- Around the World in 80 Days - One for Santa who can feel smug. Can you imagine the distance he covers in 80 minutes?!
- Hard Times - This would be for Cinderella prior to the fairy godmother's visit.
- The Time Machine - The Doctor of course has his own but maybe if Cinderella had access to one of these her ability to keep to time would be much improved.
- Treasure Island - One for Captain Hook.
- Lord of the Rings - One for Aladdin (though strictly it should be Ring singular and Lamp!).
- Wind in the Willows - One for Dorothy from Wizard of Oz fame whose route to and from Oz revolved around a hurricane. At least this would be a gentler form of wind!
- Bleak House - For Hansel and Gretel. (Also Cinderella).
- Catch 22 - One for the Big Bad Wolf though he'd be happy with Catch 1!
- Joy in the Morning - For Princess Fiona and anyone whose appearance at one time of day is very different from another.
- Persuasion - For Aladdin who was the victim of a very persuasive "salesman". Magic beans for a cow? Really?
As with Earth, not everybody in the magical realm makes New Year resolutions but some do. In general, these would be applicable for the entire Kingdom and would be approved by my rebellious fairy godmother, Eileen.
I thought I'd take a quick look at what presents would be useful for fairy tale characters.
There's Dracula of course (!) but I was really thinking along the lines that characters with bite stay in the memory long after their story has finished and/or their creator has died. For example Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is far more spirited, and memorable, than Fanny Price from JA's Mansfield Park. I suspect that was true at the time of publication and it is certainly true now.
"Bite" can mean a forceful personality (see my Eileen for that!) but it can be a quiet character simply determined not to be pushed around any more. The "bite" comes from what drives them. And motivation is crucial to get right. It's got to be important enough to your character for them to risk their life if necessary.
So what makes your characters memorable? Yes, a striking physical appearance can help here but for me it is the dominant trait that matters most. (Even if that dominant trait is suppressed, perhaps because it's not publicly acceptable, the story will revolve around the struggle to keep that suppressed and what happens if all goes wrong - as I think it inevitably would).
Some songs suitable for fairy tale characters include:-
Hope to come up with some more in another post. I love lists!
Being a successful fairy godmother means:-
There is a hierarchy below stairs with the Lord Chamberlain being the Ultimate Boss. In many ways to the Household he can be more of a boss than the Queen if only because, while she isn’t aloof and does make the effort to keep a caring eye on those working for her, the staff obviously see much more of him than they do Her Nibs. And a lot of the time they do see Her Nibs it is in very formal settings.
Most of the Household are elves, there’s a goodly supply of dwarves and the goblins tend to run the State Dining Room. Their cuisine is highly praised and they do not stick to their own food. With encouragement from the Queen, the daily menu consists of food from throughout the Kingdom and its species but also from other planets. One of the few things she likes about earth is its cookery (and booze!). The Queen is also keen to help the Kingdom’s endangered species - the griffin to name but one - and feels one great way of doing that is by not eating them!!! Many of her ancestors would have considered her a “wuss” for taking that line!
The kitchen staff comprise of the Head Housekeeper (who deputizes for the Lord Chamberlain for the Palace as a whole on the rare occasions he is ill or otherwise unavailable for duty), three senior cooks (each specializes in each of the three daily meals), three junior cooks (they assist and where necessary deputize for the seniors) and assistants.
Pixies are fabulous cooks so the kitchen staff are mainly made up from their community but the Head Housekeeper is an elf as nobody would trust any sprite to run such an important Palace department on their own. Goblins are renowned for their swiftness so take on assistant roles throughout the Palace. Roherum is a goblin and many of FNN’s reporters are too, the broadcasters capitalizing on the natural speed talents here.
The Queen encourages cookery to come not just from her world but from universes the magical world has had contact with. There is never the same menu two days running here. Some world cuisines go down better than others. Earth cuisine is generally fine. The cooking skills of the mud eating specialists of the Planet Sestrus, a mere 100 miles from the Fairy Kingdom, was tried once and won’t be again.
Every society has its books it bans or restricts access to so why shouldn't this apply to your fictional world(s) as well? It can lead to fleshing out how the government of your world(s) works and why these books are banned or restricted. Also whether anyone defies that and what the consequences are would be a good starting point for stories and novels.
In my Fairy Kingdom, my rebellious fairy godmother and heir to the Fairy Kingdom throne, Eileen, wrote several volumes of history as she saw it and she did not portray her royal ancestors in that flattering a light.
Had anyone else written them, they would've been jailed by the Queen and her Council on the grounds they were busy fighting the plotting and schemes of the Witch and anything like alternative history would be used as propaganda by the Witch.
