I am writing my book, (epic fant. not urban) and I have come to a pivotal part where the prince marries his princess. It is vital, because her murder will be the threshold event which propels my prince to action.
Problem: I can’t seem to write the chapters I need about their marriage and sudden love (arranged marr.). I am finding the subject of love pedantic and cliche, no matter what I try to write. Has this happened to you? How do I find inspiration to write parts I’m not really interested in, so I can get to the adventure parts I really want? Thanks for your time!
Inspiration, in my experience, happens very rarely. Most of the time what feels like an inspiration is actually the product of you thinking about your story for hours and hours until your mind finally arrives at a solution. In more prosaic terms, in this business, you don’t write, you don’t eat. So let’s figure out how to fix this.
The problem lies, as you identified yourself, in the fact that you aren’t interested in their relationship. Probably because that relationship is boring. The challenge is then to make the relationship interesting. It looks like the prince is the protagonist and the princess in this particular story is playing a supporting role, so let’s start with him.
As people, we possess an almost miraculous capacity to heal and to hurt each other. Pull your prince apart. What kind of a childhood did he have? Did he grow up in a court where barons squabbled and his parents and he were under constant threat of assassination? Was his mother poisoned when he was ten? Was his brother – smart, handsome, and a good swordsman – supposed to inherit the throne but died on the battlefield and now he feels like his parents and country are settling for the lesser option? Was his childhood idyllic but were his parents distant? Does he feel like he is never good enough? Is he failing because he is too hot tempered and runs into the fight without thinking through all of his options? Figure this out. You need to really sit there and just pull the threads that make the character apart.
We all have flaws. We all have things that drive us forward. We are shaped by events we experience. Use people you know. Think back to your classmates in high school and what drove them forward. A valedictorian doesn’t become it without motivation. Was it because she was pressured by her parents, or she grew up in abject poverty and education was her only way forward? Same with a star athlete: something in their past is driving them forward; maybe they are insecure and need praise, maybe they are a perfectionist, maybe the sport is easy and they are not good at anything else. Use your knowledge of real people to give your prince compelling motivation.
This will also make him a complex person. You need him to be a complex person, because days of writing a dwarf, an elf, and a knight meet at the the inn and go to get the magic sword from a monster on the mountain are pretty much over. Modern epic and heroic fantasy is complex, often gritty. It grabs you by the throat and drags you off into a dark alley of human emotion and viciousness. This dude needs to be complicated enough to carry the story forward.
Now that you figured out what his issues are, go back to the princess and think about what kind of person would help your prince heal. If he is a hothead, she needs to be rational. If he overthinks things, she need to help him out of his anxiety. If he lacks kindness in his life, she needs to be kind. She must be different but equal. A good match – in fiction and in life – comes from pairing off people who compensate for each other’s weaknesses. What are her issues? What shaped her? Why does she like the prince? How does the prince heal things that are broken inside her? If the prince was smothered with affection and coddled in childhood, is she a tomboy who can ride a horse and hunt with him? Is she affectionate while his mother was distant?
Think about the legend of Hanging Gardens. The myth says that King Nebuchadnezzar II married Queen Amytis of Medes. It was an arranged marriage made for political reasons, but the king loved his queen so much that when she missed the green mountains of her homeland, he built the Hanging Gardens for her. It’s probably just a legend, but it persists through the ages, because it is so impossibly romantic. This is your target. Think about your people and tweak them, until you can see your prince building the gardens for your princess. Then, when she is murdered, it’s not just tragic. It’s a serious, life-altering trauma. It’s the kind of event that changes the vector of the prince’s life. Whatever drove him before that is inconsequential. He has a new motive now: revenge.
Now we come to unsolicited advice portion of this post. Without reading your work, it sounds like your story really takes off after that point. My advice to you is to start your novel with your prince cradling his dying princess while her blood is cooling on his hands. Start here. It’s a story of revenge, then get to the revenge. Those are the parts you really want to write. You yourself don’t really care about their relationship, so don’t write it. Write the horrific event that catalyzes prince into action.
But you just told me to do this gargantuan amount of thinking and none of it will even make it into the story? I have his childhood and his wedding written and…
And you can bleed all that in in your prince’s moments of reflection. That’s the way fiction works. It’s an iceberg and the reader never sees 90% of the work. The princess dies. Her value in the narrative is limited to prince’s motivation. Listen to this song. (NSFW.)
Start with the compelling reason for your prince to sheathe his dagger into the beating hearts of his enemies.
UPDATE: When I post writing advice, it’s not an invitation to criticize the story. The story is being written. It’s very fragile at this point and this is the stage where the writer needs encouragement and perhaps guidance. Comments are now locked. B., so sorry about that. My fault entirely.