Monday, March 29, 2010

The K Word

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Kingmaker - it's such a cool title,  just the kind of thing you might have on your business card, especially if you're the original and the best.

Richard Nevill
Erle of Warrewyk
since 1461

And for a man who collected titles - after his father's death, he styled himself Earl of Warwick and Salisbury - it might have been irresistible.

Except the word doesn't enter the language until 1599  (see OED).  There's an earlier recorded use (1520) of something similar and, of course, Shakespeare's "setter up and plucker down of kings", but even these are hardly contemporary.

There's a list of literary shortcuts that readers of WOR fiction regularly come across:  Elizabeth Wydeville's greed and hauteur; Clarence's reckless drunkenness; Margaret of Anjou's (alleged) adultery, spite and vindictiveness; Edward IV's womanising; Cecily Nevill's pride and piety; Richard III's (v1) hunchbacked evil and (v2) steadfast love and loyalty; the torn loyalties of John Nevill; the saintly incompetence of Henry VI; the earl of Rutland's murdered innocence; Anne and Isobel Nevill, the political pawns; Thomas Stanley's double dealing and opportunism...

Each of them is someone's pet peeve - the straw that breaks the camel's back and makes the reader hurl the book at a wall.  For others, they're not even noticed and for yet others, they're exactly what they expected to find.  And it's true what they say:  you can't please everyone.

In the end, every writer has decisions to make.  If Nevill ever gets finished, let alone published, it'll no doubt be hurled at several walls by people who feel that I've violated one of their most deeply held beliefs.   But you won't find kingmaker in the text.

(I recently read one novel in which Warwick bellows: "I am the Kingmaker!"  This was the catalyst for Nevill.  Even in the darkest depths of pet-peevery a light can still shine.)


Susan Higginbotham said...

Good points! I confess to having a character call you-know-who the you-know-what. Ah, well!

Ragged Staff said...

I haven't read The Stolen Crown yet, Susan, but it's on my list. I don't tend to read much when I'm writing. Now that you've warned me, I can assure you there will be no wall hurling when I do.