I stepped away from revising for the last few days, to work on building and exploring characters for the novel I plan to write for NaNoWriMo come November. I plan to expand on the two short stories I wrote earlier in the year, about the Princess Behind the Thorns.
I’ve been delving into the backstories, and particularly the terrible childhoods, of my two protagonists, Princess Rose Amelia and Prince Terrence. As I explored Terrence’s past, I was inspired for a prequel short story to illuminate some of the ideas I was having.
I ended up writing a 4,000 word short story Sunday afternoon, a darker and grimmer story than I usually write. And it strikes me that probably only writers understand the particular thrill of thinking, ooh, here’s a really terrible thing I can do to this character I love!
I’ll spare you the grimmest moments, and give you an excerpt from the comparatively positive aftermath.
His mother still looked pale, after it was all done, and he was stretched on his stomach on the couch in her room. The cool cloth she pressed to his bared back helped with the pain, but not the guilt.
“I’m sorry, Mother,” he said, scrubbing at his damp eyes with one hand. “I’ll be stronger next time.”
That was what his father wanted. To make him stronger, to make him a proper prince who could be a proper leader some day. It was his own fault he kept failing.
His mother sighed, and ran her fingers lightly through his rumpled hair. “You are perfect, my Terrence. You are kind and sweet and good, and don’t ever, ever change.”
It was nice his mother thought that. But of course he knew there were lots of things wrong with him.
His mother’s door banged open and Elena rushed in like a windstorm. “I brought the turmeric for the tea, Aunt Lillian,” she announced, dropped her bundle on the table and came over to inspect Terrence. “How bad is it this time? Ow—pretty awful.”
“It’s not that bad,” Terrence said, though he didn’t expect Elena to be sad about it like his mother was.
Elena was his cousin, his mother’s niece, and two years older than him. She had lived at the castle most of her life, since her parents’ deaths, and at fifteen she considered herself quite the adult. She was far more likely to get angry than to cry about anything.
Sure enough, she launched straight into a sort of combined scolding and consoling. “It is too that bad, and it never should have happened at all.”
“I shouldn’t have—”
“Your father shouldn’t have beaten you for losing a footrace against the servants! Of all the ridiculous—I’d like to get a belt and—”
“Elena,” Queen Lillian said sharply. “Do not speak ill of the king.”
“I know, I know,” Elena said, plopping down in a puff of skirts to sit on the ground next to the couch. “I didn’t say I would. I’d just like to do…something.”
Despite the pain in his back, Terrence smiled into the couch cushion. It was very Elena. And he liked when he could be with his two favorite people, even if this was a bad reason for it. He liked looking at them together, both small, both with perfectly straight brown hair and the same blue eyes. He wished he looked more like his mother but, like all three of his brothers, he took after his father, with curly hair and dark eyes.