A few weeks ago I touched upon the importance of motivation in a story. What DRIVES someone to do what they do? After talking with my sister, I realized that Themistocles didn't have a clear motive in my novel. He had a goal of sorts: to be the leader of Athens. The why of it however eluded me. Why not? I thought. Of course that wasn't good enough. Something is behind that ambition. Something is pushing him. Hard. And then I realized that the something is actually someone. That someone is a girl named Archippe.
Since the earliest drafts my novel, Archippe (mentioned briefly in Plutarch as the wife of Themistocles) always figured into things. Even as my story changed over the years she was always there in some form, either as the bitchy, bossy wife or the demure caretaker. When I realized that she's more important to the story than I originally gave her credit for, I decided to move Archippe from the sidelines into the spotlight. And as easy as that even the most elusive elements of my story started to fall into place!
Things like Themistocles' rivalry with Aristides. The war with Aegina. The ousting of several political rivals. The growing tension with Sparta. The war with Persia. It's positively startling how clear things are now that I have something that really DRIVES Themistocles to do what he does. You may argue this revelation is really just Writing 101, and you'd be right, but it's amazing how easy it is to overlook the basics when trying to write something you hope will be epic.
Now I admit that love seems like a cliche reason to do anything. But I promise you that Themistocles' methods are anything but orthadox! He'll lie, cheat, steal and swindle to get what he wants. But in the end it's hard not to cheer for someone who wants to obtain something as pure as love. Even if he has to step on a couple of necks to do it...
BTW, for fun I'll link to a chapter in my original story The Owl & The Eagle. It's told from the PoV of Archippe. Pardon the spelling errors. :p