How to Write an Arthurian Urban Fantasy in 800 Words or Less

Pictured: Louis Ashbourne Serkis (Alex) Hugging Patrick Stewart (Merlin) in the upcoming film, The Kid Who Would Be King (2019). To be fair, that would be my reaction if I got to hug Patrick Stewart.

Happy 2019, folks!

I’m doing something different this year. As some of you may be aware, I wrote 100K words of fiction over the past two months, and learned the value of planning that kind of stuff out. I’ve been a fairly prolific writer since Middle School, and I’m always looking to improve myself.

And after doing some thinking, I’ve decided that this year I’d like to help others get more prolific. To that end, I’m going to be walking you through my process to generate new ideas. Feel free to use any of them. If they work for you, great! If not, there will be another one up on Wednesday!

I’m here, I’ve got my morning coffee, and I’m ready to come up with some ideas. One problem: where do we start?

Well, I’d like to start today with just a concept. I was recently directed towards the trailer for an upcoming film: The Kid Who Would Be King. And while the trailer referencing Night at the Museum and Percy Jackson and the Olympians doesn’t reassure me about that film’s quality, I do like the central conceit: a child from the modern day as a neo-King Arthur.

Side note: neo-King sounds like a really cool title. Someone write a book with that title, stat.

So what can we do with this?

Well we can tweak it a bit to make it our own for a start. (Because as we all know, no writer has ever stolen an idea from another writer….right?)

We can start by aging up the character a bit. It’s one thing for a child actor to portray our neo-King (Queen?). It’s quite another to live in that character’s head. And I can remember being sixteen or seventeen better than I can anything from Middle School.

But hey, if it worked for Harry Potter, I suppose you can make your character younger if you think you can pull it off.

Next, I want to extrapolate on that family theme we see here and there in the trailer. Can we pull from the Da Vinci Code and weave an Arthurian bloodline into this story? Can we have a Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Pendragon? Family has always been an important theme in Arthurian literature. Almost all the knights are somewhat related. There are few among the ranks of the Round Table who can’t also find a cousin or two amongst them. How can we reflect that.

Hell, we’ve got enough conceptual material already for a short story: what does Thanksgiving dinner look like at the House of Pendragon?

How many other knights and/or characters from Arthurian literature survived to the modern day? How messy does that Thanksgiving dinner get? Could that be our opening scene–or somewhere close to the opening. George R. R. Martin began his story with a King dropping by his main characters’ home for a feast. Would we be able to pull off the YA equivalent of that?

I imagine it must be YA. How can draw attention to this as a family drama by-way-of-fantasy that hasn’t been done before? What can we say with this story that hasn’t been said before? The YA genre is infamous for its portrayal of hapless adults. From Gilderoy Lockhart to the districts in the Hunger Games, it’s often teens who take center stage.

Can we subvert this with this story? How long has our main character known about their heritage? Are they next door neighbors with the ancestors of Morgana Le Fay? Or perhaps there are descendants of some more obscure Arthurian villain like King Vortigern or the giant Ysbaddaden?

And finally, how do we approach our villains? For my money, too much modern Arthurian media paints characters like Morgana and other villains with too little sympathy. I’m not a fan of easy answers, and while imagery of skeletons on horseback riding into battle absolutely rocks, it may not make for the most compelling story. It’s an easy way out. How can we make our villains feed into the nature of the familial aspect of this story?

Which isn’t to say you can’t have imagery of skeletons on horseback and moral complexity. In fact you should do that. You should absolutely do that.

What do you think? Am I copying too much from the trailer? Have I made it sufficiently original? Have you written anything Arthurian? Got any ideas from this article? Let me know in the comments below!

_ _ _

C. M. Perry writer and lifetime sword enthusiast. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.  If you enjoy his content, you can buy him a coffee through Ko-fi to support his work and help him buy sandwiches.

Author: C. M. Perry

Writer and lifetime sword enthusiast.

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