Eileen dismissed that as nonsense and insisted she was just being honest but the fact remains if anyone wants to read her books, they have to go to the Palace Library and leave their contact details. Unsurprisingly this puts people off much to Eileen's annoyance. This is not the major point of my novel The Trouble With Mother but it does flesh out Eileen's own history, shows the attitudes held by her and her cousin, the Queen and sets the scene for the fact that major fallings out between the two are nothing new.
So what books would your world(s) forbid and why? Are any of these restrictions overturned (and if so how and who led the campaign to overturn them)?
I've found a number of non-fiction books useful for inspiring me with ideas to flesh out how my Fairy Kingdom works in my novels and short stories. (Magic isn't enough, strange as it may seem, as if everything could be solved with the right spell, there would be no stories and the powerful would always win. That generally isn't true with fairytales, which is one reason I love them. The downtrodden and oppressed generally win through, though The Little Mermaid is a good example of that not happening).
The entire Simon Schama History of Britain series is a great read in its own right and I've found the Elizabethan era helpful for setting up how my Queen's Council works. Also how L'Evallier effectively becomes the Fairy Queen's Prime Minister though he is not known by that title in my stories. But then this was true for William, Lord Burleigh, Queen Elizabeth's Chief Minister. I don't why he isn't credited with being a forerunner for the post of PM as we in the UK know it. Robert Walpole is always credited as being the first. Goodness knows why. Burleigh was in office for a significant time. But it his relationship with Queen Elizabeth that has inspired my writing of L'Evallier's relationship with Roxannadrell.
A wonderful little book called Secret People of the Palace has been a great inspiration as to what goes on behind the scenes in the Fairy Queen's Palace and the kind of people who would be employed. General reference books have also been useful for inspiring what kind of flowers, to name just one example, might grow in the royal magical gardens.
So non-fiction, as well as being a great read in its own right, has enormous potential for sparking ideas off in fiction writers and that is always a good thing.
One great way to build up your own writing "muscles" is to read widely (non-fiction as well as fiction) because you are literally feeding your mind. Ideas can spring from all sorts of sources and something another writer has written can inspire you to take your work in a direction you might not have thought of initially.
I'm definitely not talking plagarism here. I don't understand why anyone would want to do that. The whole joy of writing is creating something that is unique to you/by you. I am referring to being inspired by a type of writing or the way a character is developed that can help you as you create your own stories and characters. You literally see how it is done and then get on with applying what you learn to your creations.
Non-fiction can inspire ideas as to how you get your own fictional world to operate to name one example. And reading across the age ranges is a good idea too. You get a "feel" for literature outside of what you do and I'm certain this will strengthen your own work.
My latest Chandler's Ford Today posts feature a two part interview with YA author, Richard Hardie, whose Temporal Detective Agency books, Leap of Faith and Trouble with Swords, are taking off in the South of England especially. I don't write for YA but the freshness of adventure tales such as these books helps encourage to keep my writing fresh, which can only be a good thing.
And all writing owes its foundation to a love of books encouraged in children at an early age (in my case, I really do owe my love of stories to my late mother) so wanting children's literature to do well is kind of self interest in a way. Without that foundation, there is no market for fiction for adults. And writers of adult fiction, I think, would do well to remember that.
There is a whole world in the Royal Household that I've only touched on briefly in my novels so far. Ironically I've mentioned a bit more in some of my short stories but what I have included in all of my writing has been what was necessary to put in - no more, no less.
But being able to picture in my own mind what life would be like in the Royal Household has helped me write some of the minor characters with more conviction. And I can "see" more of what Eileen gave up when she defected to Earth to marry for love. There are things she misses about her old life. Eileen prefers not to think about those things and people. (She was very popular with the ordinary populace for one thing. She also got on very well with the Household staff who appreciated her treating them decently. In fairness the Queen does too but this has not always been the case with the fairy royal family so when Eileen left, that opened up a huge gap for the Royal Household).
I hope at some point to write more behind the scenes stories which focus on life in the Household as opposed to life in royal government (which is where the quarrels between the Queen and Eileen are set) but I think, as long as you can visualise the world you're creating, then you will know what you need to put in to give enough information for your readers to "see" it too.
After all good writing is about communication and stories communicate ideas. So the secret life of your world can stay secret to you, your reader may never know most of it, but it is fun to create this and it is invaluable in helping you to write the stories you do want to write.
This applies to my reading of stories but also to writing my own. Certain factors emerge when I've come across and/or written a story that doesn't seem to be working for me.
