The Great Fire of London – WIPpet Wednesday

The Great Fire of London mapIt’s back to Time Shifters today (my time travel adventure for 8-12 year-olds) as I’ve not yet written another word of The House of Stone so I can’t share any more with you. I really must get cracking with it as I’m fast running out of suitable chapters to share from Time Shifters without the use of ingenious WIPpet maths. Today I’ve managed to find an extract from just over halfway in the novel when Maisie, Danny and Lizzie have hitched a ride on a wagon into London. The only trouble is it’s 1666 and the Great Fire of London is raging. The following five paragraphs plus 13 lines are from chapter 21… 5 + 21 = 26 for the 26th June and the 13 lines are in honour of it being 2013. See, I told you I was using ingenious WIPpet maths.

On the other side of the gate the houses were even more squashed together making the relatively wide road claustrophobic. It was packed with people, carts and horses hurrying in both directions in and out of London. The air was hot and heavy with heat and smoke that caught in the back of my throat. The old man started with his hacking cough again.

We held on tight to the sides of the cart as we rumbled down the road. Some of the people we passed had flushed, soot ingrained faces and a couple of the women were crying. The smoke-filled sky above was almost blocked out by the house’s roofs nearly touching. We passed an ironmongers and a bakers tucked between houses. I suddenly realised I was hungry and we’d gone without breakfast. I thought about asking Danny what food we had left in our sack but he was peering over the edge of the cart taking everything in the same as Lizzie was doing on the other side.

The smell, a really horrible mixture of urine, faeces, rotting vegetables and smoke, intensified the further down the road we went. So did the noise and heat and I wiped sweat off my face with the sleeve of my dress. We reached a crossroads jammed with people and the old man steered the horse and cart to the left through the mob and onto a wider street called Cheapside. The road opened up and on the right was a huge church, its square bell tower disappearing into the black smog above.

“What church is that?” I shouted to the old man.

“St Paul’s,” he grunted.

“As in St Paul’s Cathedral? The St Paul’s?” I asked.

“I’ve been to St Paul’s and it doesn’t look anything like it,” Lizzie said.

“That’s because it’s probably going to burn to the ground and they’ll have to rebuild it,” Danny said.

“And you know this because?”

“Because I’m guessing that’s what happens.”

Hot wind buffered my face and embers from the fire whipped up by the wind settled on our clothes and in our hair. We passed coffee houses and another church. People were dragging their belongings out of their houses and into the street. A tavern called The Bull Head was still open and men stood outside with tankards in their hands and the snippets of conversations I caught were all about the fire. The old man turned the horse and cart sharply to the right into Bow Lane full of large and grand looking houses still tightly packed together. It felt hotter and the noise of people shouting was getting louder. We turned left into another street at the bottom of the lane and suddenly there was the fire.

My blog tour for The Butterfly Storm is continuing until Friday. On Monday Elaine interviewed me on her blog and yesterday I was a guest on Raewyn’s blog with a post about the freedom of self-publishing. A little later on this morning an extract of The Butterfly Storm will be featured on British author, Jade Reyner’s blog.

Many thanks to K L Schwengel for hosting WIPpet Wednesday. If you’ve got a work in progress that you’d like to share then choose a suitable extract that corresponds to the day (however tenuously) or write a brand new opening to a potential novel and add the link of your post to the blue linky over on My Random Muse and have a read of the other diverse WIPpets whilst you’re there.

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23 Comments

  1. Very descriptive piece that really throws me into the scene. I love Lizzie’s line. “I’ve been to St. Paul’s and it doesn’t look anything like it.”

    Congrats on the great blog tour for The Butterfly Storm. I’ve got it on my TBR list to be sure.

