1. Edytawriter

    Edytawriter New Member

    Sep 11, 2015
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    Mary warren story (historical fiction, need help)

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Edytawriter, Sep 25, 2015.

    I want to ask for some help with my story about the Salem witch trials (if anyone knows anything about that here). A disclaimer, there are some facts, but there are many things that are unknown about these people, so I am using the unknown stuff as blanks to fill in about their personal life and drama.

    The main character of my story is Mary Warren, and I characterize her as an anti-hero who is socially awkward and spazzy girl in her late teens/early 20s. The historical fact is that her entire family, consisting of at least a mother and a sister, died somehow when Mary was very young, but nothing is known about them so far as I've researched. Mary believed that a girl/woman (this wasn't clarified either in documents) named Alice Parker killed (at least) her mother, and accuses her of that and witchcraft to the court, causing Alice to have an "inspection", eventually leading to her hanging in Sept. 22. Though it is unknown how the family died, I'm going to assume in my story that Alice was involved in the killing of both the mother and the sister. (Of course I've been doing a ton of research on these characters)

    Throughout my story, the initial conflict is between Mary (the protagonist) and Alice (the antagonist), where a series of events leads to Mary getting revenge on Alice by accusing her in the court and getting her hung.

    I'm having an extremely hard time coming up with a fictional motive for Alice's killing. Keep in mind this was before the Salem witch trials when it happened. My first idea was to make up that Mary's family was rich and wealthy, and for Alice to kill them and steal their money for herself. However, I'm not sure that would make sense in this time period, since Puritans were very strict to themselves about materialism, and tend to focus a lot more on Christianity than on things like money and personal possessions. I suppose it's possible that there are some who are greedy, but I think of greed as an unlikely motive for a character from this time period. Correct me if I'm wrong about the greed thing and if it would make sense for money to be a common enough desire to kill someone.

    I thought of a romantic twist, jealousy, but then again, Alice is said to be married to John Parker, so that wouldn't make sense.

    Any ideas of motives for Alice to kill Mary's parents?

    Another thing is I also need a good estimation of Alice's age. (during the witch trials) I'm not sure if she was a girl in her late teens, early 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, the sources never clarify her (possible) date of birth at all, nor her age. Due to other background info, I'd say she was likely at the VERY least in her 20s, probably more like 30s or 40s, but I could go as low as 20s if I wanted to I suppose. I have this big idea of a conflict that I could make up being that Alice was the best friend of Abigail Williams (pretty much the most notable accuser), but I don't even know if that would make sense if Alice was in her 30s or 40s. Also keep in mind that Abigail is 11-ish years old, so I have to consider even a girl in her early 20s would be pretty hard to be your "best friend". I want the twist to be that the "reason that Abigail accused Mary of witchcraft" would be that Abigail is mad at Mary for causing Alice's death. That is all my original plan for this story, initially, but I'm struggling with final decisions. Please help me out?
  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Aug 12, 2015
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    London, UK
    The money motive sounds implausible to me. Why would she kill them rather than just steal the money while they're out of the house? How would she get away with that when people would wonder why she is suddenly so wealthy?

    To give the story an extra dimension I would make the killing accidental so we feel sorry for Alice as well as Mary. Initial thoughts are:

    1. Alice argues with Mary's parents about something - maybe there's a big misunderstanding and they accuse her of stealing something (weaving in your idea) - and she's so angry she bad mouths them to others. Someone in the town spots Alice foraging for plants (which could be used in a witchy potion) or talking to a woman that is rumoured to be a witch. Then when Mary's parents get a sudden illness and both die, everyone puts two and two together, gets five, and believes Alice cursed them as revenge for the unfair accusation. This would also be good foreshadowing and would add fuel to the fire when Alice is later formally accused of witchcraft.

    2. It's a pure accident but is unwittingly caused by Alice. She accidentally sets fire to their home while they're sleeping... accidentally gives them poisonous food... I'm sure you could come up with something plausible.

    As for the age, if there is no evidence then make her whichever age is most convenient for your story. :)
  3. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Aug 27, 2014
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    1/ I assume you've read The Crucible?

    2/ My understanding is that ALL the girls involved in the accusations were young (a bit like a group of today's schoolkids ganging up on a teacher and accusing him of inappropriate behaviour) so late teens is as old as I would go for Mary.

    3/ You don't need a reason for Alice to have murdered Mary's mother. You don't need there to have been, in fact, a murder. Bear in mind that the accusation would have been "death by witchcraft", not "murder by some means understandable to man, such as bludgeoning with a blunt instrument"; so the mother's death could have been somewhat sudden, but not caused by any agency known to man (woo-hoo), making it, automatically, "witchcraft".

    Medical knowledge at the time wasn't great; perhaps Alice was actually good with herbal potions, etc. (have a look into "Anglo-Saxon Medicine" to see how effective some of those old remedies were - OK, some were just plain hocus-pocus!) but she couldn't save Mary's mother from e.g. TB. You just have to look at House to be reminded of how often modern medicine is a guessing game, where they try different treatments and, if they're lucky, the patient lasts long enough for them to find a cure!

    4/ Jealousy COULD be a motive. Just because Alice is married to him doesn't mean that John Parker hasn't been kind to Mary, and Mary's just old enough to think that SHE's the one he should be married to; and divorce wouldn't have been an option.

    To ramp that up, Alice is a childless widow of about 45, John is 19 and marries her for her property (money's not the biggie, a large acreage of fertile land is) but 14-year old Mary has always fancied him; it's a small enough town that there isn't a big enough choice of mates for it to be unreasonable that he should marry her - he just had to wait a bit.
  4. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Jun 13, 2010
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    Queens, NY
    Just a side note - over Labor Day weekend I was in Salem for a wedding. They actually celebrate the whole witch-trial thing (the bride at the wedding grew up on Gallows Hill Road) and there is at least one "witch" museum there. I'm not sure how serious a museum it is, but it might be a source.

    Good luck.

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