and jumps, defining key terminology: Mimesis; Diegesis; Ellipsis. Sometimes it is important to slow down the pace for important scenes: to describe someone; to create suspension. The balloon ride in Enduring Love slows down the motion,compared to the energetic verb laden action packed scene from Saturday. The Time Traveller’s Wife demonstrates these techniques: summaries in the prologue condensing time; meeting Henry in real time; ‘later that evening’ is an ellipsis followed by a long summary montage. In my extract, the mugging is in real time, whereas I have used summaries to tell Tamara’s backstory. Niffenegger selects the POV for each scene using the character most off balance. In the same way, I have alternated POV between Tamara and Mercy, focusing on the one with the most emotional impact.

Beats - bits of action, stage business, physical gestures, even interior monologue -can be used to ‘vary the pace of your dialogue’. For example: ‘Her finger traced the numbers inked on the starched white sheet.’ ‘Noble says a sense of pace is crucial - the reader will be turned off if there is no variety in story sequences.’ I have offset action scenes for Tamara by interspersing with scenes between Tweedie and Pestlemore. 

In the penultimate session, we focused on conflict and resolution by conducting close reading of short stories. Beth Miller had stressed conflict is key: 'a good story starts with a BANG…quickly accelerates in action…moments of drama and suspense, rising intensity sustained at a high pitch…levels off and gradually comes back down to earth.' Earlier in the module, we had considered the Oedipus story and EM Forster’s explanation - the order of the story can change the theme being explored: 

‘Spent three days working on Travelling Philanthropist – made real progress with structure. Theme can be changed by order of telling – what is my theme for Travelling Philanthropist?’ 

In my novel, underpinning the quest story for the missing child, is a recurring theme of ‘being lost’ experienced by Tamara herself: lost in the eighteenth century; lost because she was adopted when her own mother couldn’t look after her. This sense of loss, combined with her fiery independent streak, creates the conflict which negatively affects Tamara’s career and her relationship with Matt. By the end of my novel there is resolution: Tamara’s character undergoes transformation, returning to life in the contemporary world with changed attitude and perception. My understanding about theme, conflict and resolution has deepened as a result of studying the Prose Module, clarifying how I might use my authentic voice to better engage with my reader - so they may ‘prick their ears and attend’. As Colm Toibin said: ‘You’ve got the book - only thing you need to do now is work.’



 Al Alvarez, The Writer’s Voice (London: Bloomsbury 2005), p 16

2 Julia Cameron The Artist’s Way (London: Pan Books, Souvenir Press 1995), p 9-18

3 Linda Trichter Metcalf, Writing the Mind Alive: The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice (New York: Ballantine Books 2002), p 53.Proprius is Latin meaning “one’s own”. In this method (developed in 1976) you begin by free writing, then, when something you write catches your attention, you underline it, asking: “what do I mean by...”

4 Al Alvarez, The Writer’s Voice p 29

5 Ibid, p 35

6 Ibid, p 44

7 Ibid, p 21

8 Al Alvarez, The Writer’s Voice, p 16

9 Susan Rumens, Broodleroo Blog One

10 Ron Rozelle, Descriptions and Settings (Cincinnati, Ohio: Writers Digest Books 2005) p 141

11 James Miller, The Importance of Place and Setting in the Novel in Nicholas Royle, The Art of the Novel (Cromer: Salt Publishing 2015) ebook location 78%

12 Susan Rumens, The Travelling Philanthropist (unpublished) p 8

13 Umi Sinha, Workshop Session Setting and Senses, 9/2/16 

14 Doris Lessing, The Grass is Singing (London: Flamingo Harper Collins 1994) p 31-32

15 Doris Lessing, The Grass is Singing, p 52

16 Ron Rozelle, Descriptions and Settings, p 75

17 Doris Lessing, The Grass is Singing, p 70

18 Ibid, p 29

19 Umi Sinha, Belonging, (Brighton: Myriad Editions 2015), p 1

20 Susan Rumens, The Travelling Philanthropist, p 13

21 Suzanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (London: Bloomsbury 2015) p 15

22 Susan Rumens, The Travelling Philanthropist, p 3

23 Umi Sinha Workshop Session Style and Voice, 16/2/16 cited Charles Dickens, Bleak House

24 Umi Sinha Workshop Session Style and Voice, 16/2/16 cited Geoff Dyer, But Beautiful

25 Joseph Simas, Ed., Arthur Rackham – Masterpieces of Art (London, Flame Tree Publishing 2015)

26 Umi Sinha Workshop Session Style and Voice, 16/2/16 cited Angela Carter The Bloody Chamber

27 Susan Rumens, The Travelling Philanthropist, p 2

28 William Noble, Conflict, Action and Suspense (Cincinnati, Ohio: Writers Digest Books 1994) p 25

29 Ibid, p 28

30 Susan Rumens, The Travelling Philanthropist, p 5-6

31 Les Edgerton, Hooked (Cincinnati, Ohio: Writers Digest Books 2007) p 155

32 Susan Rumens, The Travelling Philanthropist p 1

33 Umi Sinha Writing Clinic Characterisation PDF

34 Susan Rumens, Broodleroo Blog Six

35 Tutor Tutorial 15/3/16

36 Tutor Tutorial 4/5/16

37 Susan Rumens, Broodleroo Blog Six

38 Colm Toibin, On Writing Louisiana Channel

39 Sue Rumens, TheTravelling Philanthropist, p 1-2

40 Tutor Tutorial 15/3/16

41 Susan Rumens, The Travelling Philanthropist, p 11

42 Susan Rumens, The Travelling Philanthropist, p 2 and p 11

43 Elizabeth Jane Howard The Devoted in Mr Wrong (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1975), p 100-1

44 Renni Browne and Dave King, Eds., Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (New York: Harper Collins Publishers 2004), p 117

45 Ibid, p 118-123

46 Ibid, p 128

47 Susan Rumens, The Travelling Philanthropist, p 12-13 – Tamara in Mercy’s kitchen

48 Ibid, p 5-6 - when Mercy meets Tamara. p 14 - when Mercy realises the significance of their meeting

49 Peer feedback 16/2/16 cited in Blog Two - ‘It felt convincing; a bit spooky; Does she have multiple personalities?’ This was pleasing as I was trying to convey a sense of impact from two parallel worlds.

