Stories Behind the Stories:
The Man with the Kind Eyes
One of my favorite things is to tell a story. Ideas, to me, are chaos. I find that my job as a writer is to take that chaos and find the organization that is trapped within it. Sometimes, this work is easy as pie, but often that is not such the case.
Take for instance "The Man with the Kind Eyes." Although the story was created swiftly over a period of two days, through a call for submissions from my publisher that I was well past the expiration date on, this story taunted me with an elaborate plot that I had not prepared myself for. The anthology theme was "kings and queens," and I had intended on writing a pleasant story about a young woman who was nominated to reign as the first Queen of her people. I had the whole idea scoped out and ready to be typed up. The problem came the moment my fingers hit the keys.
It was not a case of writer's block. I do not seem to get that much anymore. The muses have been kind to me, and they continue to flood me with more ideas than I know I'll have time to pen. No, writer's block was, in fact, the opposite of what was happening. You see, even though an idea hit me and I had mapped it fully out, what my fingers began to type was something almost completely different. By the end, the only thing that would remain from my original idea would be a nation nominating its first queen.
No matter what story I - Jae El Foster - wanted to tell that day, some other being had a different story that it insisted was told instead. I had no control over the situation. Everything I had outlined for "The First Queen"* was out the door. The worst part was, I had no idea where it was going.
In the first scene, I was terrified. My future queen had become a member of a rebellious army in this version of the story, and she had just assassinated a corrupt president to free her enslaved people. This, you understand, was far from my tale of a young princess coming of age and becoming a queen - the first female to rule solely over her kingdom. Sure, there would have been trying moments in that story as well, like how she become queen and what had happened to her parents to have thrust that rare role upon her.
Yet, the trying moments that existed in what had just been written were risky and took a chance of repelling a percentage of the audience that I had no interest in offending. While America itself was going through a period of government issues and a clashing of viewpoints, I did not want to ride off of it or glamorize it. I considered scrapping what I had and starting afresh, with the idea that I had originally intended. Yet, whatever muse was controlling my fingers had refused me this and instead continued on with the curious adventure of Bridgette Mahoney.
The story then began to weave itself further out of control. It seemed that the events in the story were moving at such a rapid pace that I could not fathom them as I was writing them, just as Bridgette becomes lost in those moments of transition once her nomination of Queen is made reality. Then, I realized that I was seeing the story through Bridgette's eyes as I wrote it, and that I was no more the writer of this story than I was the one who could have predicted the true dilemma of her saga. I was merely a vessel.
This mind-spinning tale of Bridgette Mahoney is as tragic as it is triumphant. Once I had completed it, and once I stared it in the face, I understood it. I understood the importance of the full circle that brings with it great revelation, and I understood the significance of an ending that should make us more fearful of what we can create than who we pretend to be.
"The Man with the Kind Eyes" is, perhaps, one of my most explosive pieces of work, despite being such a short piece, and I do not believe that I could have extended it into anything more than what it became. The swiftness of the spiral is significant to its relationship with life's overwhelming daily motions.
I truly hope that you have found "The Man with the Kind Eyes" to be as insightful as it is entertaining. My thanks to DCL Publications for including me in the collection, alongside author Anarie Brady, who has also spun a terrific tale for you to enjoy.
"The Man with the Kind Eyes" can be found in Kings & Queens: A Dark Castle Lords Anthology from DCL Publications, available now in eBook and Print.
Note: * "The First Queen" was the original title of "The Man with the Kind Eyes" until a theme within the story brought about the new name.
Jae El Foster