Tell Me a Story: Part 3

For those who have been following along, the question at the end of Part 2 was whether a third character should narrate the story.

And the story so far: King Felipe promised to marry the Duchess Josefa if she bore him a son. But he betrays her and marries another. Josefa, duchess and witch, stays pregnant for nine years, maliciously keeping the King’s son from him. But when the Queen dies and the King once again plans to marry another, Josefa gives birth to a magical, evil child. Prince of the Black Heart.

To revenge his mother’s honor, Prince Severiano travels to the capital where Felipe’s wedding to the foreign princess is taking place. Accompanying him is my potential narrator, the giant Marquez.

If Marquez is to tell this story, he has to have some stake in how it ends. He also needs his own character arc.

As a young giant, he promised the Duke of Fontan├ír that he’d guard Josefa, then a child, with his body and soul. To keep that promise, he’s committed all sorts of heinous acts, including the murders of the king’s messengers. The story might begin with Marquez murdering the ninth of nine messengers, cleaving him from crown to groin with his broadsword.

He’s a giant, after all.

It’s the end that’s giving me fits. Josefa has a change of heart and arrives at the wedding in time to–what? Save the king? Or would it be better if Severiano kills the king? Save the foreign princess? That unfortunate young woman’s only purpose in the story is to die.

No, for this to work, Josefa arrives in time to destroy her son before he murders the sole remaining royal, the king’s daughter by his first wife. The princess becomes Queen of Talavera.

In destroying Severiano, Josefa destroys herself.

I dunno. It seems a bit of a snarl to me. Marquez as observer-narrator doesn’t really work. He may be horrified by events, but does he change?

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Tell Me a Story

For me, stories start with a premise. It might be a concept or an image or even a title. The premise might be compelling or intriguing or even stunning. But I know that the premise–no matter how intriguing–is a necessary but insufficient ingredient in telling a story.

I’ve been reading about “how to write stories” for most of my life. The first thing I ever read–sitting in the middle of the Montclair Public Library at age twelve–was this. Stories need a beginning, a middle and an end.

Okay, but what exactly does that mean? I had no clue at age twelve. I have a better idea today, although it’s still–always–a struggle.

For example. I have this great idea about a witch betrayed by a king. He promised her marriage. She’s pregnant with his son, so when he marries another, she stays pregnant. For nine years.

But where’s the story? Maybe the beginning is implied in the premise, but then what? There’s not much story (conflict, try-fail, transformation) in staying pregnant for nine years.

But what if the king sends an annual “give me my son” message? And what if every year, the witch kills the messenger? The witch hates and someone has to pay. There’s conflict in that. And the king is surely in a try-fail cycle.

But then, whose story is this? The witch? And yes, let’s give her a name. Writing “witch” and using pronouns is likely to lead to problems, including way too much narrative distance. She’s Josefa, the Duchess of Fontan├ír, and once she was beautiful enough to attract the King Felipe of Talavera. The names give me both characters and setting.

If this is Josefa’s story, maybe the question is when–and why–does she decide to give birth? What is the trigger to move the story forward?

King Felipe’s first wife has died and he’s marrying again. Josefa’s angry and awfully uncomfortable after nine pregnant years. The little bastard prince–call him Severiano–is born with teeth and hair and knowing how to talk, saying, “I am my mother’s black heart.” Actually, there might be a good title in that bit of dialog. Prince of the Black Heart.

Okay, but here’s that pesky question again. Whose story is this? Josefa’s or Felipe’s or Severiano’s? Where does it start? What happens in the middle? And most important, where will it end?

I’m still not sure I know. So really, all I have is a premise, some names, a tiny bit of plot, maybe a title. I’ll have to let the rest percolate in my unconsciousness until I know whose story this is. Once I know, the rest may follow.

I’ll think about it this week and will try to let you know–in true cliffhanger fashion– next Thursday. Comments and fresh ideas are always welcome!