Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Thoughts on Writing: Finding Inspiration... Fairy tales

Hello darlings,

As I prepare to embark on this journey, I find myself faced with endless possibilities. Which road to take depends on where you derive your inspiration. Now, I've spent years writing reviews, recaps, fanfics, and academic assignments that comment on an existing piece of art. Perhaps in another post, I'll tackle the concept of writing a truly "original" story but for now I'll stick to something a little safer and talk about my sources of inspiration.

Every romance is rooted in the social and cultural experience of the author and the romantic literary tradition that preceded it. Each generation builds upon the work that previous generations have done whether or not they are conscious of the actual source material. But, as I've said, I've always been very conscious of the places from which I draw inspiration. I bookmark websites. I keep notepads full of quotes. I keep journals full of magazine clippings. And I've recently discovered the wonder of Pinterest. ;)

But for me, one of my biggest sources of inspiration has to be fairy tales and mythology. I grew up during the height of the Disney Renaissance. And like many children, fairy tales and mythology were what drew me into the library and into Barnes & Noble. Fairy tales are what drew me into fantasy and young adult fiction. And of course all those Disney films spurred my other loves like musicals and art and animation.

Now, when I think about actually sitting down to write a novel, the first thing that comes to mind are the stories I've always wanted to write about. Other than doing retreads of the stories that everyone knows, I've always wanted to try my hand at The Six Swans, The Goose Girl, Manyfurs, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and Maid Maleen. Yes, I was the little girl with the complete collection of Grimm fairytales. While I think you could easily make adapt these stories for adults, I think they really belong in the young adult section. I think there's something valuable in not just inventing new female characters, but resuscitating female characters that are already present in our culture and fleshing them out and giving them new life. And I've been wanting to write what I consider real strong female characters for years.

As for an original story, I've had a few stalled attempts over the years. Often they just come across as mimicries of other characters. My most recent attempt to do a take on Little Red Riding Hood fell flat. For me, there are two problems with doing an original story. 1. Effective world-building is incredibly difficult. J.K. Rowling may not be the world's greatest author but one of the reasons the Harry Potter series is so captivating is that it managed to pull in so many fantasy elements while maintaining a coherent vision. I've never been the kind of writer who was all that focused on the setting or on magic and fantasy over realistic characters so learning how to utilize those elements would be difficult. 2. A fairy tale has to have a motivation. Whether openly acknowledged or not, the most successful fairy tales are based on some societal or personal anxiety. Fear of the big bad wolf... whether it's his masculine sexual desire or his animalistic qualities and existence outside of the bounds of proper society in the unknown foreignness of the woods. Marriage as a means of social mobility or of obtaining security in a patriarchal society where women are forced into competition for resources. And right now I don't have a compelling character in my head who has an anxiety that needs resolution. Or maybe I do and I'm not ready to tackle it. The last thing I want to do is invent a character and end up with a Mary Sue.

Ah, well, that's enough work (and inane rambling) for today. I hope you're deriving some enjoyment from accompanying me in my writing process.

I'll check in again soon. :)

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