- The good guys and villains are clearly defined.
- The good guys always win.
- The youngest of three or the ill treated step child will triumph in the end thanks to suddenly discovering they have a fairy godmother or other magical assistant they previously had no idea existed!
- Those in 3 above will never question why their magical assistants didn't turn up earlier and save a world of misery.
- Happy ever after endings do not include the being single option.
- Magic is expected to be used but only at the right time and in the right way. For example villains are generally not zapped. (This is an approach that meets with derision by my Eileen. She zaps villains on each and every opportunity so they never get a chance to to this to her).
- There is no such thing as a Fairy Republic. The fairytale world generally is royalist.
- Talking animals usually have more intelligence than those they're sent to assist. Nobody considers this odd.
- Leaving your station in life will demand a huge sacrifice. See The Little Mermaid for more on this.
- Beauty is valued though it is appreciated it is not always obvious. See The Ugly Duckling for confirmation of this.
My latest Chandler's Ford Today post is a review of The Pocket Dream, a farce based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
One thing that irritates me, and I have come across this (though not to date directly), is the assumption that fairies and fairytales are for kids and are "twee" bedtime stories. This tells me immediately whoever says this almost certainly hasn't read the original fairytales collected by Charles Perrault, Hans Christen Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. These stories are anything but twee! And certainly Disney could have not have shown The Little Mermaid as Hans Christen Andersen originally wrote it. It is far too grim.
But one aspect of Shakespeare's play, which the farce based on it also showed well, is that the Bard did not show fairies as twee characters, far from it. They are crucial to the plot. We see their weaknesses (Puck's mischieviousness, his enchanting the wrong man to begin with and so on). We see the feuding between Oberon and Titiana and while we might not be able to identify with fairy folk as such, we can all identify with feuding couples!
So if well rounded fairy folk characters are good enough for the Bard of Avon to write into his plays, they're definitely good enough for me to write into my stories!
Most countries have national shows and, on a more local level, cities and towns have their versions. So how does your fictional world commemorate/celebrate its past? Are there traditions the shows are trying to keep going (and why does your world want these things to keep going?).
Are the shows used to keep people happy/quiet (like the Romans used to do with their "bread and circuses" idea, the thought being if the populace were provided with these things they would not rebel). In modern times the circus has adapted as people have turned away from acts involving live animals (lion taming etc). Have the shows in your world had to adapt? If so, how?
Who goes to the shows? Are they readily accessible to all? Who funds them? And if any raise money for charity, what counts as charity in your fictional world? Can your story be set against the backdrop of a show?
Each character has a group to which he/she/it belongs and those groups will have their own rules and expectations. So how does your character, especially your main one, live up to these? Or do they, like my Eileen, rebel against those expectations and try to carve our a life of their own? Do they succeed? What obstacles are in their way?
Equally are characters expected to go against what others might consider to be the norm as a way of proving themselves (especially their ingenuity)? Who sets the rules in the first place and why do the majority accept them?
Have there been cases where characters rebelled enough to force through "political" or "societal" changes? How are the genders treated in your world? Is there sex discrimination or are all equal and any sign of weakness is considered to bring the gender concerned into disrepute? What happens to those characters who do bring their group into disrepute?
There must be story ideas in there!
I've never really understood why, in some circles, fairytales have a "twee" image (the "they're just for little kids" type angle) as the original stories are grim, often violent and instead of sending people to sleep could well create nightmares! See Hans Christen Andersen's The Little Mermaid as one example of that. There is no way Disney could have filmed that as written. HCA's story is grim and as for a happy ending....).
Things best avoided in any fairytale world include:-
Had a lovely evening watching The Pocket Dream by Ellie Brewer and Sandi Toksvig put on by local theatre group, The Chameleon Theatre Company. I plan to write a full review in due course. The play was very funny and it made for a great evening out. So this led me to think what would be entertainment in the fictional worlds you write about.
In my fictional Fairy Kingdom, the classic fairy tales are not just read, but are acted out regularly to keep them alive and relevant. It is considered a huge honour to be picked to play a major role such as Cinderella. Music is played (though most classical music is imported directly from Earth and is mainly enjoyed by the Queen and the nobility). The Queen collects art, from her own world and others, and likes photography (she does not do this directly but does collect framed pictures).
So what do your characters enjoy in the way of entertainment? What do they watch, listen to, read? Can anyone join in with any of the entertainments or are some restricted for the privileged? What entertainment is broadcast? Who writes and produces such things? And maybe just maybe you have characters who write the reviews!
My latest Chandler's Ford Today post, World Book Night and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare, celebrates books and the Bard's anniversary.
Books should always be celebrated, of course, but it is good to have a specific event which people can focus on and I love the idea of giving away books to get people into reading. I very much hope that people are now reading who might not otherwise have been.
Some of my earliest books were the classic collections of fairy tales. I don't know if there has ever been a survey done on this but I wouldn't be surprised if a significant proportion of people's most remembered books are the ones they read most in childhood. The great thing with books of course is the love of them could and should stay with you for life. They take you into other worlds. And if you write your own you get double the joy - the joy of inventing such worlds and then reading about them!
How many of the classic fairytales would have been lost had it not been for the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault and Hans Christen Andersen collecting the old stories, writing them down and then, even better, adding their own to the mix? That is how books live. We treasure the old ones, we write new ones and it all leads to a greater world of literature for us to enjoy.
Do characters in your fictional worlds write? What would they read? How does their literacy affect their lives (for good or ill)? How are books handled in your fictional setting? Are they treasured or feared (and as a result banned)? Who allows what books to be read and written? There are bound to be stories in answering those questions!
I'm Allison Symes and I write novels, short stories as well as some scripts and poems. I love setting my work in my magical world, the Fairy Kingdom, and my favourite character is Eileen, who believes hypocrisy is something that happens to other people without caring that statement is hypocritical in itself! Eileen is huge fun to write for and about.