The Story — Part I

The two questions most often put to writers by those who aspire to write, or by the curious non-writer, are: 1) Where do you get your inspiration?  And: 2) How do you do it?  The latter question I take to mean how do we chisel a story from raw inspiration, select protagonists and antagonists, decide upon a plot, and simply relay the story to the reader.

Both are very good questions that cannot easily be answered.  But, rather than something pithy, I want to try something a little more useful: we’re going to write a story together, you and I.  Well, to be fair, I’m going to write it and hopefully you’ll follow along, ask questions, and perhaps be inspired to try this on your own blogs.

So, where to start?  How about we start with that first question: Where do you get your inspiration?  Since discovering Dumas and The Three Musketeers as a child, I’ve had a thing for swashbuckling pomp and squalor of the 17th century France.  I’ve collected a few books on the subject, from a survey of the historical musketeers to a biography of the real d’Artagnan.  I’ve bought books on life in the 17th century, on warfare, on the Wars of Religion, on Spain . . . in short, inspiration for historical stories comes from the breadth of reading we, as writers, undertake.  You’ll notice I currently don’t have much beyond “I want to write a 17th century swashbuckler.”

I know a few more things, actually: it will be a short story, due to time constraints and deadlines.  It will be in the third-person (my preferred voice), and it will be from multiple points-of-view.  How did I arrive at these decisions?  Through years of trial and error, that’s how.  I had to learn to write novels to learn how to write short fiction — there’s a definite art to it, and I still find them a solid challenge; I’ve tried first-person in the past, and though I love reading it, I can’t stand to write in it — I prefer the latitude offered by a third-person perspective.  And multiple points-of-view — where each section of a story might be from a different character’s perspective — appeals to the dramatist in me.

With all this decided, I need only read and wait for something to strike my fancy . . . and it does.  On page 22-24 of CV Wedgwood’s slender volume, Richelieu and the French Monarchy, the author relates the story of Cardinal Richelieu’s rise to power.  This particular episode, the assassination of the Queen-Mother’s favorite (and Richelieu’s patron), the Italian mercenary,  Concini, reeks of intrigue, high adventure, and mystery.  I jot it down in my little idea notebook and start digging around online.  I use Wikipedia to collect info on Concini and his wife, the accused sorceress Leonora, and on Richelieu himself.  I discover that, at the height of factional fighting between the nobles of France and the Queen-Mother and Regent, Marie de Medici, the young King Louis XIII struck a blow that toppled his mother and assured his place on the throne of France.  That blow was the assassination of Concini, a freebooter thick with unearned titles and estates, and the arrest or exile of all his followers.  Yet, somehow, Richelieu — a bishop and minister of foreign affairs appointed by the Queen-Mother — survived.  Oh, he was eventually exiled to Avignon, for a time, for suspicion of conspiring with the Queen-Mother, but he survived the Concini affair with his name and honor fairly intact.

There’s a story to be told in all that.  But whose story is it?  And what is the story?  Is it the tale of Concini’s downfall?  Or of his wife’s alleged sorcerous influence over Marie de Medici?  Or is it the story of Richelieu’s cunning?

Tune in tomorrow . . .

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