Having done some reading on the Tudor period in England, I naturally cooked up a novel using a lot of the premises. The idea is to set it in a fictional setting based on Tudor England (Jutemark, perhaps?) and focuses on three individuals, let’s call them the Spymaster, the Mayor, and the Outlaw. Each of these three have reasons to hate the main villain, a powerful peer and follower of the Old Faith, the Duke of Norford.
The story would begin at the death of a young king of the New Faith and the rise of his half-sister, of the Old Faith. It would then jump to that Queen’s passing and the ascension of another half-sister, who would try to moderate her New Faith with the needs of those among her people who still follow the Old Faith. The early reign of this sister would be the main story, as the characters all find themselves in conflict with Norford and in a race to protect the young queen from old enmities and foreign powers.
Sound familiar? Yes, both in history and in media, this story has been told. But it’s the characters, rather than the political events, which I intend will drive the story.
The Spymaster’s story is one of loyalty and speaking truth to power. Through his story, he consistently tells the monarchs his mind and he refuses to make promises he is not certain he can keep. His actions make him invaluable to the monarchy. He is able to do this because he has nothing to lose but his life. As the story progresses, he becomes more and more powerful. He is a man of his word and amasses a collection of talented and sometimes dangerous adherents, whom he uses to advance the interests of the crown. He is an enemy of Norford simply because he does have such a strong influence on the crown, and his professed New Faith.
The Mayor’s story is one of compromise and fear of government. The Mayor also gains political power through the story, but constantly avoids using it to advance the New Faith. He will accept whatever faith the monarch proclaims and rarely (except for one instance) chooses faith over expediency. He has a family, and fear of what might happen to them makes him flexible. He shows that good men sometimes do nothing, but he is not condemned for this. His one instance of opposition to authority relates to warning and allowing his servants (of the New Faith) to escape the counter-reformation, spearheaded by Norford. This puts the Mayor at odds with Norford.
The Outlaw’s story is one of revenge and the illusion of religion. His uncle, a good and honourable man, becomes a political opponent of Norford and so is silenced. Even though the Outlaw and his family strictly follow the Old Faith, Norford’s desire for power and wealth make him blind to religion, save when it suits his own purposes. The Outlaw’s story weaves in and out of the Spymaster’s and the Mayor’s, finally linking all three. The Outlaw also has nothing to lose, and may actively wish to spend his life in an effort to gain his revenge–as once that revenge is achieved, for what does he live?
This is the first time, for me, that part of the outline of a story includes themes that I see arising from the plot. The plot came first–a plot that is a little intricate and would take up too much space, though I may relate it at a later date, if this project moves forward. Still, as I examined the story and the characters’ roles, certain themes became obvious to me. I think this can only help to focus my writing. The pit-fall, though, is that it might stymie character growth. If the Spymaster is about loyalty and truth to power, what does he grow into? Is his growth within these themes, or does it lead him beyond these, and into something else?
Right now, the plot as developed doesn’t really answer those questions. I would expect they would be answered in the telling of the story. Outlines are good for giving me direction, but I often go off course during the writing, and find little gems I never anticipated.