Even before I had any idea who the character of Clara Hawking was, I knew she had to exist. Nathaniel was to be in every way fitting into and profiting from the current social order, so part of that meant he had to be married. I’d already finished the script of Mrs. Hawking before I’d given her much thought. Once I considered her, though, it didn’t take long before I figured out what service she would be to the story, her weaponized traditional femininity existing in contrast to Mrs. Hawking’s complete rejection of traditional femininity. I think Clara has the potential to be a very interesting character, so I’ve been pondering how to bring her into things.
In the very early planning stages of Vivat Regina, I wrote a bit of Clara with the vague notion that she could be included. The very first thing I ever wrote of her was a monologue where she, under the guise of perfect friendly politeness, needled Mrs. Hawking for what a pain she is. It’s a pretty funny piece, and I’d like to use it in some form. But this, nor anything else with her, ended up making it into the first draft of the script.
There’s a lot to unpack with Clara story-wise, specifically about how she’s going to feel about Nathaniel’s involvement in his aunt’s work. I haven’t quite figured out what her reaction is going to be, but he’s been putting himself in danger to participate. He has an unusually close relationship with a maidservant, and while I’m taking liberties with the setting where I need to, that was unheard of in this time and place. He’s challenging a social order on behalf of women who don’t fit into their place in the world as comfortably as she does. And he hasn’t told her about any of it yet. How’s she going to feel? What’s her response going to be? I don’t want to dash that off; I think there could be a lot of interesting story in her and Nathaniel’s relationship.
But to include that in Vivat Regina would have tipped the focus a little too heavily on Nathaniel. While he can and will certainly take center stage sometime, it is important to me that these remain fundamentally stories about women. Mary and Mrs. Hawking, their relationship, their struggles, are to be prioritized, especially when we’re only into the second story.
However, after having put together a draft of Vivat Regina, I find it’s somewhat in need of a subplot. In its current state, it pushes along the course of the plot pretty unrelentingly, which is a fairly typical problem my work tends to have, at least in the early drafts. I find myself struggling to figure out exactly what would be the appropriate extra thread. But I suppose the obvious thing to include is Clara.
I’ve mentioned the problem with having her in– I don’t want to dash off any story I can tell about her, and I don’t want to shift the focus of this second piece too far away from Mary and Mrs. Hawking. But perhaps it’s possible to just introduce her for now, in preparation to deal with her more seriously in future stories. I am kind of already doing that with Arthur Swann, who makes his first appearance in Vivat Regina, and while he does serve a purpose to the plot, is mostly just being set up to feature more significantly later.
If I did that with Clara, I’d have to make sure she doesn’t feel tacked on or shoehorned in. She would have to be relevant in some way, without blowing her dramatic potential. I’m not sure how that could be accomplished yet, but it’s something I’m currently pondering. A solid, integrated subplot would not only improve Vivat Regina, I could use it as an opportunity to set up further stories in the series, which would make the overall series stronger.