Friday Fictioneers – Spirit Lamps

I had to have a good think about this week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt (Rochelle’s own photo) – the lamps seemed somewhat incongruous to the background. And then it came to me, and I’m very pleased to introduce the Fictioneers to Melanie. She is one of my go-to characters and one day I’d love to write her a longer story, but for the time being you can see some of her other adventures here and here. InMon followers will know her already. As it’s part of Mel’s whole life story, this is more a snippet than a “story”.

As ever, your feedback and constructive criticism is welcome, and the previous draft is provided only for those who like that kind of thing. No need to read it if you don’t!


Spirit Lamps

Sometimes, Mummy makes me take a casserole to Mrs Mwanna. She has these lamps. They are really old, and when I look at them, they make me think of Tinkerbell, but Mrs Mwanna calls them her “spirit lamps”. She says that they bring her closer to those who have passed over.

I once asked Father Andrews whether he used spirit lamps. That was before Mummy said not to talk to Father Andrews about Mrs Mwanna, because it makes him angry. And Father Andrews isn’t meant to get angry because he’s the conduit to Our Lady, and she never gets angry.


First Draft [not many changes, only really to cut the word count and mess with the theology a bit!]

Sometimes, Mummy makes me take a casserole to Mrs Mwanna across the road. She has these lamps. They are really old, and when I look at them, they make me think of Tinkerbell, trapped in a lantern. But Mrs Mwanna calls them her “spirit lamps” because she says that when you light them, it brings you closer to those who have passed over.

I once asked Father Andrews whether he used spirit lamps. That was before Mummy told me I should try not to talk to Father Andrews about the things Mrs Mwanna says, because it makes him angry. And Father Andrews isn’t meant to get angry because he’s a priest and that means he’s our conduit to the Lord Jesus, and Jesus never gets angry.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

68 responses to “Friday Fictioneers – Spirit Lamps

  1. Hi Elmo, I think the change from Jesus to Our Lady was a good one not least because we know that Jesus did get angry. I haven’t heard of Spirit lamps before, are they something you thought of, or do you know them from elsewhere? I like the sound of them. 🙂

  2. Good task – interesting how it developed. I agree. Spirits lamps sound good!

  3. Oh this is a great story. Standing wery well by itself. Seeing things through a child eyes is great. Great story.

  4. I agree with Bjorn that you got the child’s voice just right. It was a sweet story in the positive sense of sweet. (I almost hesitate to say that because to some it sounds insipid, but I do not jape about this.)


  5. Nice story for this time of year.

  6. I am with Janet and Bjorn on this one…great voice for a child.

  7. I love the direction you went with this!

  8. I associate Aladdin with lamps, as far as being trapped and needing release. Jesus may get pissed once in a while, but not without good cause. He’s had the Holy Spirit give me several good butt-chewings–all of which I deserved. (pardon my rambling) All in all, I thought both versions were great.

  9. John Henry Beck

    I think I would add some of Father Andrews reaction to the question about Spirit Lamps. Perhaps he isn’t as intolerant as the mother. It might be good to swim against the sterotype of Christians as bad. Just a thought. Good work.

    • Oh dear, Mum’s not supposed to be intolerant at all. The longer version of Mel’s story shows the interplay between her, Mrs M and Father A much better; maybe I’ll post it one day. It also hopefully gives a more balanced view of Christians too.

  10. You have an excellent child’s voice. Good job!

  11. Your child voice as others have mentioned is splendid. Just left me wondering about Tinkerbell, maybe the good Father knew Mrs Mwanna a little more than what we read….

  12. Very convincing voice, and an original take on the prompt. Were spirit lamps a figment of your imagination? Well done.

    • Yes, all invented, I’m afraid. If I write the full version, I’ll need to research Mrs M’s spirituality (and Melanie’s Catholicism) a lot better, but for now I just get to make things up at my leisure!

  13. A perfect story, with as everyone has said a great tone of voice. My only constructive comment would be ‘our conduit’ and ‘Our Lady’ so close together in the final sentence. Could you have ‘the conduit’ instead. But this is very minor. It’s a lovely piece.

  14. Dear Jen,
    I really enjoyed this piece. As has been said, you captured the child’s voice and innocence. I could see a longer story about Mrs. Mwanna and her spirit lamps. Well-told story to whet the appetite from more.