A story can be said to have failed not because it remains unpublished but if the following applies.#
Character failures can be:-
Judging success for a character is made up of:-
For a character to work as a character, they've got to be well drawn. Flaws, virtues, a good knowledge of what makes them tick even though you almost certainly won't share all of that information with your readers and they've got to be memorable for some reason. This applies to characters who are not necessarily in the starring role as well. For example, I always recall Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings for his absolute loyalty to Frodo Baggins.
There has got to be something about your characters that grabs your reader's attention and generates emotion for that character (this can be hatred as well as love. Sauron grabs my attention but I certainly don't like him. I feel sorry for Frodo and am rooting for him to succeed in his mission but there is something appealing about his character that makes me want to root for him. A less likeable character, though I'd still want the mission to succeed, would not have so much whole hearted support).
As for achievement, this is the pivot for any story. Yes, Frodo achieves success but at a high cost. (And if you haven't read or seen The Lord of the Rings by now, you really should have done). Yes, Sauron achieves his success in creating that ring but loses it... meaning the achievement to retrieve it (for use or destruction) is the ultimate goal. Characters can also judge whether they've been successful and this will vary. A pessimistic character will set themselves standards they can't possibly meet so will always fail. A more optimistic one will make the best of a bad job. There are so many stories to be told from characters like that. Achievement then varies. And how it is judged can too.
As a writer, how do you judge successes? I don't think there's one big moment of publishing success for most writers.
I think there is a series of smaller ones, all of which culminate in the realisation you really can call yourself a writer after all. (And what writer doesn't need some kind of vindication after all?).
I would list some of my smaller steps as:-
And then how to judge success for your characters... I hope to look at that in my next post.
There are certain traits I like my characters to have and these include:-
What fairytales need can be summed up as:-
I think the above title sums up the plot of almost all novels and short stories. After all we're reading about characters we either love or hate and we want to find out how their story ends.
Any story has to be about conflict. Conflict is when one character wants something and another character or circumstances or both gets in their way. The story is how they overcome that, if they do at all, and what their reaction is to their success or failure. Also are the failures temporary? Have the failures been set up by opponents? If so, what happens when your hero/heroine finds out?
Overcoming obstacles is a real test of what a character is capable of/discovers what they're capable of. Obstacles are crucial to any story then. The great thing is that much as we don't like obstacles getting in our way, neither should our characters and their reactions can add depth to the tale. Obstacles can also show your characters are "real" given very few people welcome problems.
And naturally the obstacles should worsen as the tale goes on. There is great fun to be had in putting your characters through the mill so go for it! Characters have to have something to lose or to gain and it's got to be something compelling.
Writing fairytales has its own challenges. Not only is there a fine tradition to live up to and hopefully enhance in a small way (Hans Christen Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, Roald Dahl etc), there are also biases to overcome.
For me the main one of those is the assumption that fairytales are twee little stories for young kids and I have come across that view. It tells me something about the person holding the view immediately - they haven't read the original tales, they've only seen Disney at best! (And that's not to denigrate Disney at all - there are, within its limits given its audience, grim bits - for example the murder of Simba's father in The Lion King. I'm fond of many of the Disney versions and accept the fact they simply could not have made The Little Mermaid the way Hans Christen Andersen wrote it).
The other challenge is that fairytales often carry a strong moral message but do so in an entertaining way and without being preachy. Often the message is not spelled out directly, you pick it up from what happens to the good and bad characters. Often fairytales have many layers to them. Just how many layers do my stories have? Fairytales are not 2D so the challenge is to ensure mine are not either.
With the recent, not unexpected loss of my mother, I have been revisiting my past, literally following in her early footsteps. I revisited the place where she grew up as a child and it brought back many memories for me of my visiting my grandparents there and also visiting the local stately home (open to the public), which was literally at the end of their road. It was the second time I'd been back here since I entered adulthood but I could and did find my way around the stately home grounds as if I'd never been away. An uncanny experience, a moving one too.
And it occurred to me that revisiting your characters' pasts could be useful. It will show you just how well you know them for one thing but pasts have a nasty habit of affecting the future and I would be stunned if you found such pasts didn't trigger further stories. A character's past could reveal a lot about their motivations, what they are keeping secret (there usually is something!) and should shed light on why they behave the way they do. The great thing is you can have inconsistency here. Hypocrites are great fun to write for!
So what is the past your characters are proud of? What are they ashamed of? What are they hoping nobody will ever find out (and what would they do to keep things that way?).
I love asking questions to trigger story ideas. They're a great way to get started. Hope you have some fun with the ones above.
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.