When this came out I was 23. I was still struggling with depression, still struggling with collage, didn’t know it but was suffering periodic severe bouts of Myalgic encephalomyelitis. And I had been struggling to write a novel for about six years. I was going to call it Ironheart. It was inspired by my readings as a 17 year old. I was inspired by Man in the Iron Mask to have an incredible warrior serving a wicked king. He wins the battle for the king, only to end up dying. At the same time I was also reading Romeo and Juliet, as well as Cyrano de Bergerac. Now I look back I doubt most people could see the connections between these reads and the book I was trying to write, but it made perfect sense to me. I made cruelly slow progress. Sometimes I only wrote a few pages of month, only to rip most of them up, feeling they were worthless and derivative. Slowly the pages piled up, and I finally decided that was what I needed to knuckle down and do. This was my life work. To write Ironheart.
Anyhow, to make a short story long, I went to see Braveheart on the big screen when it came out. It was beautiful and haunting. The boy’s pain when his father and brother died, the scene where the MacClannough girl gives young Wallace a thistle. When he comes back and woos and wins her when they are both grown. Feelings stirred, memories of loves and ambitions, hopes long buried. And then…
The Sheriff of Lanark, the town Wallace inhabits in the movie, slits Murron’s throat when she “assault” an English soldier who is trying to rape her. This is the pivotal scene, the point of no return of the film. Wallace changes from a peaceful farmer to an avenging warrior. In the scene where he rides up, acting as though he will surrender, the shear deadness in his eyes is almost exactly how I imagined my main character looking after something similar happens in my book.
As Mel Gibson pounds the brains of the his enemies into the dirt, I sit in awe, realizing someone already wrote my book. And did a profoundly better job at it than I would have. I fell in love with the movie, but I realized most of what I had written would have to be rewritten, or everyone would accuse me of stealing from this film.
The first thing I did after watching the film was to look William Wallace up. My encyclopedia had very little about him, just enough that I honestly felt the movie might be very accurate. The internet was a new thing back then. There was no Google yet (I can’t remember if yahoo was a thing yet or not). I did look him up but found precious little. So the wannabe historian in me was (at the time) very pleased as well.
But I would now have to drastically alter the book.
I decided I would have to go further back into the story. Write about the childhood of the protagonist, as Braveheart did. And also digging into the history of the people who became his adopted family. I actually had a rough draft when I left my ex wife.
Next post I will discuss less personal topics. I’ll get back to leadership, and discuss the movie in the light of the book The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. I’ll apply their theory that there are five practices essential for excellent leadership. Let’s hope the Tired Blogger hasn’t bitten off more than he can chew.
THIS is a blog series that I cannot wait to read!
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