This is what you have to do:

Part 1 (75 marks)


Write a short story of 1500 words that includes some use of time-shift and some dialogue.


Write a 1500-word chapter of a longer work that includes some use of time-shift and some dialogue. Sketch out the plot of the novel in no more than 50 additional words.

Include in your story or chapter one or more of the following subjects:

Part 2 (25 marks)

In about 300 words, describe and give reasons for your choices of:


And this is my submission:

Part 1

A chapter of a novel

Dom Aidan Mowbray was shaving.  As skin emerged dimly from the lather, he was thankful again for his Spanish quality steel – a strop or two each morning kept it keen – and pitied some of his fellows and their morning injuries.  He thought about the dawning day, fading the familiar bedlam of the washing house, where hooded figures bustled through to the lavabo, and there was constant chatter with the busy lay‑brothers, as they brought hot water to the newly-arriving, and cleared away after the departing.

Aidan thought of his day to come, contrasting its complexities with the well‑defined technical complications of his years of work in the writing house.  The framework of those days and these was the same;  the steady beat of monastic life formed the skeleton, the matrix as it were, on which  all their days were built.  But now, aged thirty‑five and bursar of Waverley Abbey for two years, he had to commit more of his inner self to his duties.  He thought of Christ, moving from the workshop to his divine mission, and resolved that he would try.

An awkward meeting was to take place this morning:  young Nigel Loring would be angry and dismayed at the loss of his acres.  For, the abbey never died, but mortal land owners were sometimes minded to enrich the Church when they died.  Abbot John was particularly good at fostering the friendship of important local souls, providing companionship and spiritual direction, and so it had been with the old squire, Nigel’s father.  Today, though, the meeting - whose every word would be recorded by the Abbot’s secretary – of Aidan, Dom John, and Nigel, would not be friendly.

The urgent second dawn bell broke into Aidan’s reverie;  just time to hurry to the vesting chamber to prepare for his private celebration of Mass in the old abbey church.  He rinsed, dried, called Fra Thomas, his body servant, to tidy his things, then walked quickly out, skirting the disorder of the new building.




“Aidan, come in and sit down.”  Abbot John stood in greeting, gesturing towards the bright fire that countered the raw February day.  “This morning’s meeting went pretty well, I thought.”

Aidan did not agree, remembering Nigel’s face as he left, anguished at the failure to hold his land.  Land - land meant everything to men of Nigel’s rank:  most men had nothing, and the great magnates took their acres for granted;  but the middle rank, of squires and petty lords, schemed and lusted to hold what they had and acquire more.  There could well be trouble – armed violence even – when the abbey agents went to explain the new terms to the tenants of the four hundred acres ceded by Squire Loring. He decided not to counter Dom John’s suggestion – trouble would not be averted by discussion now – and instead continued:

“Yes, Father, I believe young Nigel Loring is beginning to accept the facts.  Though I do not think it wise to accept his soldiers as my escort.”

There was a pause while the two men waited for building noise to subside;  building noise had been present now for thirty years, it would continue for many more years, and the community had adapted to it;  but occasionally it was too loud for speech:  this afternoon, the team of mules on the stone‑lifting engine were all giving voice at once.  Aidan, looking out of the window of the abbot’s parlour, saw the line of labouring brothers waiting in the cold for a few minutes in the warming house;  laborare est orare, work is prayer, he recalled, and hoped that his and the abbot’s more comfortable work was also blessed.;  then he thought about the journey he was to make when the travelling season began.  He was an experienced traveller, and in a few weeks would be adding to his collection of journeys:  Paris, Rome, York, all in the last four years, and now north again, to the limits of the kingdom and of the empire of the ancients.  The noise outside died away, and the abbot continued:

“It will be costly to pay for the bishop’s soldiers, do you actually think Loring’s men would make trouble?”

“Father, I did say beginning to accept his loss.  That household in Tilford is like a family, and Loring to his few hundred men is more than a father;  many of them have been with him to the Holy Land and back on crusade.  They know he is distressed at the things that have happened here, they see us as the cause, and do not love us.  There would be ten of them escorting my party, and on those northern moors, infested as they are with rogues, it would be easy to arrange a ‘sad accident’.  I do not fear for my own petty life on earth, but its loss would mean a long delay in achieving our goal.”

The manor of Tilford, held since King William’s time by the Lorings, had a duty to furnish soldiers to the abbey, which had no armed men of its own;  the scope of this duty was a matter argued over in detail, and engrossed in a deed in the Abbey’s document house;  but it would certainly include the two months service of the troop of horsemen needed as Aidan’s escort.  Bishop William of Winchester held the castle in nearby Farnham, and could readily spare the men required;  but, there was little warmth, and no obligation, in the relationship between John and William, princes of different provinces within the church;  and so, money would have to be paid.  Abbot John continued:

“My son, you hold in your hands, or rather in that subtle head of yours, all the details of our Toulouse enterprise.  You have the confidence of the de Montfort family, and, who knows, it may be that Lincolniensis himself will be won over.  I do not want you to be troubled about your soldiers;  my secretary will take a note to Farnham tomorrow.”

