Want to Help Me Brainstorm?

I need to figure out who killed the king.

OK, there’s a bit more to it than that. I’m in the will-this-shiny-new-idea-work stage of a new novel. It’s coming together beautifully and I’m in love with the main characters. But I’m still trying to fill in pieces of the overall plot to make sure it works. It’s a high fantasy sort of setting. Here’s the basic premise and where I’m running into trouble.

Basic premise as it applies to current problem: The King is assassinated. His teenage stepson walks in on it and sees it done. Stepson escapes that night and is missing for ten years. He comes back. Conflict that’s been raised/resolved/brewing/etc over all this time comes to a head/ensues.

The plot turn where I’m having trouble: One of the ways the shit hits the fan with this return is that it was never determined all this time who actually killed the king. There have been powerful dukes and the king’s younger brother implicated in the overall plot, but no one knows who wielded the knife, or if they do, they’re not telling. But the stepson saw who it was all those years ago. So now that he’s back, he can out the killer.

Problem: I need a character for this killer. Thing is, there’s an alternate world attached to this one where each person has a counterpart, though, as often is in one of these stories, ones who are good in one world are evil in the other, etc. I have a counterpart for this character in the alternate world that I need to match up to someone in this one. For that reason, I need this person to be:

A woman.

Someone both the king and the stepson would know.

It doesn’t have to be someone they liked or trusted but there’s no reason it couldn’t have been, either. It would probably fit better with the alternate world if this one wasn’t clearly and obviously a friend of the king.

Someone who is now safely out of the way, her compatriots probably know where and have means to contact her. She may or may not have disappeared as soon as the deed was done, but she’s not in reach now that the stepson is back at the palace to name her.

She’s someone no one suspects. (This one makes me leery of using wives/sisters of any of the known plotters.)

Limitations: The boys’ mother was already dead, the king had no other lover. They have no other close female relations, except possibly a wife for the king’s brother, a known plotter.

I’ve got no major female character already in this part of the story at all–it’s one of those icky patriarchal societies–;) except one who is too young to have been involved. I don’t have a problem inserting one, and she doesn’t have to play a hugely important role otherwise, but does have to be enough a part of the backstory┬áthat it’s not a “who?” moment when she’s revealed. (Obviously she can’t play a huge role now, since she’s not around to be captured once the prince names her.)

Anyone have any ideas? Or have I backed myself into a corner and need to revisit some of my limitations?

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9 thoughts on “Want to Help Me Brainstorm?”

  1. There’s always trusted retainers or even a maid who was loyal to one of the dukes (illegitimate child of a duke?) And as I raise these straw-guys, you can cancel them as too cliched.

  2. I’d go with one of two options, either the stepson’s nursemaid who killed the king in order to save the stepson who she loved like her own child who died in a riot the king caused through a poor decision (as in he wasn’t cruel but he messed up and some of those dukes ran with it and stirred up some trouble) or the stepsons’ one true love, a palace servant, slightly older than him, who did it for any number of reasons. Depends how cold you want the killer to be.
    K.W. Ramsey recently posted..Why We Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Make The Hard ChoiceMy Profile

  3. See, y’all have good ideas!

    You make a good point, Paul, the stepson is actually from a neighboring country, so that could be a factor. I didn’t mention it because he left there when he was only six and has no real ties back there personally. I could tie the politics of that angle more.(Why he’s the stepson of the king of a different country, and all.)

    I should probably make it clear, though, that the stepson’s not the main character, and this isn’t even the main storyline. But all the detail about the main character and, really, the main storyline isn’t what matters with this problem. It’s integral enough to the main storyline that it matters. I just didn’t want to confuse everyone with too many details.
    Leah Petersen recently posted..On Being Brave…And BaldMy Profile

  4. Perhaps she is an angry little cousin who lashed out at the King with a letter opener. The King told her that her parents had been killed in an ambush when she was 2 years old.
    The King had staged an ambush in an attempt to frame and attack a distant neighboring small kingdom. He had an inside source that a larger neighboring kingdom had used this small kingdom to store gold and jewels, also food stuffs and wanted to seize the goods.
    During the attack, her parents were accidentally in the wrong place at the wrong time and did indeed get killed. She discovers that the King was hiding the reported letter from a soldier who witnessed the mistaken identity and murder of her parents, and rescued and delivered the toddler to the King.
    In regret and sorrow of the child, he adopted her as another step child claiming that she was a distant cousin, who’s parents passed from the plague of the year ????, when in fact she had no royal blood at all. Of course she would still have to pretend not to know that her parents were killed by the Kings sinister ways.
    The stepson leaves in disgust after seeing the incident in order to help the little cousin reunite with her own family, since he does not want her to marry a(pre arranged) certain someone that may be special to him, or because he knows she doesn’t have royalty in her veins. The stepson justifies finding her and revealing her secret by saying to himself ‘This arrangement of marriage is wrong, she is too young, and he would be much older than her’, and she is not royalty. As the little cousin turns 14, she leaves the kingdom she grew up in, saying she was going to look for the stepson that she heard was residing in another land. She secretly had a severe crush on him. She comes back every year for the annual spring-fest evening ball when the sun sets later, in hopes of seeing her first true love.

    All of this could be back round material with pieces of her story throughout the book.Can you follow that? What do you think?

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