    • Thanks so much Kathi – the blog tour’s been great and I’m very pleased The Butterfly Storm is on your TBR list. :-)

  2. Big fires like that terrify me.Reading about the one in St John’s (1892) always gives me the shivers. I’m scared for your characters. :(

  3. Pingback: Kate Frost – Blog Tour Stop #7 – Jade Reyner

  4. I’m not 8-12, but I want to read all of it. Now. Please? You hooked me totally with a very awesome scene.

    Hope The Butterfly Storm sells like hot cakes!

  5. I really enjoyed this Kate, although I am a little confused as to why the children are travelling in to danger rather than away from it. But I’m guessing all will be revealed soon…Great excerpt!

    • Yes, there is a good reason why they’re heading into danger, although I’m not sure I’ll be able to reveal much of that in a WIPpet as it would give too much of the plot away…

  6. You do smells so well, Kate! Or so bad… As the case my be here. :) good job!

  7. I liked the tension of the scene (and how some people seemed to take the fire as a matter of course… very much like it probably happened–part of the reason fires like these are able to get to the dangerous degrees they do comes from a willing ignorance of the danger they involve).

    I’m a bit confused about the ages of your characters. Since I haven’t read any of the other WIPpets involving them (I have to do that another day… I have paperwork my son’s schooling that I’m allowing this week’s post to distract me from, but probably shouldn’t allow any more to do so)…. Well, it has to do with the wording. Is Maisie that much older than Danny and Lizzie? Because she is talking to us as if she’s an adult, using pretty darned “polite” social language. Even most teens I know would use pee and poop instead of urine and faeces. Or they’d say it stunk like a sewer, or a toilet that hadn’t been cleaned in years…

    And one other thing… I don’t get a sense that this wagon is having trouble moving through the crowds. We have panicked people racing through the streets,…yet the wagon is just ambling along. It’s not stuck trying to push through a throng pushing against it. Danny and Lizzie don’t seem to have to draw back on occasion because someone passed too close (often carrying children or all their belongings…) It makes me wonder a bit more about their route (though I’m sure the old man would not be taking directly into danger).

    Just some thoughts… I know you’ve got a plan for this.

    • Eden you’ve made two very good points, thank you! Maisie is 12, although a sensible and rather brave 12 year-old at that. But yes, when I posted this today I was really unsure of the use of faeces and urine and it’s on my list of things to do when I go back and edit. As for the wagon moving through the crowds I totally get what you mean. To begin with although there are a lot of people about it’s relatively easy for the wagon to get through the streets but as they get closer to the fire, I see what you mean – I’ll take another look at that. It’s too long a story to explain but the old man is deliberately heading towards the fire. I’m pleased the tension of the scene came across.

      • I’m glad I didn’t upset you with my comments, Kate. I’m in a bit of an editing mindset with my own WIP right now and it gets me noticing things in other people’s works a bit more than I probably should be.

        And yeah, at twelve, I suspect she’d have a different way of describing the odor. If you know some kids that age, you might ask them how they would describe it.

        And the old man is deliberately heading toward the fire… ooh! I wonder why!

  8. Looking at Eden comments, ask a girl. I know my 9 year and his friends could wax lyric for a long time about suitable descriptions. Seriously stick with girls. Great WIPpet though and I want to know why they’re heading back towards the fire too. I love it how you can visit these places in history that are so fascinating (and in this case tragic) in your story. Crack on with writing it, it’ll be great to read to my kids!

    • Thanks Raewyn. I’m planning on spending July doing the final edit on Time Shifters and then it should be done. Thinking there’s no harm in sending it off to agents/publishers and see if I get anywhere with it again and then if not, self-publish it by the end of the year. It’s always good to have a plan and a plan I finally have!

  9. I feel like I say this every time I comment on your WIPpets, but your descriptions are fantastic, as always! I really feel like I’m there. I also got a giggle out of the “Well, I’m guessing that’s what happens” line – seems like a reasonable guess given the circumstances! 😀

  10. A very descriptive scene. I don’t know what the kids are thinking – I would not want to go anywhere near that mess!

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