The two men talked a little longer, and left together to take their places in the church choir for nones.  The building noise had stopped for an hour, as always during the chanting of the Divine Office.




In the eating house, at dinner, after vespers, the hundred monks of Waverley were silent, listening to the steady voice of the Reader, which carried over the clatter and the bustle of service.  Aidan became distracted from the stately Latin periods of Origen, and reflected again on the lines of men he had seen by the warming house, on the nature of his ‘work’, and on his vocation.  He remembered himself as a young novice, and Abbot Henry preaching to his group on what it meant to follow Benedict:

“My sons, as you approach the time of your solemn profession, I implore you to reflect on our holy founder’s three pillars.  The first is called stability, and each of you binds himself to stay forever in this very family, in this very place, here in Waverley, for ever, supported by your brothers and ruled paternally by your superior - that is to say”  and here the abbot’s face lightened with a smile “by me.  I shall be your father in God, for as long as it pleases Him.”

“The second pillar is the vow of renunciation.  You renounce the world, and all concupiscence, and aim at a life of perfect charity.  In so far as you achieve this, you become a man of God.  Thirdly, you take a vow of obedience:  your will is to be entirely subject to the commands of your superior, and to Benedict’s precepts of labour and mortification.  Remember always that your monastery is a palace, a court, and that the Divine Office is the daily service and formal homage rendered to the Divine Majesty.  This opus Dei is the keystone in the whole structure of monastic life.”

Aidan thought of the loved Abbot Henry, and of their two places in the monastery graveyard – Henry’s now occupied, his own waiting.  What is Dom Henry thinking of my stability?  And what when it conflicts with obedience?

Dinner ended, Abbot John intoned grace, Aidan came to himself and joined in the thanksgiving for food received.  Later, in the congregatio before compline, he found himself the focus of a small group pressing for details of his coming journey.





See opus Dei.


Any monastic event attended by the whole community.

de Montfort

A noble family, one of whom was to lead the Albigensian Crusade, and another to illuminate English history.

Divine Office

See opus Dei.


Title of an ordained choir monk, short for Dominus or Domnus, master.  Compare Fra, title of a lay brother.


Title of a lay-brother monk, not ordained but taking solemn vows, short for Frater, brother.


See opus Dei.


Robert Grosseteste, an actual contemporary bishop of Lincoln.


See opus Dei.


See opus Dei.

opus Dei

Literally ‘work for God’.  In the Benedictine order, the practice of regular conventual meetings to chant psalms in unison.  These meetings took place every day as six sessions of one hour each, from early morning to late at night, from matins, through prime, lauds, nones and vespers, to compline.


A third-century influential Christian philosopher, a ‘father of the church’.


See opus Dei.


See opus Dei.


Plot Summary


The novel is set in history, 1180 to 1220, but is not an ‘historical novel’ in the sense deprecated by Mme Oldenbourg.  Its thread is a set of events before and during the Albigensian Crusade.  These events are fictional but feasible, and seen through the eyes of a fictional participant, an important English Benedictine monk.


Part 2

Point of View

I feel most comfortable here with a third-person narrator who is close to the participant. In Block 4 terms, this is ‘Third person, some omniscience’.  The narrator speaks on Aidan’s behalf, and brings the story into focus;  but the story is not limited by Aidan’s actual voice and personal perceptions.


‘Continuous past’ is right in general for this long complicated story, though in action sequences I expect to use ‘continuous present’ to gain the vividness thus available.  I favour ‘continuous past’ in general, as being familiar to the novel reader, and unlikely to cause irritation.


I do not here write wholly within a genre, as discussed in Block 2.  The intention is to place the reader comfortably and convincingly within the events portrayed: unsurprised, entertained, and instructed.  There are, however, elements of historical and thriller genres, particularly the latter in raising suspense as to how the story will develop.  I also nod to Conan Doyle’s historical novel Sir Nigel, in which the eponymous Nigel Loring, the main character, is somewhat as here presented. A glossary is added, partly for the reader’s convenience, but also to give a mock-academic ‘feel’ to the work;  in the same way, the complete work would include a bibliography.  Here I follow Robert Harris in his recent Roman works Pompeii and Imperium.

Start point of the story

We open in medias res, in the abbey, developing a feel for the granularity, as it were, of a monk’s life. The protagonist, Aidan, is aged thirty-five, having joined the monastery at age thirteen and progressed to Bursar after five years as a novice, seven as a scribe, and seven as novice‑master. 

Particular emotion and mood

Aidan is shown as a reflective soul, committed to his monastery, but concerned at the direction of his successful, busy life.  Nobody shows any emotion, and the mood is to reflect a busy, stable community, in which the protagonist has a key rôle.