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I enjoyed writing Blondel of Arden. I like formal language, and I don’t get to use it often. I also rarely get the chance to write something completely light.
Blondel was pure fun, with every possible cliché in place. Quite sexist, actually. Somewhat like John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in McClintock or in The Quiet Man. She gives him hell in both movies, and he paddles her at the end. (Pun unintended, but noted.) That is actually more than I can tolerate and I usually turn the TV off somewhere short of the end.
I understand the bondage symbolism in this kind of fiction. The climax of McClintock when O’Hara is running from her husband with all the town cheering him on is too much like a rape scene with spectators for my taste. I stopped well short of that in Blondel of Arden.
Blondel is a cynic, Grat is an innocent, and Sylvia is a twit. That’s thin characterization, but adequate for a short semi-comic piece. I enjoyed this brief encounter with more-or-less cardboard characters.
However, I’m a sucker for people, even people on paper. I thought Sylvia had some quality hidden beneath her flirtatious exterior. I liked her. I thought she had potential.
You have to understand that I wrote this many years ago. I thought of turning it into a novel, but I never will. I have four or five novels waiting in the wings now, and by the time I finish them, I’ll have a half-dozen more tugging at my sleeve.
But when I was considering a novel, this is what I had in mind —
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Sylvia returns home, sans broach, to a pointless round of “women stuff”. She hates it. She misses the one great adventure of her life. She also reviews he own behavior, and finds it wanting. Grat and Blondel served her well and she served them with contempt. She broods about her behavior, and works to make herself better in her everyday round.
This is not enough. She owes a debt. (See, I told you she had quality.) If she can’t pay it, she can at least acknowledge it.
Something – I don’t know what – happens which frees her from her obligations at home. She sets out to find Blondel and Grat, to do something for them if she can, or at least to say thank you and I’m sorry I was such a twit.
Blondel and Grat have become companions. Grat is beginning to lose his innocence. Blondel fears that it is from associating too closely with him. Grat is also lovesick; Sylvia was his first romance and he can’t forget her. Blondel finds this alternatively endearing and irritating.
Blondel’s crust is thinning, and that is dangerous. He is a smart, little guy in a world of ignorant, thundering clods. His ability to “do unto them” quietly and unnoticed is his only defense. Every time he does something self-serving – which is basically how he survives – Grat looks on, once again disappointed in his friend.
Sylvia eventually finds them and joins them. Nobody is really happy with the arrangement. Any pair of the three could find a way to coexist, but the three-way relationship cuts too close to each of their hidden weaknesses.
Each person finds him/herself in peril and escapes that peril only through the aid of the other two. Grat and Sylvia grow in romantic love, while Grat has to wrestle with the understanding that Sylvia is no longer a damsel in distress. Blondel, to his external disgust and his disguised satisfaction, find himself in an avuncular relationship with these two innocents.
What perils? How do they overcome them? Beats me. Writing peril and escape are the easiest parts of writing a novel. They will present themselves as needed, if you know your characters and where they are going to end up.
I was also planning to use this as an excuse to build a story around a fantasy version of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a real event in 1520 when Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France held an extravagant series of jousts in the fading days of classical knighthood. Think kings in golden plate armor whacking each other for sport and bragging rights, in a world where cannon balls could blow fist sized holes through either of them if the battle were real.
This gives us three real and relatable people trying to survive on the fringes of empty magnificence. Now the kings are cardboard — which is their normal state of being.
I don’t have time to take six months to write this novel, but I would love to spend two days reading it.