I have now finished reading the historical surveys about St Albans and it’s abbey. This has given me plenty of ideas for developing my fictional town. This is the part I really enjoy, but which also makes me sligthly nervous with excitement. Why nervous? Well I think it’s because I worry that the decisions I make now about plot and character will have implications further on. What sort of story do I want to write? Will the characters and plot ideas I come up with now work, are they too ambitious, are they too stereotyped and boring? Should I not worry about this too much at the moment, as I can always change things and rewrite. I guess its OK to say that if it’s a minor issue, but if it’s the whole setting of the book then you’re in trouble.
So far though I am quite happy with the way things are going. I have some good ideas about the motivations of the major factions within my town. As was so often the case in the Middle Ages a lot of the conflict arises from disputes over rights and income. Such will be the case within the town of St Seward’s and its environs. I think the Abbot is going to be an interesting character. He will have ruffled a lot of feathers when he started in his role, criticising his saintly predecessor, but working hard to recover the rights and income lost by the abbey due to mismanagement. He has already had a number of run-ins with local landowners and the burgesses. Some of which have been successful for the abbey, but others have left him with enemies. He is now taking a more subtle approach to get what he wants for the abbey.
On the other side are the townspeople who have suffered under the yoke of the abbey for too long. They are jealous of other burgesses in towns who have their own charters and freedom. The last time they tried to rebel though they were cruelly oppressed. Now the Abbot is offering them reconciliation and some leniency as long as they acknowledge his power over them. So there are two camps amongst the townspeople – those who want to accept this reconciliation, and those who want to stand up for their rights.
Also in the background is the threat of a new heresy in England – Lollardy. There are other factions and subplots as well, but for now I have to work out how the main plot will fit together!