Novel Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing the rebirth plot arc: Rathilde

School Building
This building is very much what I imagine the Good Citizen Center to look like in my WIP. | School Building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a recent blog post titled, “The 7 Basic Plots: Rebirth,” Liz Bureman of The Write Practice discusses the structure of the rebirth plot type and challenges the reader to “write a rebirth arc for a classic villain in literature or film for fifteen minutes.” Rather than writing about a classic villain, I thought it would be interesting to write a rebirth arc for an antagonist in my own work in progress (WIP) and share it on my blog.

For this exercise, I decided to focus on Rathilde, a minor antagonist who does not play a huge role in this novel but will be a formidable figure in the third book of my planned trilogy. Rathilde actually attempts to help my protagonist in book one, but is unsuccessful and goes on her merry way to wreak havoc elsewhere while my protagonist lives through her own private hell.

I doubt that any of what you are about to read will make it into my current WIP, but it will give you a little insight into what I am writing. You will also have some insider knowledge when you finally get the chance to read my published novel (someday.) Here is my rebirth arc for Rathilde, according to the steps outlined by Bureman:

  1. “A young hero or heroine falls under the shadow of the dark power.”

Although Rathilde is the eldest child of the dark lord, King Mentor Drak, his is not the dark power under which she will fall. Rathilde wants her father’s love but also hates him for choosing her worthless younger brother as his heir. Rathilde is determined to follow in her father’s footsteps at any cost. Her maternal grandmother, Kath, is equally determined to see Rathilde come to power and bring the kingdom’s women out of hiding.

Drak and Kath are both extremists. In Drak’s world, women are nothing more than property to be bought and sold by men. If Kath has her way, the educated women from her secret enclave (led by her, of course) will one day overthrow the men and make them bow down to women. Rathilde easily falls under the shadow of her grandmother’s dark power.

Since Rathilde was a little girl, her mother and grandmother have secretly filled her head with prophecies of a woman who will come to power and restore order to the known world. They believe Rathilde was born to fulfill this prophecy, and they have worked for years to prepare her to meet her destiny.

  1. “For a while, all may seem to go reasonably well. The threat may even seem to have receded.”

King Mentor Drak wrongly believes his proper wife (not to be confused with the multitude of concubines he has gone through in his quest to produce male heirs) is firmly under his control and dedicated to his cause. For years, Rathilde’s mother and grandmother are free to fill her head with whatever ideas they like while her father is away attending to the king’s business.

Rathilde grows up believing that her future has already been decided. She thinks she has a clear path to the throne and that nothing will stop her from achieving her goal.

  1. “Eventually the threat returns in full force, until the hero/heroine is seen imprisoned in the state of living death.”

When King Mentor Drak uncovers the women’s plot, Kath disappears into the wilderness, Rathilde’s mother is imprisoned and never heard from again, and Rathilde is sent away to Drak’s Good Citizen Center (GCC) for reprogramming. At the GCC, Rathilde endures an unspeakable hell as her “Teachers” attempt to wash away her grandmother’s brainwashing and replace it with their own.

  1. “This continues for a long time, when it seems like the dark power has completely triumphed.”

Rathilde’s grandmother reaches out to her while she’s in the GCC and tells her she must stop fighting and pretend to submit to Drak’s Teachers. Rathilde does as she is told, pretending to let them break her, then pretending to be the model female citizen. She even begins to look forward to the Ceremony of the Silver Comb that marks the end of each group of girls’ schooling at the GCC.

Rathilde learns that she has been selected to receive the coveted Silver Comb, which is presented to the top student from each class. She finds it ironic, considering her shows of good citizenship are all an act. She looks down on the other girls, who envy her and whisper about what will transpire at the ceremony. But Rathilde ignores them and does not take part in the gossip.

Then the Teachers begin to prepare Rathilde for the ritual that accompanies the ceremony, and Rathilde is shocked to learn that the receiver of the comb is expected to submit to the “desires” of King Mentor Drak. The Teachers do not seem to care that Rathilde is Drak’s daughter and insist that she has been chosen and must complete the ritual if she wants to leave the GCC.

Rathilde assures herself that her father will choose to skip over this part of the ritual, just this once. But she soon realizes her father, King Mentor Drak, sees this as the ultimate opportunity to finally teach Rathilde her proper place in the world.

Rathilde will lead a troubled existence for many years after leaving the GCC, but she will eventually find her way to power. However, instead of restoring order as per the prophecy, she will rule with an iron fist, just as her father did before her. She will only bring more chaos to the realm.

  1. “But finally comes the miraculous redemption, either by the hero (if the imprisoned figure is the heroine), or by a young woman or child (if the imprisoned figure is the hero).”

Rathilde’s redemption will come in the form of a baby brother, Drak’s youngest child and second of only two male heirs. Rathilde feels compelled to hate this future heir who is slated to displace her and rule in their father’s place as soon as he comes of age. She will trample over the feelings of this shy, timid little boy that has been placed in her care and will scheme to keep him from coming to power. Through it all, the little boy will continue to love his oldest sister, despite her shortcomings, and will someday show this hardened woman what love really is.

Writing Challenge: Write a rebirth arc for a villain in your own WIP and share it on your blog. Then come back here and post a link to your blog post in the comments so we can check it out.

~Mandy Webster

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