50 Tutor feedback 1/3/16 - ‘Good use of idiom for the French character, Quintar’

51 Beth Miller, Masterclass Plot and Structure 23/2/16. Premise – a one line (or sentence) account of the story; Story - like the premise, is a summing up (story iswhat); Plot - how you tell it, cause and effect, character plus conflict (plot is how); Dramatic (or plot) structure - the scaffolding that allows story to happen; Narrative arc - how characters move from A to B - all main (and ideally minor) characters should have narrative arc

52 Susan Rumens, Broodleroo Blog Three

53 Michael Hauge Six Stage Plot Breakdown cited by Beth Miller 23/2/16

54 Kate Mosse, blog and workshop delivered at Guardian Masterclass, London 2014

55 Umi Sinha, Workshop Session Narrative Time, 1/3/16. Mimesis is real time. Diegesis is condensed time. Could be a montage – like the training in Rocky. Ellipsis is a jump in time – could move on three years.

56 Umi Sinha, Workshop Session Narrative Time, 1/3/16 cited Ian McEwan, Enduring Love and Saturday. 

57 Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Travellers Wife p 1-4

58 Ibid, p 8

59 Ibid, p 10 

60 Ibid, p 10

61 Susan Rumens, The Travelling Philanthropist, p 2

62 Susan Rumens, The Travelling Philanthropist, p 1-2

63 Ibid, p 5-6, p 12-14

64 Renni Browne and Dave King, Eds., Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, p 144

65 Susan Rumens, The Travelling Philanthropist, p 15

66 William Noble, Conflict, Action and Suspense, p 152

67 ProWritingAid, Are You Ready to Draft Your Story Arc? cited by Beth Miller 23/2/16

68 EM Forster, Aspects of a Novel cited in Workshop Session Three 1st March 2016

69 Susan Rumens, Broodleroo Blog Four

70 Al Alvarez, The Writers Voice, p 16

71 Colm Toibin, On Writing 


Alvarez, Al, The Writer’s Voice (London: Bloomsbury 2005)

Bell, James Scott, Plot and Structure (Cincinnati, Ohio: Writers Digest Books 2004)

Bickham, Jack, M, Scene and Structure (Cincinnati, Ohio: Writers Digest Books 1993)

Boswell, James, The Life of Samuel Johnson (New York: Garden City Publishing 1948)

Browne, Renni and King, Dave, Eds., Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (New York: Harper Collins Publishers 2004)

Cameron, Julia, The Artist’s Way (London: Pan Books, Souvenir Press 1995)

Clarke, Suzanna, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (London: Bloomsbury 2015)

Edgerton, Les, Hooked (Cincinnati, Ohio: Writers Digest Books 2007)

Fielding, Henry, Tom Jones (Ware, Herts: Wordsworth Editions 1992)

Hauge, Michael, The Six Stages of Plot: (accessed April 2016)

Howard, Elizabeth Jane, The Devoted in Mr Wrong (Harmondsworth, Middesex: Penguin 1975)

Kress, Nancy, Characters, Emotions and Viewpoints (Cincinnati, Ohio: Writers Digest Books 2005)

Lessing, Doris, The Grass is Singing (London: Flamingo Harper Collins 1994)

Metcalf, Linda Trichter, Writing the Mind Alive (New York: Ballantine Books 2002)

Miller, Beth, The Good Neighbour

Miller, Beth, Masterclasses. 23/2/16 Plot and Structure; 19/4/16 Characterisation

Mosse, Kate, blog on website (accessed April 2016)

Niffenegger, Audrey, The Time Traveler’s Wife (London: Vintage, Random House 2004)

Noble, William, Conflict, Action and Suspense (Cincinnati, Ohio: Writers Digest Books 1994)

ProWritingAid Are You Ready to Draft Your Story Arc? (accessed April 2016)

Royle, Nicholas, The Art of the Novel - ebook (Cromer: Salt Publishing 2015)

Rozelle, Ron, Descriptions and Settings (Cincinnati, Ohio: Writers Digest Books 2005)

Rumens, Susan, The Travelling Philanthropist (unpublished)

Rumens, Susan, Broodleroo blog

Simas, Joseph, Ed., Arthur Rackham – Masterpieces of Art (London, Flame Tree Publishing 2015)

Sinha, Umi, Belonging (Brighton: Myriad Editions 2015)

Sinha, Umi. Workshop sessions: 9/2/16 Setting and Senses; 16/2/16 Style and Voice; 1/3/16 Pace, Scene and Summary; 8/3/16 Characterisation, 26/4/16 Overview and Short Stories.

Sinha, Umi, Writing Clinic (accessed April 2016)

Toibin, Colm, On Writing. Louisiana Channel (accessed April 2016)



Sue Rumens


brightONLINE student literary journal

21 Jun 2017