Friday, 23 December 2011
This is our family Christmas tree with a few presents around the base. May I use it as a backdrop to say happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all my readers.
My writing news of the week is that my first novel, The Stuart Agenda, has now been published as a paperback available from amazon.com, the US site. We are still working on how to get it to British and European readers without transatlantic shipping costs, so watch this space.
Today I want to talk about motivation as a character driver in writing. In particular I want to look briefly at what drove Leo Stuart to kick off the Stuart Agenda, aimed at getting his brother's grandson, Robert, an untested French youth, onto the throne of Scotland. It looks like a formidable challenge; impossible you would say!
Leo's starting point was a historic grudge against the Hanoverian usurpers who had been put onto the British throne, finally displacing the Catholic family of James II, from whom he claimed descent. It was a resentment that seemed to build as he got older and the burden of it was turning him melancholic. Into that troubled pond, the French Justice Minister throws a veritable boulder. Leo's beloved elder brother didn't die in a boating accident; he was murdered by the British Secret Service, adding fuel to Leo's anti-Hanoverian fire. Leo perhaps over eagerly accepts this new version of history and is easily led by the Minister's anti-English stance, cloaked in EU speak. The Minister's suggestion that Scotland would sooner or later go independent and hints at a process for funding and manipulating the political and constitutional outcome created a plausible way forward.
So Leo's emotional motivation was partly his own, fired up by new information about his brother's death from the Minister. But can we take the Minister's classic French anti-Englishness at face value? He was a friend of Leo's brother. Is he more deeply involved than he seems?
So, we have two legs of The Stuart Agenda in place. Leo's motivation and the opportunity for constitutional change presented by Scotland going independent. The missing leg is the candidate, a credible Prince who could persuade the Scots to change horses and dump the Hanoverians for him. Enter Leo's beautiful wife, Francoise. She sensed greatness in the child Robert as she held him shortly after his birth and supported Leo's strategy all the way. She was sure that Robert would have the qualities to make a good king. But was there more to it than that?
Robert's motivation was also crucial. He quickly inherited Leo's anti-Hanoverian grudge in an emotional visit to the Culloden battlefield, scene of the disastrous defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746. The battle ended the long series of Jacobite rebellions that challenged the new Hanoverian order. At Gordonstoun School, Robert excelled at rugby and fell out spectacularly with Prince Henry, the Hanoverian heir apparent. Robert concluded that he was a far better candidate for kingship than Henry, a strongly positive driver as he entered into the final scenes of the maturing conspiracy that had been seeded by his family many years before.
Summarising; the obvious motivations of the key characters get the story going. However many of the characters are being driven by unseen issues that reveal themselves later in the drama. And of course, motivations change in response to events, particularly when Robert falls in love with a Hanoverian!
The Stuart Agenda by Alan Calder - e-book at willowmoonpublishing.com, amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and Barnes and Noble. Paperback edition from amazon.com.