If you write dramas for a church or school or other small group you probably know the feeling. Christmas (or Easter or Pentecost or Harvest or Mothers’day or whatever) is coming. The group wants something to contribute, to enlighten and entertain. They rifle through various books of scripts and various old crumpled pieces of paper. Then they go quiet. Then eyes begin to turn to you.

Inspiration under pressure

Writing under pressure can be a terrifying thing, but if inspiration comes upon you it can be just what you need. I’ve had scripts lying around uncompleted for ten years or more, because there was no pressure. But when I was asked to write and perform a Christmas monologue I had to do something.

It wasn’t me who came up with the idea. Someone lazily asked “how about something about the inn? How about there is a hotel inspector”? I don’t know why he said it. Neither does he! But it instantly grabbed my imagination. The Hotel Inspector is a favourite television programme of mine – I’d like to be paid to spend nights in hotels and then point out their failings!

Finding the point

It needed more than that. A hotel inspector visiting the inn had potential for humour (particularly if he was really blunt in his observations) and the story tumbled onto the computer screen easily enough, but where was the point? What was the piece going to convey? I only got a sense of direction for it when I realised that the inspector’s presumptions about what a hotel should be trying to achieve were the antithesis of the Christian (and Christmas) message. To achieve a good star rating the hotel needs to cater for “nice” people and push out the socially unacceptable. The Christmas story is one of all the misfits being invited to the party. Contrast the two – and you have a drama.

The final happy coincidence is the concept of the hotel “star rating”. Jesus’ birth had its own bright star rating. Sometimes storylines are just a gift.