The Founding of the Ministratum Cycle

My story concept for my current novel began about a year ago as a table-top role playing game (RPG) scenario. Set in a pseudo-medieval fantasy realm, the concept focused on a patriarchal theocratic society where what would often be considered normal freedoms would be oppressed.

It began with three main characters, who were somewhat fantasy clichés to begin with. There was the burly, lecherous blacksmith, the innocent nature-loving herbalist, and the young fresh-faced lad. In our RPG sessions these characters were portrayed by my good friend Phil, my other half Anna, and my good friend Tony, and I was the GM – games master – essentially the one who controlled the story.

For those who have not tried table-top roleplaying, I wholeheartedly recommend it as a pastime. It stretches the creative grey-matter and can also be a good laugh. Tony, Phil and Anna proved to be great roleplayers, and our friends Erin, Daryn and Kim also joined in during some sessions.

At one point Anna decided it was a good idea to write minutes – notes describing what happened, what everyone decided to do, and so on, creating a permanent record of those play sessions… and shortly after that, she suggested that I took this story and told it as a novel. So, just under a year ago, I started putting thoughts down and wrote the first bit of prose for something I’m tentatively calling the Ministratum Cycle. It began with the finding of a body, then extended to a search for a killer… and then it petered out after a while.

My mood soured, I began to sink into depression, and for a while I stopped writing.

A few months later I was bought a gift by a friend – a novel writing handbook. I picked it up, read parts of it, and the longing grew within me once more. It was at this point that I began to feel a lightening of my spirit, and I realised what I had to do.

Putting my original story to one side, I began work on another novel, set in the same patriarchal theocratic world, yet in the capital city, far away from the village where the first began. It began with a stormy night, with a dark figure on a roof-top, and with the theft of an object of power.

It was only after a few months of working on this second story, when I had worked on more and more of the backstory, that I began to realise that both partly-written stories were actually two different aspects of the same tale, and that the actions of the dark figure had led almost directly to the murder I had already described. I found the way this had happened quite fascinating, because it had come about almost without any input from myself.

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