Monday, July 16, 2007

What Would Queen Victoria Think, Today? An Exercise in Writing

My quill pen is in my hand. It's dipped in blood red ink. Here's what's going on.

Characterizations for my Victorian novel are underway. They're being beefed up, today. That said, I’m turning off the charm, and looking at the character depth. My newest critique group is named, Brutal Honesty. It epitomizes my new approach to revisions – brutally honest.

I'm writing-in Queen Victoria as a ‘magic helper’ role in my novel. She was simply a whisper in the background and will now become a lion’s roar. She’ll create a moment of change in the storyline where one is missing. The hero-myth, as used in storytelling, presents the magic helper as the character who injects wisdom at a critical moment. The hero or heroine is able, then, to proceed.

So. How to write her in when she's half a world away?

Easily with letters. Victoria was a prolific letter writer and wrote to anyone who was anyone. My heroine has a moral dilemma – quite the quandary. The hero is not destined to be my heroine’s husband. Will they have an affaire? Victoria will write to my heroine, spouting her morality which has been succeeding in expanding her world, literally. What advice would Victoria be spewing in her letter? For she was known to take the proverbial bull by the horns in respect to moral issues and not just in the Peerage or the Aristocracy.

Victoria put in place morality laws and elevated social structure to clean up the image of the royalty. She wanted shining examples at the top. It went along with her expansionism that has never been surpassed. Insisting on impeccable backgrounds and behavior for her own spouse and those of her children, she’d advise my heroine not to have an affaire. In the letter, she believes her high morals are the reason for her success in love and matters of state.

She’d roll over in her grave, today, observing what remains of her value system within her progeny in England. Never would she have allowed a scandlized mistress to marry an heir to the throne, nor allowed wild young royals to live together out of wedlock. She won’t condone my heroine entertaining an affaire even though its with the heartthrob of a hero. Because my heroine is a courtier in another court that is more interested in emulating the decadence of the French court, my heroine's strong Christian upbringing is challenged.

Victoria's economizing traits, however, trickled down amongst some of her descendents, though not all. She’d approve of the tendency to turn off as many lights as possible and of using tea bags twice. Over spending on ball gowns was not her style, though, as she used her coffers to create the most formidable navy ever seen, for example. Twice the size of any other country’s forces. Today's group of royals are tending to forget they're essentially civil servants and their allowances are too high for them to be above reproach when compared to other heads of state for frivolity in the face of the public. Disposable wardrobes may be a problem, today, but in Victoria's time, she even re-used the laces and buttons from prior generations, and so did her aristocratic peers. My heroine, therefore, receives a number of reminders from her distant friend.

Economizing in other areas, though, allowed Victoria to focus on what she valued, such as information gathering in a quickly changing world. Emulating the German’s, Victoria focused heavily on creating spy networks, not wanting to be left behind. Real spies, for example, never participated in brothel offerings and attended church regularly. They were nicknamed, ‘ghosts.’ My noble hero happens to be spying, and so needs to remain above reproach, himself. Spies who broke the rules in the Victorian era were considered despicable fellows ever after. My hero has to make moral choices in his income potentials in the spy world, and in maintaining morals high enough to be eventually considered worthy of my heroine.

Victoria would roll over in her grave, today, at intelligence faux pas such as the mistakes in the War on Terrorism and chasing after weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. Her spies weren’t put out to pasture in the manner of disrespect that occurs, today. Former members of Military Intelligence retire and then live in fear of black helicopters circling their homes as they stroll to the corner market and post such fears on web sites. Spies in the Victorian era were held in truly high esteem, and retired into elevated endeavors. The gifted Sir Robert Baden Powell came to the forefront on such matters, founding the Boy Scout moment which taught young males the same high value system instilled in the spies in Victoria's national espionage teams.

I’ve decided, then, on Queen Victoria’s role in my novel. She'll be a story complication and her successful morality movement a wrench in the cogs of the romance for my hero and heroine. Both my hero and heroine have much at stake if they break the Victorian social taboos being propelled forward by the most powerful queen in history.

It'll give them more to think about.


Susan Macatee said...

Interesting that even the queen of England wasn't wasteful when it came to clothing.

I've learned that people in Victorian times often reused clothing, by using old dresses to make aprons or children's clothing. And children's clothing was expanded as they grew. Hemlines were expanded and waistlines let out.

I just didn't know this same frugalness existed in priveleged circles of the time period.

Cozy aka Susan Flanders said...

Hi! Its quite rare to find anyone bold enough to really add the royals into their work. Good for you. I'd like to read it! How far along are you, and is the book published? Oh, by the way, Albert, dear Albert-- was the one that truly insisted Victoria's court be above reproach. I do think that Victoria would be a bit amused by the hero's predicament, however, she would not let on--ever---that she was amused. I often think, too, of what she really thought of things!!!

Susan Flanders, Writer of Queens