Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Story within a Story

When I was writing ‘His Leading Lady’, I needed a West End musical. Since Kyle Drummond, the hero, was Scottish, I searched online until I found a Scottish legend that I thought would work as a musical play. The story of Colin Campbell, Laird of Glenorchy in Argyll, caught my imagination.

Colin learned of the Crusades and vowed to go. His young wife, Margaret, didn’t want him to go, but Colin was adamant. Before he left, he had a ring made, inscribed with both their names. He broke the ring in two and gave Margaret one half, saying, ‘If you receive my half of the ring you will know I am dead.' He then left to join the Crusade.

After seven years, Lady Margaret was besieged by suitors. They insisted Colin must be dead, but she said she hadn’t received the token Colin had promised to have sent, therefore he must still be alive.

Unknown to Lady Margaret, one of her suitors, Baron Neil MacCorquodale, had intercepted messages that Colin had sent. He wanted to marry Margaret in order to add the lands of Glenorchy to his own estate, so he arranged to visit her with a raggedly dressed man who brought a letter for Margaret. This said that Colin had died, but when Margaret asked about the token, he said there was no token and made up a story about how it had been stolen.

Still not convinced that Colin was dead, Margaret agreed to marry Baron MacCorquodale, but only when the tower of her new castle, Kilchurn, was completed. She still hoped Colin would return so she ordered the workmen to build as slowly as possible, and also to take down every night, under cover of darkness, most of what they’d built during the day.
Kilchurn Castle
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Eventually, (omitting some of the legend here!) due to the intervention of Colin’s foster mother and his brother, Colin finally returned home just as the marriage of Margaret and MacCorquodale was due to be celebrated. Dressed as a beggar, Colin came to the pre-nuptial feast and said he would only take a drink from Lady Margaret herself. Margaret gave him a drink and Colin took the cup from her hand, drained it in one gulp, and handed it back to her. Margaret looked down into the cup, where she saw his half of the ring. Startled, she looked at the beggar, who raised his eyes to meet hers, and Margaret saw it was her husband.

Her wedding to MacCorquodale was called off, and the feast turned into a celebration of Colin’s return.

So my new West End show was invented, which I called ‘Token of Love.’ I changed the names of characters – Colin Campbell became Callum Drummond (so that he was a distant ancestor of Kyle) and the heroine of the show became ‘Lady Kate’ - the role taken, of course, by my heroine Jess.

I even invented some songs for the show – a full chorus number called ‘When You Come Home’, Callum's solo 'This is My Token', and Lady Kate’s solo ‘No One Understands’ which became a pivotal part of the story’s climax. I even resorted to writing some lyrics:

No one understands –how my heart belongs to you –
No one understands –that to you I must be true.
They think that I’m a fool,
Clinging to the past,
Hoping beyond hope.
They just don’t understand why
I’m waiting for you.

I’m not sure I could sell the idea of ‘Token of Love’ to Andrew Lloyd Webber or Cameron Mackintosh, but one of my reviewers did say: “The sub-story of the West End musical in production was so interesting that I wanted to see it performed!”


  1. Stories are often based on legends. Your legend reminded me of the Arthurian legend I am using in my WIP. The lady's love returns disguised as a beggar.
    I love this post!

  2. I love that legend! In fact, I think some of the Scottish historical romances I've read may have been based on it. Great post.

  3. Many thanks! By the time I finished writing HLL, I could picture so many scenes in the show, and the whole musical became real to me!

  4. Love it!!! Reminded me of Penelope's long wait for her love, Odysseus.

    Would love to see this on Broadway or West End

  5. Wow, Paula! I always knew you were talented, but to create this story within a story for your plot...I am in awe.

    And it's a beautiful legend.

  6. Paula, I'm so impressed! That story really was made for Broadway, especially with a hunky guy in a kilt making his way back to his lady love...

    I'm doubly impressed that you created your own lyrics. By golly, I wouldn't be shy about shopping it around to a few agents for stage production.

    Anyway, even if those fantasies never come true, you know you've written a smash hit, SRO. My very best, Erin

  7. Thanks, Jillian - these 'legendary' women certainly waited a long time for their men, didn't they?

  8. Debra - I searched for quite a while (and read a lot of legends!) but as soon as I read the story of Colin, I knew I had 'my' musical! I didn't plan it all out, and didn't relate the whole story in my book, but I think there were enough references for the reader to be able to imagine it!

  9. LOL, Erin, I'd need to do a lot more work on it before I could shop it anywhere. Also it has one major problem - the hero is 'missing' for half the show, before he finally returns (but I ignored that fact in my story!)

  10. Paula, it was so interesting to learn the story behind the story after reading this book. Both story and book were fascinating. HLL remains tied for first place (in my opinion) of all your books I've read.