I have a 3 STEP PROCESS for writing an art history/mystery. But before one can ‘step’ anywhere, the ground must be prepared.
STEP TWO – GATHER 3 CRITICAL ELEMENTS:
A lost painting or a famous artist and one of their portraits with hauntingly plaintive eyes guarding a secret worthy of deeper discovery.
Create a parallel story hook that links the dispirited spirit with living present-day characters.
Invite a muse who’s eager to play.
AN AMUSING OCCUPATION
A muse’s job function is to connect the dots between historical facts and an author’s imagination. My muse is a storyteller entity, trained to play with fictional life situations, thereby creating compelling time-slip stories of loss, love, and reincarnation.
COLD DADS & HOTBLOODED TEMPERS
Sadly, an egoic self-centered powermonger father (a lawyer) and a bullying stepfather (a mercenary soldier and ruffian) are negative role models for Leonardo, a gentle son – an abandoned wunderkind motivated to document the entire natural world.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
GIOCONDO: the unsuspecting volatile surname of a wealthy client of the DA VINCI FAMILY LAW FIRM, that triggers a double mystery: the location of a missing portrait, and a woman’s lost identity that befuddles historians for 500 years.
GIOCONDA: the working title ‘Gioconda’ (a smiling woman), casually applied to the ‘Mona Lisa’ is misspelled with dire consequences. French translation, ‘La Gioconde’.
SER PIERO DA VINCI, who’s not above using the son he’s cruelly disowned for a favor, commissions Leonardo to paint a flattering portrait of a disgruntled client’s wife, to pacify him.
LEONARDO DA VINCI – is an artist of growing stature by 1502, capable of painting flattering portraits. Leonardo, ever seeking to reclaim his birthright, hoping to be openly acknowledged by the family clan his name reflects, accepts Ser Piero’s offer, thinking to gain favor in his father’s eyes. His plan fails, but the commission sparks a unique idea for a portrait with a secret narrative, and he paints his sister, Lisabetta, in a modified pose wearing the same dress.
LISABETTA BUTI – Leonardo’s young stepsister has a secret name even she doesn’t know.
VERONICA LYONS – an unwed 21st century mother whose name, translated from the Latin ‘Veritas Icona’, means ‘a true face’, meets the ‘Mona Lisa’ whose true face is stolen by fate to be lost forever.
SCENE: Enter Caterina – an unmarried mother, her illegitimate son Leonardo; Lisabetta, Leonardo’s half-sister (???), and a married self-centered lawyer, Piero da Vinci.
Stir in the wife of a disgruntled client – one Monna (‘Mrs.’) Lisa Giocondo and a wishing pig.
A SCANDALOUS ROMANCE
Simmer over a vanity fire, fast forward 500 years to 2008, and serve with a depressed present-day unwed mother and her autistic son, and the story pitch becomes: