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06 February 2021

Posted by Tabby Hayward

(not so) HORRIBLE HISTORIES

11-14 group - 17 attending
15-18 group - 10 attending

Today, we were sending our time travellers back in time, to different moments in history!

We began with a quick fire, descriptive writing warm-up, using the pictures below, each representing a different historical time period. The young writers were allowed up to 6 sentences for their descriptions, to evoke the historical time period they chose, for the rest of the group to guess... Here are some examples, see if you can match each description to the historical image below!

A place crowded and full of structures. with tall buildings and mountain landscape. Men wearing their armor, holding their spears. All seeming to be constructing for BATTLEEE. A brick establishment stares down at the crowd.         - by Safir

Egypt is a pretty hot place and gets up to 93°F in
temperature. This place never ends with sand, normally in the distance you can
see pyramids. All our estimated at different heights except the high
temperature I don’t know how they would make a beautiful pyramid thousands of
years ago.        - by Jake

dusty boots clomped on the dry mud, maroon shields and
silver helmets gleamed in the morning sun, square shields raised above their
heads.     - by Jasmine

The clash of swords ring in your ears.Dust trails left by
horses and men.Arrows fly through the air as you approach.        - by Annie

We choked on the clouds of dust that rose around our feet,
and tried hard not to sneeze. Elbows restricted my breathing but I did not push
them away. To push them away would mean to jostle, and to jostle would mean to
lose the formation, and to lose the formation would mean defeat. So I put up
with the elbows. A soldier behind me was so close he was almost impaling my
head with his spear, and his breath was hot and sticky down my neck        - by Clare

The sky unfurled, overburdened, across the vast sea of gold, stained with dark shapes dragging huge pieces of stone. Sweat beaded their foreheads as the rope burned their shoulders, heaving dusty bricks, tears streaking under their eyes as they think of their villages, pillaged and burned. The crack of a whip keeps them in line as they tread the lost sands, feet wet from the banks of the live-giving river. Heads rise in horror and admiration to stare at the vast construction looming in the distance; a stairway to the sun.        - by Thomas

Next, we read some extracts from historical fiction books, to give us some ideas of how we could set the scene for a moment in history in our time travel stories, giving the reader enough detail to be able to figure out where/when the character has travelled to, but in an exciting and intriguing way! For each, we figured out where/when the story was set, what clues told us this, and what was working particularly well in the description and the way the story was told.

In the younger group, we read extracts from The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner, Bracelet of Bones by Kevin Crossley-Holland and Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. In the older group, we also looked at Catherine Called Birdy, as well as Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Frontier Wolf by Rosemary Sutcliffe, and Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland. Some writers were subtler than others in their scene setting, some giving us clear symbols of the time period straight away, while others slipped in hints about the sort of time, which were harder to unravel... Some also used humour, and we looked at how you could make a historical character/setting relatable, by looking at what might be similar to modern day, as well as all the differences (e.g. in Catherine Called Birdy, the narrator is 'plagued by her family', cross with her brother, and bored with her embroidery!)

Taking these stories as inspiration, the young writers returned to their time travel adventures, sending their time traveller to a historical period of their choice!

We thought about these questions to help develop the piece...

  • What is the first thing your character notices in this new
    place?
  • Which things are similar/the same as the modern world?
  • What things are the most different?
  • What can they smell?
  • What can they hear?
  • What can they touch?
  • What can they taste?
  • They meet another character from this time - How do they look/behave? Do they do or say anything which
    particularly shocks/surprises your time traveller? Are they friend or foe? Do they realise the time traveller doesn't belong here? Is this a problem?
  • What happens next? (e.g. is a major historical event on the
    horizon (battle/revolution/invention/conspiracy, etc), is the time traveller put into
    danger, do they struggle to fit into this new time, do they need to try to get
    home, etc?) 

Here are some of the stories...

The buildings were old and creaking, all pressed next to
each other about as tight as if you were in an elevator with 12 other people.
People were walking around in over the top, high quality fancy clothes even
though there was no special occasion, it was like a competition of who had the
most unique and expensive clothes. The weird looks people started giving me
stabs right into you, they were sharp, pointed and ready to strike. Hastily, I
hid myself so no one could see me but I think it was too late. Judging by the
atmosphere I must’ve been in the Victorian times, and wearing clothes like
this, clothes that no ones ever seen anything like is sure to get me into a
struggle.            - by Kieran

