I had to set up the scenes between the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Because the story has been on my mind all week, it was a relatively easy process. The hardest part is getting into the acceptance mindset of Agnes.
It’s only human to see the world through our own eyes. If you’re writing fiction, you should be able to find a way to move out of your own head and into the thoughts of another being, human or not. We all have our own experiences and they may be sufficient to fill numerous novels.
Yesterday I began filling in the pieces of the short story and while I had intended to review the names of the women at the end of the story, during the editing process, the names I wanted popped into place. This has happened before and I attribute it to the characters taking on lives of their own and telling me who they are.
Agnes is going to become Phillipa, named after her father Phillip. Phillipa is going to become Alieas which is pronounced Alice. I am debating whether to use the old Scottish spelling or the current one. For now, she is Alice. Continue reading “Short Story Adventure Day 6”
Writing the ending is the hardest part — for me. Although I will be going back and writing the rest of the story and writing the ending is not necessarily the end, I have a struggle with finding where any story ends.
One thing about writing short stories is that it improves your writing skills and it help you deal with problematic issues you have with creating stories. The more you write, the better you get at dealing with the problems you have with the craft.
How did writing your story’s opening. Mine is below. It didn’t take long but it will need revision. I always have to write the scene and then figure out later where to slice it to the crucial moment.
Another factor is that it is tempting to wander off on side tracks. I know who Mary is but this is not the time to explain their long relationship to the reader. Robert the Bruce, now King Robert of Scotland, is Phillipa’s father and Agnes was his mistress. Now is not the time to get into that back story.
Corkboard and Other Tools
I’m a big fan of small notebooks and index cards and corkboard. I remember reading about a screenwriter who outlined the entire movie with index cards then rearranged the cards so that the scenes flowed smoothly and I can see the benefits of this approach and actually this afternoon, that is how I plan to work out the scenes linking the beginning to the midpoint and linking the midpoint to the ending.
Now is a good time to start making notes about what should happen in your story. What information is important to the story?
What are your favorite tools?
I love my pens and find that changing them as I scribble helps. Not sure why but it does. I think part of it is that I trust them. You don’t need fancy tools; you just need tools that work. And you need to find them when you want them.
I know I keep talking about tools and keeping it simple. I do this because it is too easy to delay getting to the actual writing while you shop for the ideal equipment for writing.
There is no magic tool that will allow you to write the perfect fiction that never needs to be edited.
I am reminded of a friend who was writing her PhD dissertation and the time she spend getting color-coded files and sticky notes and index cards and rearranging her ideas and — well — doing everything but writing the darned thing.
Another friend, also writing a dissertation, used loose leaf paper in a 3-ring binder and wrote in pencil. He would write his pages and then the next day go back over what he wrote and erase out words and rewrite them. If the page got too messy, he’d take another sheet and rewrite the amended page (in pencil).
When it was what he wanted, he had it typed up. I don’t remember if he typed it himself or not. But that system worked for him. How you write is up to you but spend more energy on your thoughts and the story than on getting the perfect moment and the perfect tool.
Here’s my intro for my short story:
“Agnes.” Her husband called from the other room.
Agnes did not answer. She was helping Mary prepare food for the next meal. It was an old habit for Agnes to help the servant and they worked companionably together.
Agnes did not want to have this conversation. He’d been home for weeks and in recent days he’d been spending time with his cronies. She assumed a first they were preparing for another foray into battle even though they were no longer young men.
Neither was their leader. King Robert of Scotland was even older than they were. Not yet fifty but getting close. Agnes pushed Robert out of her mind. Thoughts of him churned up emotions she did not care to remember.
Robert came into the eating room and walked up behind Agnes. “Come with me,” he said. His voice was tense.
She wiped her hands on her apron and smiled at Mary. Then she turned and followed her husband to the other room. “Are you to tell me that you are heading out to protect the King and do his bidding?” She was not going to make it easy for him.
They sat on the bench closest to the fireplace. It was the most comfortable bench in the house, with arms and a back. David took her hands in his and tried to look gentle. Agnes felt the tears well up and she blinked them away.
“I have made arrangements for Phillipa.”
She would not make it easy. “Arrangements?”
“She needs a husband.”
Agnes shook her head.
“The wedding will take place next Thursday at her husband’s house.”
Agnes managed to ask, “Who….” She could not finish her question. She thought of the old men she had seen in their house over the past week. Not husband material, not for her sweet daughter.
Tomorrow, the ending
How’s going? Have you written any of the three components — beginning, middle, end — yet? Why not?
The ending is the final scene. The final outcome of the conflict. Agnes lives in 1320 and she has very little power to overcome her husband’s decision. She is aware of her helplessness in the face of David’s decision. She has the choice to resist (and fail), accept and consign her daughter to a loveless marriage to an old man, or to try to reason with David.
David knows that he must do his best to protect Robert’s daughter not just because he cares for her but also because Robert is his King and he is loyal to the King and has pledged to care for those who are important to the King.
The ending is difficult for me to work out at the moment. But this is my story and I am going to have to write it.
I’m not diminishing the creativity of writing but at some point you have to put the scenes on paper so you might as well do it. Now.
Yesterday I suggested that we pick either a beginning, ending, or middle to write. I chose to write middle and said I’d talk about beginnings today. What? Why would I write a midpoint and then talk about beginnings?
Because I am trying to demonstrate that building a story is a fluid process. In the video I have my midpoint being written in the background while I talk about using our imaginations and finding the beginning.
Here’s my scene. It’s 334 words. It’s just before the sentence that marks the point when Agnes destroys her daughter’s happiness.
Agnes found Phillipa in the apple orchard. She stopped walking toward Phillipa and watched her daughter. There was a gentle breeze blowing her dress around her legs and rustling her hair.
Agnes looked at the dark red hair and smiled at the way that fate worked. Phillipa’s hair was the exact same color as her father’s hair. She knew that she was letting her mind run back to the early days with Robert. She had loved him and she had recognized his power.
Her love affair was tinged with loneliness. Robert was married when she met him and when his wife died, Agnes was sure that she would be his next wife. She got pregnant and the day she planned to tell him, he told her that he was marrying again.
She had been shocked and hurt. He took her in his arms and assured her that she was the one he loved but “this was for the good of Scotland.” He had to marry Margaret to forge a stronger alliance to protect the country and its freedom.”
As she began walking toward her daughter, their daughter, those words rose up once again to haunt her. This is what her husband wanted for Phillipa. An alliance that would protect her.
An alliance with Walter the Fat.
And now she had to tell Phillipa that she would be married on Thursday.
When Phillipa turned around and saw her mother, she smiled, her face bright and happy.
“Oh Mother, I was dreaming about falling in love. Do you know what the problem is? I’ll tell you. It’s that I never meet any man to fall in love with.”
Agnes forced a smile. Maybe she would someday but she would already be trapped with Walter. Of course, Walter was not a young man any more. He could die while Phillipa still had a chance to have her dream come true.
Her daughter continued to talk. “But I can still dream and see him in my dreams.”
I had to think about the moment when Agnes knew things were about to change. She had made choices in the past. I know that her marriage to David was arranged by Phillipa’s father, King Robert of Scotland. He wanted his mistress and his daughter to be safe so he arranged to have them married. It’s not part of this short story but we need to know a lot about our characters before we tell their story.
Agnes knows that marriage is not about love. It is about security. It is 1320 and Scotland has been in turmoil for years. Phillipa needs to be safe and provided for.