Let’s Save Princess Penelope: A Call for Help


Team Thorium,

If you’re here, you’re one of my fans, friend, or family. I’m in crisis. Kind of. I mean, it’s just a story, right? [said Bastion as he paged through The Neverending Story in a dark attic….]

Princess Penelope is a story idea I’ve had for a while, inspired by my friend Eddie whilst deployed in Africa. The concept: what happens if a princess is betrothed to an egotistic idiot and, instead of blindly following after him, decides to highjack her wedding and run away? Then the prince is the one who needs to pursue her, to prove himself, and maybe grow through the effort. That’s the idea.

Well, as the concept grew into an idea (I’ve got like, 12%. It’s barely beyond concept), I’m feeling confident with the prince story line. I’m feeling great about the world building and broader story context: there is a universe-ending consequence riding on this pair figuring things out with the help of their friends. Game of Thrones-level national intrigue and plotting. Magic and moral decisions a la Wheel of Time. But I’m stuck. I need a great princess story!

This is where you come in.

What are your favorite princess stories?

Do you love it when the princess comes through on her own? Or when the prince comes to her rescue?

Do you love strong, independent thinkers? Or starry-eyed waifs with dreams bigger than the vast dark canvas of the sky?

What about princesses that came from nothing to gain everything? Or princesses that lose everything to gain “the one thing”?

Please, let me know. I want to write the kind of princess YOU want!


I’ll start working through her storyline in July, so plenty of time to post your favorite movie, book, fairytale, or Meghan Markle story.

Here’s the broad context I want to work within (but frankly, it can be modified at any time)

Princess Penelope has a problem: she’s betrothed to an idiot. Prince Vadim of Saelem thinks his good looks, dripping charm, and egocentric love of himself will naturally win her hand, so why bother trying? Well, Penelope has other plans. She’s going to join the army. 

Not just any army, of course. The famed Archangels of Ophir, an elite company of women who stood in the gap during the great crusade against Cinneroth, the Fell Empire. Five years have passed since the war ended, but everyone knows that Cinneroth and her emperor are lying in wait to invade the Shield Kingdoms. Penelope will be ready to fight when the time comes. She’ll prove her mettle and her value to her father in combat, wearing the silver veil of an Archangel, not as some political gamepiece to be bartered for Saelem’s allegiance. 

Unfortunately, her plans don’t quite work out. She does escape the castle, she does make it to the docks in Lower Gilead, she even takes ship with the famed Lady Alice, the Spurned Sister and leader of a small smuggling enterprise who promises to take her to Ophir. Penelope doesn’t know that Alice also has plans. Plans within plans. Plans that require a princess, the courage to brave the Eversea and the trials of navigating all the way to Cinneroth’s southern coasts, and the tenacity to barter royal blood for untold riches and freedom. 

Will Penelope win over Lady Alice, finding the strength and cunning within herself to defeat her enemies, break up those plotting against her, and protect her family and lands? Will she find a way to escape and locate the Citadel of Sorrows, the place where the Archangels test and train their initiates? Or will she sit in her cabin and wait for Prince Vadim to grow up and come rescue her? 

Photo credit: Jason Train

One thought on “Let’s Save Princess Penelope: A Call for Help

  1. Maybe this will help. Here are a few questions I had when I read your summary:
    1) What’s her internal motivation? Why does she want to join the army? Maybe she once met someone from the army who had a huge impact on her? Maybe she wants to save a relative? Maybe her twin sister was sent there because her father felt he’d never marry off two girls? You mention bringing honor to her father. Is that how women do it in this world? If so, why did he marry her off in the first place? Mulan runs off to join the army so her father won’t have to. Why is Penelope?
    2) What is her external motivation? Is she just trying to get away from her jerk husband? Because there are better and safer places to go than the army. What is her desired outcome? I’m going to join the kickass women’s brigade and then X.
    These are both Story Grid questions. Once you’ve got internal and external motivations, they have 5 story moves. If you want them, let me know.
    Also, I’d love to know Penelope’s strength and weakness. What’s special about her? What’s her fatal flaw? What’s her biggest temptation? If you were going to give her an enneagram number, what would it be?
    Hope that helps.


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