Thursday, September 10, 2015

Give it Heart, New Life, New Breath

I'm not talking Frankenstein here, but the good doctor may have been onto something.
“Fairytales, huh? Do you ever write your own stories?” a well-meaning friend once asked. I was stunned for a moment and wanted to ask if they'd take the knife out of my back first. Seriously? Is that what people thought I'd been doing for years? Had I only been repeating something that had already been said (probably by someone more skilled and popular than me)? Was my writing life so meaningless in their eyes? If that was the case, what was the point? 

I held the words inside, but I instantly became defensive. Is anything truly original? I wondered. In a world with countless movies, books, and everything on instant download, who's to say where inspiration originates. You might say anything we come up with a Frankenstein's monster fashioned from bits and pieces of our experiences. Which begs the question: If we can't make anything original, why should we try? 

Those of us who are acquainted with the drive to write understand that we must try. There's little choice in the matter. (And yes, if you call it a hobby, like it's something that we put down and pick up at will, we will have something to say on the subject.) Take it from me, muses neither knock politely nor wait to be let in.

If you're like me and you choose to remake something old--say, a fairytale--into something new, there are a few things I discovered while working on Becoming Beauty that you should consider: 

Make it your own. Modern, classic--whatever is your forte--spice up the original with your own style. Delve into research, freshen up the details, main characters, supporting cast, and setting, and add in new plot twists. All of this makes a story people have heard before into something new.

In Becoming Beauty, I gave Bella (an updated and very flawed Beauty) an interesting role in the family dynamic as well as later in the Beast's household. Then, to spice it up, I pulled the Beast's manservant Jack into the picture. I didn't set out to create a love triangle, but having the story revolve around Bella, the Beast, and Jack naturally pushed it in that way. And it works.

Make it live. Breathe new life into a known story with a new, true message. Weaving a story around a nugget of truth or a soul touching question lends it new breath and life. Fairytales especially need the depth of great messages to reach new audiences.

The message I chose for Becoming Beauty is a expansion on the original fairytale's moral on true beauty. Bella's search for beauty in herself, in her family, and in the Beast and in his world drives her journey. 

Don't be afraid of something that's been done. As a girl who loves fairytales so much she began to write her own, I'll tell you that it can be done. There is always more to be said on any subject. A new perspective. A fresh character to shake up the cast. A new explanation for how things came to pass as they did. Just do it beautifully and in your own way.

I fought with the idea behind Becoming Beauty for a long time. The idea of creating a beastly Beauty first presented itself when I was in college. Until I put my fears behind me and really let the idea play out, I couldn't see how it would work out. But I had faith in an arrogant, ambitious, entitled heroine to carry the day. And she has.

That's it! Make it your own, make it live, and don't be afraid of something that's been done, just do it beautifully. Good luck and happy writing! May you never have the pleasure of someone asking you if YOU write original stories, my dears.

Need more writerly advice? 
Dead, Dead, Deaded: on dealing with deadlines
The Waiting Game: tips on surviving submissions
Breaking the Rules: nothing is sacrosanct, learn how to do it
World Building for the Literary Challenged: build worlds like a pro
Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged: the importance of coverart
Butt In Chair: the best writerly advice ever

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