Friday, November 30, 2012

(2) Historical Fiction: The Truth About Titus Oates

TITLE: The Truth About Titus Oates
GENRE: Historical Fiction

Nat Thompson blames the loss of his post on Titus Oates, a preacher who sent Restoration London into crisis with revelations of a Catholic plot. Against all advice Nat attacks Oates in the press and is arrested for treason. To clear his name Nat must prove the Popish Plot is a complete fiction and reveal the truth about Titus Oates.

November 1679

First they tie him to a chair.

The chair is nailed to a rough platform of wood and juggled up onto the shoulders of six willing men ready to be paraded through the streets of London. Horses trample past, obscuring my view, filling my ears with snorts and the hard smack of hooves on cobble stones. Men bellow orders as they shuffle and stir the procession into shape. I have never seen such a profusion of purple, such glorious rich deep velvets. All around us young men shrug on priests’ clothes and grab crucifixes and altar books from a cart brimming with goods.

My plan is to stand still and not panic. I promised Henry and William I would not. My fingers rub the smooth ivory tip of Martha’s rattle. I want to touch something of her, to keep her close. I will not panic. I know it is not my living, breathing, husband Nat they’ll burn. This is only a straw man, an effigy, thank God. But I cannot drag my eyes from it, all the same.

He – it – wears tight black breeches and a many-buttoned waistcoat. It sports a grubby neckerchief and a dingy coat that has seen better days. They have given it stockings even, although only of wool: worn, nubby and poorly patched, with threads left dangling. Its wig hangs limp, while the hat looks as though it has been kicked across the cobbles before being crammed upon his head. Probably because it has.


  1. I really like this. The title is awesome, the first line is amazing. And the writing really drew me in. Such an interesting story and premise. My only suggestion is for the logline... when you say "Nat Thompson blames the loss of his post..." I wasn't sure what his "post" was, and I had to slow down to think about it.

  2. I admit after reading the logline I was surprised to discover the narrator was Nat's wife rather than Nat himself. But that's a minor issue. I like this beginning. The revelation that it's just an effigy is nice - it gives a sort of sense of false relief, and raises plenty more questions. You paint a chilling picture of the mob, and evoke the narrator's fear and pain quite effectively.

    I'm not sure who Martha is - her baby? - but I assume that will be explained in later pages. I would keep reading!

  3. I am drawn in from the start, the smells, the sounds, everything so real. I want to know who is Martha, why is the wife so afraid for her husband, why are the people so angry that they would want to burn someone's effigy? I want to read the rest! Good luck.

  4. I was also surprised that the narrator was Nat's wife, so you may need to be more clear about that in your log line.

    That said, I LOVE a good mob scene, and you do good job of creating the chaotic feel here. I was actually relieved to hear it was just a straw man, and not the real man, so somehow you've already got me worrying about Nat. So good on you!!

    Love the image of her touching the rattle, of wanting to keep her (baby, I assume) close...

  5. I was also jarred by the narrator not being Nat. If Nat is your primary POV character, I'd open in his viewpoint. If not, maybe rewrite your logline from this character's POV?

    Great writing in your 250!

  6. Again, I have issues with this being in present tense (unless it’s a diary, of which there’s no indication). (see entry #1)

    Historical fiction isn’t my cup of tea, so the premise doesn’t particularly appeal to me. I don’t really see the drama in the log line, and it’s not clear what post Nat lost, which might raise the stakes.

    Then, when we get to the writing—which is good and paints a nice scene—I’m confused about who the narrator is. Obviously, we find out it’s Nat’s why, but if Nat is the one who has to prove the Popish Plot is fiction, then why isn’t he narrating his own story? I think it would make things more personal, and engage the reader better.

  7. As others have said, it's very confusing to have your logline from Nat's POV and the excerpt from his wife's. I also think you should make it clearer earlier who is telling the story, and also clarify where exactly she is - if she's standing in a crowd by the side of the road, is she being shoved around or crushed? The last thing is that your first line is kind of false suspense - it feels like I've been tricked when I find out it's only an effigy.

    You do describe the scene well though, once I know we're talking about an effigy of her husband, I can picture everything vividly, there are a lot of nice details. Perhaps if you just swapped the lines from 'Horses trample' to 'goods' with the third paragraph, it would read more clearly.

    Good luck!

  8. The first paragraph here is fantastic and immediately hooked me. (I also really like the title).

    I did have to go back to reread both the logline and the excerpt to make sure I hadn't missed something regarding the narrator's gender. I think the issue comes from the logline being about Nat, but then the narrator isn't revealed to be the wife until halfway through the excerpt. That's not a huge issue, but it might be a good idea to make them match. It would also be really helpful to give some sort of hint earlier on that the narrator is a woman--maybe nervously chewing a strand of hair or picking at the buttons on her bodice.

    That said, I love the description in the writing--totally perfect for historical fiction!

  9. This intrigued me because I like historical. I'm okay with the first person (after all, Victoria Holt, one of the queens of historical fiction wrote from the first person), but like the others mentioned above, I was thrown by the POV first person coming from the wife.

    I like the rich historical detail, but if you've ever been in London in November, you know the cold is a killer. It's a damp that gets into the bones. Then there's the stench of the open sewers (not so bad in winter)- let's not forget it was the city of the Black Death!
    Good work, but don't neglect the senses :)

  10. I, too, was confused once I found out we were reading from the POV of Nat's wife. That's certainly not a bad thing if the story is taking place through her eyes. In that case, maybe revise your logline to reflect that.

    I thought the writing was great and full of rich details. Even though there was enough conflict, I think you could still add more. Once I found out it was just her husband's effigy, the stakes went down for me.

  11. I enjoyed reading this entry. I like the sensory input details you included, it helped draw me into the scene. I like the internal promise to not panic and the reveal this is an effigy rather than her husband about to be burned. So, I'm obviously empathizing with the character since I'm relieved there is still time to save him. Love the title, too.

    Overall, nice writing that drew me in. Well done!

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