This is a story I first came up with nearly 13 years ago. I was raising the money to come to America, so I got a job in a candle factory. It paid better than the barwork I had been doing. I didn’t really care it was nights. All I had to do every day, until I hurt my back doing it and had to quit, was trim wicks all day. The conveyor belt was a little too tall for me, causing me to slightly over-extend for reach the far side of the belt. Don’t worry, my next job selling massage cushions fixed it right up.
The nice part was I was on my own. There was no inane chatter from co-workers to distract me. I could do the work on autopilot and let my mind wander. One day I was working there and got the song “Stand and Deliver”by Adam and the Ants stuck in my head. In particular I got to thinking about the line “Your money or your life!”, and thought it would be funny if the Aristocrat in the carriage volunteered his life willingly.
Just to clarify, he doesn’t want to die. The Lord has simply grown bored with high society and has been longing for some excitement. He’s already tried all the acceptable games, and even tried introducing some of the unacceptable ones. The crude games of chance and deception played by the lower classes. The suggestion was met with disdain by his guests. He sees this as an opportunity.
It surprises the bandit when the Lord’s eye’s light up and he begin’s yelling excited “Oh, my life? My Life! Yes, My life! I hate it so, it’s so boring and dull, but you! You are exciting! You live this wonderful adventurous life! Come now, don’t stand about in the rain, step into my carriage. I’ll take you back to my house and I’ll show you!”
Gun still raised, the would-be robber moves cautiously into the carriage. “Oh, no need for that, I won’t turn you in, this will be so much more fun! Driver” he knocks on the carriage wall behind his head. “Continue homeward!”. The Lord then goes on to explain his proposal as it comes to him. He would teach the ruffian how to pass for a noble, and would want for nothing. Rich clothes, rich food, rich lifestyle. They’d be introduced at parties and other social gathering as a cousin of some sort, having returned from many years travelling the world.
In exchange the Lord would teach their new protege the life of a rogue. The Lord already knew how to duel as a gentleman would, but he wanted to learn the rough fighting of the streets. He also wanted to learn the skills he assumed that all poor people had. Lockpicking, pickpocketing, sleight of hand and con-artistry. It turns out that the Lord was more talented with a sword and pistol than the thief, and so the aristocrat happily pays for lessons in fencing and shooting. He also provides powder and ammunition that they didn’t have before.
However, the rogue has spent time at sea, and gotten to know all kinds of bad people. The Lord is soon introduced, in his new disguise as a scruffy old crook, to the criminal element of his city. He makes contact with people who, in exchange for the dirtiest coins they could find in his coffers, offer to teach him some of the skills he wishes to learn.
I was thinking of having the Highwayman find themselves well suited to the high-society lifestyle. Fitting in well with the gossips and showing a talent for talking while saying nothing. In the meantime the Lord finds the life of a petty criminal exhilarating. Unfortunately he doesn’t take any of it seriously and soon finds himself in a pickle. I’m thinking perhaps he steals from the wrong person.
Word takes too long to reach the former-bandit, and the Lord is killed. The story ends with the surviving character’s future uncertain. At the time I didn’t think much of it. It seemed to Prince and the Pauper meets Aladdin to me. I was also worried that I don’t know history well enough to make the time period authentic and believable. I could just set in a fantasy realm of course, but it seems like an easy out.
I had originally assumed that the highway robber was male when I came up with the idea. As I was mentioning this story idea to my room-mate, he suggested that making her female would be more interesting. He also thought though that actual romance between the characters would be unnecessary. If the story is good enough, readers will still imagine them together anyway. They may even write fan-fiction far more graphically detailed than my naive mind could think of.
He suggested I even leave the genders vague. I like this idea. After all, people might still ‘ship’ the characters even if they’re the same gender, or different species even! He could be a dwarven Lord, from a bloodline that rival’s the King’s. She could be a wood elf! Of course, that could make the ‘cousins’ thing difficult to sell. I could even make them Vampires. I kinda like that last one!
So here’s what I need to know:
- Is this a book-worthy idea?
- Is it better than “War on Magic“?
- Should it be our world’s history, or a fantasy world? Would you prefer a sci-fi?
- Should the character’s gender matter? Do we make it clear or vague?
- What about race/species?
Should we crowdsource the whole damned story? I could write a new post showing you what I’ve written so far, and ask you questions like this about what happens next. If I have no follow up questions I could then write the next part of the story based on my favorite answers. That would be so much fun!
Should it be Vampires? The monsters, not the shiny models.
What do you think? You don’t have to answer the questions I asked, if there is some other suggestion, inquiry or insult on your mind, please tell me :). Either in the comments below or via one of the other ways to contact me.
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