Novel Writing

The stages of tragedy: Drak’s story

stages of tragedy
My tragic story arc is based on the stages outlined by Liz Bureman in a recent blog post titled, “The 7 Basic Plots: Tragedy.”

I am still pretty much stuck on my novel at the moment, so I decided it was time to try some writing exercises. For today’s exercise, I wrote a tragedy arc for one of my main antagonists, King Mentor Drak. This arc is based on a recent blog post by Liz Bureman over at The Write Practice.

Drak’s story begins long before the start of my current novel and will eventually be covered in the prequel I am planning to write next. (M’s grandmothers, Elde and Fayne, will be the protagonists in the prequel.) Here’s a bit of Drak’s story as I have laid it out using Bureman’s tragedy arc.

Anticipation Stage

“The tragic hero gets it into his or her head that something is missing, and they want it. This might be power, fame, a specific love interest, or something else, but the protagonist has their motivation for the disaster dominoes that are about to fall.”

Drak was born a nobody. His mother was a concubine with no special bloodlines. After she dies, Drak is shuffled from one uncaring relative to the next until he is finally taken in by a kind elderly woman who happens to be a Roaver. While growing up on the road with this woman as his guide, Drak begins to learn the Mysteries and learns that he is a natural born Charismatic.

Drak is happy with his life overall, except for one thing: Roavers are generally viewed as the dregs of society, and Drak cannot stand to be looked down upon by anyone. He is convinced he is born to better things and vows to one day become the most powerful man in all the known world.

Dream Stage

The tragic hero sets out on their path to obtain their MacGuffin. Something occurs that tells the reader that this is a no-turning-back situation …, and things start to go strangely well for the protagonist. He might be well on his way down the path of evil, but no one is calling him out on it, or no one can stop him, so he proceeds further into the depths.”

Drak manages to gain entrance to the kingdom’s top school of Mysteries. This is where all of the kingdom’s highest born children and future leaders – including the future king – go to school. Drak uses his Charismatic skills to manipulate everyone around him, even managing to become roommates with the prince.

Drak becomes the future king’s closest confidant. He begins to isolate the prince until he is his only confidant. The weak-minded prince grows paranoid of everyone around him, trusting only Drak.

Meanwhile, Drak strikes up a relationship with a classmate, Lady Elde, who is the highest of the highborn. Drak sees Elde as the perfect highborn mother for his future sons. He envisions a future where he and these sons will rule the entire known world.

But while Drak woos Elde with the hopes of making her his wife, he develops an attraction to another young lady. Lady Fayne, while highborn, recently arrived at school from the farthest reaches of the kingdom and has the manners of someone who was raised by wolves. Drak is disgusted by his attraction to Fayne, seeing her as beneath him. But he can’t seem to stop thinking of her, and so decides to court both women. He develops a plan to marry one and keep the other as his concubine.

Frustration Stage

Right about here is where the tragic hero hits his first roadblocks. They might be small annoyances, but in dealing with them, the protagonist commits additional dark acts that seal his fate and alert the reader that the only way this can end is badly.”

All hell breaks loose when Elde and Fayne discover that Drak has been seeing them both. At first, the two young women fight each other, each intending to win Drak’s heart. Drak is amused at the idea of two highborn ladies arguing over him. He purposefully continues to see both women, pitting them against each other while holding on to both.

But then the two ladies come to an understanding and begin to talk amongst themselves. A new young man comes into Fayne’s life, and he acts as a force to bring the two women together. These three begin to question Drak’s motives and manage to uncover his plot to take control of the kingdom by controlling the prince.

Elde requests an audience with the king and is about to warn him about Drak. Unfortunately, the king dies suddenly (could he have been poisoned?!) before Elde can speak with him. The prince is whisked away to a “safe place” with Drak acting as his sole protector.

Nightmare Stage

The tragic hero’s plan is unraveling, and he can sense that an opposing force or fate is closing in. He’s increasingly paranoid and living in fear of what’s to come.”

Elde and Fayne recruit assistance from within the Mystery school to try to stop Drak. With the backing of the school’s best students and most respected teachers, they try to bring Drak down.

But Drak has complete control of the new king and all of his resources. He declares the band of highborn intellectuals to be enemies of the kingdom and starts a small civil war. In squashing the war quickly, Drak manages to gain complete control over the kingdom. His opponents scatter across the known world.

Even though Drak is now the most powerful person in the kingdom, he knows he has a tenuous hold. He becomes obsessed with building an army of highborn sons to help him hold the kingdom. However, his wife and a long string of concubines manage to produce only one son, and a weak son at that.

Destruction or Death Wish Stage

Our protagonist breathes his last, whether at the hands of his enemies or due to some final act of violence. Either way, his death isn’t mourned much, and the darkness that surrounded him dissipates, and there is much rejoicing.”

Drak’s destruction will not come quickly. He will maintain the kingdom in an iron grip for decades before my current novel begins. The beginning of this novel will spell the beginning of the end for King Mentor Drak.

When Drak discovers the existence of Elde and Fayne’s shared granddaughter M. – whom they have managed to keep hidden for 17 years – he develops a plan to use her to ensure his family’s reign will continue long after his death. But Drak’s plans are spoiled when his brash son decides to claim M. for his own.

As Drak attempts to salvage his plans, the leaders of the rebellion work to gain control of M. themselves. Both sides believe that M. is the key to the kingdom and will stop at nothing to get her on their side. However, the intellectual highborns’ plan to bring down Drak and take control of the kingdom will come to naught.

In the end, Drak’s own daughter, angry at being passed over for heir in favor of her worthless younger brother, will be the one to bring about Drak’s destruction. But Drak’s story doesn’t end in his daughter’s murderous hands. Drak’s obsessive lust for power lives on in his daughter, who, as the new queen, has dark plans of her own.

*          *          *

I like working with these sample arcs that Bureman has outlined in a series of posts. In fact, this particular story arc pretty much sums up most of the prequel I’m planning to write next. I think I can even use this as an outline to get me started on Book 2 of my planned trilogy!

I plan to write additional story arcs for several of my main characters. Much of what you read in these basic story arcs will not make it into my novel. However, it helps me build my story world. Plus, you get a sneak peak at some behind the scenes action someone just picking up the book someday at Barnes and Noble won’t be privy to. Don’t you feel special?

What’s your favorite writing exercise for helping you get unstuck? Please share in the comments below.

~Mandy Webster

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