Riley held the pendant close to her heart. “You better work
again,or I’ll fail history”she whispered as she closed her eyes.Once they had
opened,Riley wasn’t in the year 2027 anymore...She was in the year 1918.Slowly
walking around,she realised that she was wearing different clothing.Riley was
no longer wearing her black hoodie and galaxy leggings with trainers,she was
wearing rags and worn out slip on shoes. “That’s weird...When I did it last
time,my clothes didn’t change.This pendant just gets more and more
peculiar!”she thought to herself.Running around,Riley searched for the woman
she learnt about in history for hours but had no luck. “Where are the
protesters?!” she shouted.Everyone stared at her,as a grown man walked up to
her and said “Shouldn't you be cleaning the house with your Mother little
girl?” Riley was disgusted at his rudeness and just spat at him and walked
away. “This is not worth getting an A+ I’ll have to deal with detention” and
held her pendant up once again            - by Annie

Caliburn shook himself, his writer had now sent him on
another adventure to the greeks. honestly he was getting tired of it. Caliburn looked down at the streams of people in togas, Caliburn was
wondering what he would have to do this time when he heard a man running
through a crowd yelling 'medusa is real, i escaped!!' oh so that was why he had
been sent, the legend of medusa had spooked many generations of greeks. so Caliburn had been sent to see what was wrong in this world, and he had found
out that it was medusa; ;that will be 12 feathers please' said jasmine.
Caliburn gave a sigh and handed them over.            - by Jasmine

The Dumpster Divers, Dan and David, headed towards the
horizon on their new mobility scooter as they saw an advert of a time
traveler.  As they were driving they
pulled up to a building.
"WHAT WAS THAT?" shrieked Dan.
A black figure appears in the window.
“IT’S THE MAN WHO SCAMMED US, HE HAS THE SHINY OBJECT, GET
HIIIIM!!!!” screamed David as Dan threw a fish flip-flop at him.
They charged at the door and they had there flip-flops ready
for anything.
Dan grabbed the shiny object and was with Dan in a random
forest, full of the sound of creatures, huge creatures, Dinosaurs.
They heard a massive... growl a T-Rex shows itself from the
bushes.
“RUN MATY!” cried Dan, “WE’RE NOT GONNA MAKE IT”
  They ran and ran till
they found a pond a deep pond they jumped in forgetting there’s sharks
crocodiles and other ocean animals.
Dan slapped something at the bottom of the pond and he knew
what to do, run.
They were swimming for their life David got attacked not
caring the they still swam making it to land David’s mind turned black
They were back at the place beside their mobility scooter.            - by Jaimes and Safir

I woke up and the air felt peculiar. The past carries a close and strange feeling, air filled with old smoke and dark dust that has since been buried under layers of polish and chemicals and new white wallpapers. There was a constant rattle, the thrum of heating, and a weight in the air that was unfamiliar.

I felt like I was being choked by it all, the newness and the strangeness and the difference of it all. Wiggling my feet, I was glad to find that my new strategy had paid off – for the past few nights, I had been sleeping with the strap of a nondescript satchel that could be from any time period wrapped around my foot, in the hopes that my bag of helpful tools would be transported with me to the madness of the Malay Kingdoms or the bellowing and blood of the French revolutionaries.

Moving very carefully, not wanting to overwhelm myself, I reached down and pulled the bag up to my side. I had laid it all out very carefully – a lockpick next to my wristwatch in one of the smaller pockets, handcream and wet wipes, my grandmother’s very old hairbrush that looks as if it could have been used by William The Conquerer, a stim toy, hand sanatiser, a medieval phrase book, and a small cloth bundle neatly wrapped around a lot of carefully arranged items of clothing and other strange things that I could use to make myself appear sick. Looking like a sickly person often garners sympathy in the past, and stops people wanting to murder you.

One of the things in the bag did not really need to be there, but I thought that a taste of home would be quite nice when I am stranded in the past.

Once I had a boiled sweet in my mouth and began to feel a little less lost inside my own head, I started to explore my surroundings. The thing that immediately made me aware of the fact that I had gone back in time quite far was the scratchy white nightdress that I was wearing. The past has always bemused me in the way: pyjamas are a whole other outfit that are really not comfortable at all, rather than the cozy and soft sacks of the modern era.

Peering around the room – which was rather small, it seemed to be a terribly poor single room in some boarding house – my eyes landed on a newspaper, and I almost fell out of the bed to snatch it up.

The air, the terribly wrong air, hit my legs, and that feeling of the world threatening to become too much began lurking at the edge of my throat again.

My hands set upon the newspaper, which was cast upon a chair half-untucked from a small desk in the corner, and I frantically looked for the date. That wasn’t, however, what caught my eye first. In the advertisement at the bottom of the page was pictured an asbestos-lined clothes iron. Whenever I am made hyper-aware of something like that, the idea that every building in the past is a ticking time bomb of lead and asbestos, I feel suddenly compelled to get back home as soon as possible. Ayaan, the only other involuntary I know, says that he is very surprised that we aren’t all dead from strange poisonings.

