I have recently contributed a post over on Indie Exchange about the importance of status in storytelling. In summary human beings are social beings and as such we are fascinated by social standing (status). The reader naturally sides with the underdog and is held when there is a shift in status. Many conversations and all arguments play on status. So I thought for this post I would show how I used it in one part of my novel Mother of Wolves. I had tremendous fun writing this section, which is a pivotal point in the book.
Throughout the first part of the book the central character, Lupa, has been the underdog in her pursuit of revenge against her husband’s murderers, but now she is a powerful queen of the gypsies. There’s still one man left whom she has sworn to kill, but their relative status has changed. Now Jo, her target, is the underdog and so the reader is more likely to sympathize with him rather than side with Lupa, which is good because I wanted to explore whether revenge was always right and what it might do to my heroine.
Jo accepts the justice of the situation (i.e. accepts Lupa’s status) and as a result the reader sympathizes with him even more and wants Lupa to show mercy. But that causes a problem. Apart from from Lupa’s inner conflict over whether to kill Jo or not, the scene would have no tension if Jo is passive. This problem is resolved by using other characters. First Lupa falls out with her councillors over whether to kill Jo. Then Jo’s fiancée, Bessie, arrives and Lupa meets her equal: the stage is set for a struggle.
My story-editor mentor came from the film industry and my son is a scriptwriter, so I tend to see the scenes in the book as if they are in a film. Or rather I see them and act them out. There are a series of conversations between Bessie and Lupa and I enjoyed playing with how the status shifts between the two characters, using verbal and non-verbal signs. It starts with Lupa in a position of power, she is seated while Bessie must stand. At first Bessie has her head bowed and Lupa cannot see why Bessie had had such a hold over Jo. But then Bessie looks Lupa in the eye and it’s as if two swords have clashed at the beginning of a duel. The verbal games include the use of familiarity, as when Bessie addresses as Lupa by her name rather than by her title, while Lupa uses formal language to reinforce her position as queen. I would like to claim that I planned it all, but the way we vie for status in nearly every human interaction is so subtle and so subconscious, that just
by acting the scene out I introduced some elements of competition without thinking about it and then found them when I looked back on what I had written.
At this point I will exercise my high status as the book’s writer and not tell you what happens next and who wins (withholding information is a classic status trick), because of course I want you to read my book.
Through the marshes and rich farmland of the great river, Lupa hunts and is hunted by her husband’s murderers. On the estuary islands her sons and their protector are just one step ahead of the killers. Everyone underestimates Lupa, if they consider her at all. They are making a mistake. The odds may be against her, but Lupa is the daughter of a fox and the mother of wolves.Find Mother of Wolves at Goodreads and Amazon
This fantasy adventure is a revenge story with a twist, an alternative history of the gypsies and a profile of the rise of a woman leader all in one book.
About the author:
Zoe Brooks is a British writer and poet, who spends half her life in a partly restored old farmhouse in the Czech Republic, where she writes all her novels and poetry. Zoe aims to write popular books, which have complex characters and themes that get under the reader's skin.
Zoe was a successful published poet in her teens and twenties, (featuring in the Grandchildren of Albion anthology). In May 2012 she published her long poem for voices Fool's Paradise as an ebook on Amazon. Girl In The Glass - the first novel in a trilogy about the woman and healer Anya was published on Amazon in March 2012. Mother of Wolves is her second novel.
She has a liking for books in which reality and fantasy meet. Her favourite books include Master and Margarita (Bulgakov), One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Marquez), Good Omens (Pratchett and Gaiman), Jane Eyre, Bull From The Sea (Renault), and Woman Who Waited (Makine).
Connect with Zoe:
Amazon author page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0034P3TDS