  15. You let us see the scene through the child’s eyes. You can tell it wouldnt have been as good coming from her mother’s pov

  16. Hi Jen… I like the spirit lamp idea, and love the girl thinking of Tinkerbell. That really established her for me. This piece was incomplete for me. Like it just stopped. I enjoyed the edit process (as always). The word ‘conduit’ did not seem right to me, for a little girl to say… it sounded out of place, and she was sounding so real. Also, I think it would be better to put a period after ‘Tinkerbell’, and eliminate the ‘but’… I think that would be more real. I will have to go see more of Melanie.

    Remember what I used from your talk about starting something with a bit of action? I got an interesting comment from a RogRites.

    • I’ll have to look over those suggestions in more detail, Ted. I agree it’s incomplete – a moment not a story this week. Melanie’s use of grown up words like “conduit” is supposed to be her received information about Christianity – in other words people have said “He’s the conduit to Our Lady” in front of her; she doesn’t know what it means but she uses it – sometimes out of context, sometimes accurately.
      Coming to see RogRites’ comment now…

      • I kind of figured that she was repeating what she heard from her mother or church. After reading more Melanie, I see she is a wise little girl… and the Elephant Mel.

  17. I love the innocence of the child and how she can accept anything and everything. Father Andrews sounds like a real jerk…but then I think most priests are 😉

    I agree with Ted’s suggestion to have a period after TinkerBell. The ‘but’ can be eliminated.

    • I don’t know that much about kids, but I think at this age they would still take most of what they are told at face value, and not get too hung up on choosing just one thing to believe.
      I take the point about the “but” but I kind of like it. She thinks Tinkerbell is trapped in the lamp, but Mrs Mwanna has a different explanation.

  18. I love the childlike language used here – just brilliant. I like Melanie a lot.

  19. Ah, the human experience with anger. Your POV is so strong from the child’s perspective, no doubt due to your youth! I enjoyed this so much Jennifer. I could follow you through the journey to the older woman’s house and see Father Andrew’s face flush when asked the innocent questions.

  20. I like the idea of Tinkerbell lamps. Good use of the child’s perspective.

  21. Neat idea bringing a spirituality to this week’s prompt. I like the idea of these spirit lamps.

  22. I smell conflict looming! I really like Melanie’s voice and her kind of reserved curiosity.

  23. I totally enjoyed your story – but I miss the fact that tinkerbell was trapped in the lantern. I would take something else out and put that back in. Using Mary, is much better – less confrontational. also, they are “spirit lamps”. I forgot that fact. spirit is Kerosene and that is what the lamps used to be called, kerosene or spirit lamps.

  24. petrujviljoen

    In JM Barrie’s original Peter Pan, Tinkerbell isn’t as sweet as people have come to believe. I was quite disillusioned when I read it the first time. That said, I like the story a lot, have sympathy with the child and Mrs Mwanna and would have to visit Melanie. The second version with Our Lady makes more sense.

  25. Quite good and rather creative, as usual. Liked reading it and enjoyed it thoroughly. Thanks!

  26. What a delightful tale, beautifully (and convincingly) told.

  27. Sarah Ann

    Glad to see Melanie move to FF. The change from Jesus to Our Lady in the final edit was a good one – it makes the whole piece more sympathetic.

  28. Makes me miss the weekly dose of religious study; not!

  29. Pingback: FF Rerun – Spirit Lamps | elmowrites

  30. This works so well from the child’s post of view. I missed this the first time round so good to catch up.

  31. Pingback: FF – (Rererun) Spirit Lamps | elmowrites

  32. I liked both the draft and the rewrite. Both carried a strong message.

    I have sometimes been tempted to post the two versions of a story I had trouble keeping to the word limit, just as an example of how careful pruning can make the meaning become more clear, rather than less.

    • Yes, for a while I played around with posting both, as an editing exercise but also because it’s sometimes interesting to see more to find out where the writer’s mind was going. And you’re right, so often clarity is improved by the edit, even when it feels like it’ll be lost.

  33. Spirit lamps.
    I guess we all would like a way to connect with people who have gone ahead.

  34. I could almost hear her speaking those words! I’m sure we’d all like to hear more from Melanie.

  35. i don’t remember reading this. glad for the repost. 🙂

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