An Origin Story
With my current project, I’ve made it to the end of the next run of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’. And it’s a short story, so shouldn’t take too long. The only difference this time is the importance of the story. One of the central mysteries of The Darkwood Mysteries is what Darkwood’s mother and father did with the guide-stone they left her as inheritance, and this story will explore the beginning of the Darkwood relationship with the stone. Peeling back the curtain on a central mystery is daunting. An info dump is not satisfying, but with my trying to keep each story in the series as standalone as possible and through their not really being in chronological order it’s equally difficult to sprinkle in clues and red-herrings which build to a climactic reveal. So, I have set upon having one or two stories per run deconstructing the central mystery.
In ‘The Conspiracies of Shadow & Fire’, the climax of the first series, it explored Emily Darkwood’s first experience with the stone, which dovetailed nicely into a story contemporary for Darkwood and Hobbs. I had thought of doing something similar for each mystery reveal story, but I thought a connection between past and current events in each tale would be contrived. It would also mean loose ends left from her parents, and with what I have in mind for her parents and their experiences that didn’t really satisfy me around my image of them as seeing things through themselves. So, this time around I decided that Darkwood would discover the past through the journals of her mother–which she found in ‘The Conspiracies of Shadow & Fire’. They were encrypted, so it takes Darkwood some time to decipher the journals and learn about her parent’s past. This also helps me avoid Darkwood knowing everything in one single time period–Darkwood is a busy woman, after all, with her studying medicine and surgery, and pursuing mysteries drawn to her in the present through her stone, she can’t spend all her waking hours decoding years of journals.
I decided the story would start with Darkwood in recovery from the experiences of ‘The Conspiracies of Shadow & Fire’ and using that time to decode the first experiences her mother had with the stone, and with this second series focusing on the consequences of Darkwood’s pursuit of mystery, her mother seeming to lead the same life was some reassurance and reinforcement for her. After all, her parents left Darkwood the stone, and here is a journal proving that her mother used it in similar ways to Darkwood. Much needed validation for her life choices–of course, this will have consequences in itself for her parents later on…
India & The East India Trading Company
One of the difficulties I have from a modern liberal perspective is reconciling these sensibilities with characters and a world a 160 years ago. Inequality was just how life was. I might be called ‘woke’ in today’s terms–and probably as insult–but for my characters to share that perspective I risk them being historical social oddities. The Darkwood family are rich, from estates around them handed down from generation to generation–making the residents in the surrounding area serving tenants. I decided that the Darkwood’s also made their money through membership of the East India Trading company. We worry about big business and exploitation of foreign workers now, well the East India Trading company would tell the Apple’s and Amazon’s of today to hold its beer. So, the Darkwood’s have a murky past by association, but Darkwood’s father is taking them out of the East India company to establish an independent and less exploitative trading company. So I get to establish the awakening morality of the family and how this comes to a head in Darkwood who is ‘woke AF’ in a Victorian context!
The story is set in her parents’ first year of marriage, where they are parted by the need for Edward (Darkwood’s father) to be in India building a new company, and Anne left to run the Darkwood Manor and estates. This pitches both characters into conflicts, with the East India company wanting to protect their assets, the building of tensions in India (which would eventually lead to the India uprising and the dissolution of the company), and Anne becoming the matriarch of a family where some members resent the outcome of Edward inheriting the family wealth and his decision to risk the income which had built and maintained the family prosperity. Good start for a hook, and some dangers, and which the stone could be an auger. Of course, I don’t want this introductory story to just be family and business conflict, so I have something creepy heading in Anne’s direction…
I have the story plotted out now, so I’m glad that’s done as it always feels like I can just sit down and plough through writing after that. I used the 7 point plot structure again–I think I love that format. For this story though, I want to learn more about the East India company and India itself so that I can hopefully give the short forays into the India business some real flavour. So, my first writing session this week will actually be research. Unboxing the history books, which are ready for the move–whenever that will be *sigh*–and hitting the internet and YouTube.
My head can’t rest though, and it’s already planning out my next project in a modern horror novel… But, that will have to wait for another day, as I have Darkwood to wrap up, and then the dreaded editing of 11 Darkwood projects. Eeesh.