I come to this blogging totally unprepared. So, what’s on my mind?
I was catching up on my magazine reading last night and picked up the August edition of the Romance Writers Report, the magazine of RWA. There were a few interesting articles, but I was particularly struck by the one on a writer’s core story. The premise is that we have a core story and it doesn’t matter what genre, period etc we write in, we will write that story.
My first reaction was negative. I don’t want to think that I write the same story all the time, but it really is the tiny kernel at the heart of the story, not all the details. So then I tried to think what my core story might be.
I know my stories are generally about honor. My protagonists are not free to hack their own way through life, seeking their own desires. They have that impetus, but are always constrained by their duties to family, community, country, and humanity. This has led to complaints that some of my characters are martyrs, but then, martyr wasn’t always a negative term. This all links to honor, because the basic question is, what sort of person are they if they do that or refuse to do this? Are they a person I would feel was strong and honorable, and what would they think of their own honor? If they don’t care about their own honor, they’re no hero or heroine in my books.
I address this in one of my books when Blanche Hardcastle describes virtue as a standard others impose on us and feel entitled to take away, whereas honor is something we can only gain or lose ourselves.
Honor, however, is not a core story, though challenges to honor could be.
Looking at my body of work, however, and considering the key core stories listed in the article, I decided my core story is probably a combination of rescue and protection. One of my characters is usually driven to rescue themselves or one they care about. Sometimes that is also protection. Or sometimes the other character moves in to protect/support the rescuer. It’s an idea worth playing with, especially when my next book is ——-
To Rescue A Rogue. And no, I didn’t start this message as a promo piece. I’m flying into the mist, as always.
But looking at upcoming books, in The Lord of Elphindale, my story in Faery Magic, Gwen is called upon to save/protect Faery. She has to do it by seducing the unwitting Lord of Elphindale. (Reissued in September. The cover’s so pink and glossy I can’t scan it.)
In The Dragon and the Princess, in Dragon Lovers (out in January) Princess Rozlinda is willing to save/protect her country by giving some blood to a marauding dragon, as tradition dictates. She hadn’t counted on the other tradition being called into effect — the one about the man who saves her getting to marry her. Her save/protect role becomes stronger and stronger as the story progresses, and Ruar’s role becomes to save/protect her.
There’s honor again here, of course. In both cases the women have positions in this society which demand this sacrifice as a matter of honor, and they are both willing because honor is more important than their personal comforts. The men, too, have honor issues. They, especially Ruar,cannot do what love, desire, and the drive to personal happiness would have them do.
Being contrary, I now feel impelled to write something else, but I bet I won’t, even though I my characters and plot details will be very different. The Faery Magic story is pretty well Regency, but the Dragon Lovers one is more chick-lit fantasy. To Rescue A Rogue is Regency, but quite different to most in tone. I can look at my four medievals and see the rescue/protect theme playing out in all of them. My SF story, The Trouble With Heroes…. is all about rescue/protect and honor. He has to sacrifice himself to save the world and she has to support him. At the end he says, in effect, “It doesn’t matter what we want.” When it comes to saving the world, it really doesn’t, does it? And no, he doesn’t die, though he does have to change in drastic ways, as all warriors must. That’s where the title comes from. The Trouble With Heroes is that they want, deserve, to come home, even changed by the fight they have won.
Do you have a core story? As a reader, what do you think of this? I’ve been looking over some of my favorite authors and thinking that if they switch to a different core, they lose me. Scary stuff.