Bumping into another involuntary in the past is always a relief, as you can join forces and feel less alone. I only know Ayaan, who is almost exactly my age (he is a week older than me and does not let me forget it), and I met him on a Roman battlefield when I was fifteen, but Ayaan tells me that he has met several other involuntaries. He coined that term when we were sixteen, and trapped in revolutionary-era France together: all us time-travellers are ‘involuntaries’, because having a group name is supposed to unite us.

Even though I do hope to bump into him every time I am in the past, I still find that notion romantic and ridiculous. We are not united, even if we all time travel in our sleep, because time travelling makes you feel ever so alone.        - by Lily


Claire awoke to the smell of salt-ridden air, the cries of black and white seabirds screaming overhead. Her head was spinning like a tornado, whirling her thoughts around so that she might not snatch a single one back. These thoughts seemed to be pierced upon the jagged surface that her head was laid on, so she firmly planted her hands on the ground beneath her to lift herself up.
A hand grasped her forearm tightly. Claire’s vision cleared enough for her to see the sharp emeralds of Nathan’s eyes, grey hair sticking out from behind his neck like swords on a soldier. ‘Stay down. Don’t make a sound.’ ‘Whu?’ Claire replied, still incredibly tired. She had no idea where she was, no idea where they were. Last thing she remembered, they were sneaking around the freighter before an alarm went off. She and Nathan were hiding in an office of sorts, full of glowspider eggs, when the boy started pulling her towards the back of the room.  He pointed at a round, black sphere, and called it a ‘Sending-Stone’. Apparently, it was a device that magic-users travelled long distance with, a trail of sending-stones acting like waypoints. As a result, Nathan said, this sending-stone must go somewhere important. Or something like that, her head was still fuzzy. The last thing she could think of was gripping the shiny orb tightly…
‘I said, quiet. Or She’ll hear us.’ Nathan urgently said, glancing around hurriedly before returning his attention to Claire.
‘Who’s “she”? And, more importantly, where are we?’ Claire said, her mind unscrambling enough to form complete sentences. Her question was rendered useless, however, by a monstrous sound. Claire rolled onto her aching side to observe her surroundings slightly more than mere colours. Her eyes widened as she saw a churning sea, being swallowed up by a huge whirlpool. From the black rock she lay on, she looked down at the huge swirl as it spun with wrecked ships and unfortunate whales, before a colossal serpent-like monster burst from beneath the depths, crunching at the life ensnared in its trap. She watched in horror as the creature returned to the sea, sinking back to wait once more.
Nathan watched her gaze. ‘Charybdis’, he said with a grimace. ‘One of the two great horrors here. Thrice each day she drinks the waters above her, only to spit it out again. A poor child who was cursed by the gods in this form with insatiable thirst. It’s almost pitiable, except that child died long ago, leaving only a monster in its wake.’ Claire looked at Nathan’s stern eyes. When he was like this, it was difficult to remember that he was only eighteen. Then again, he did plenty of other stupid stuff that mad up for it. ‘She’s not the problem though.’
‘What do you mean?’ Claire asked tentatively.
‘Charybdis is one of two monsters.’ Nathan replied. ‘She can’t hurt us from down there. It’s only the other one that we need to worry about.’ As Nathan finished his sentence, Claire spotted a rowing-boat making its way towards the cliff. Inside it were two young men, black beards hanging from their chins, hungry eyes as they looked up the cliff. Nathan followed her gaze, and sighed. ‘They’re doomed. They’ve come into her domain now. You see, Claire, one might avoid the wroth of hungry Charybdis, but there is another creature to avoid.'
Suddenly, a brown shape darted from the cliffs beneath them, like six snakes blooming from the eerie rocks. Clawed feet gripped the sharp stalactites, nearly breaking them from their places. Screams punctured the air, but the men frantically rowing back towards the shore never reached their target. They were ripped from their oars with cries of terror, cut quickly short as they were sliced by triple layers of serrated knives. Nathan looked upon the monster with a grimace, staring at its round, hairless heads as they snapped like dogs. He sighed again and began pacing the bleak rock, hands rifling though his hair like files he was too lazy to touch back at the Erinyes Society headquarters. ‘Why?’ he muttered, ‘why, why, why? Of course he had to have a sending-stone to go back to the Acheans, the sick bastard. Why?’
‘What?’ Claire asked, scared and baffled. Nathan’s returning stare was cold as iron.
‘Scylla.’    

By Thomas


Next week, we'll be sending our time travellers forward into the future - see you there!

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