- The wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. (Though more accurately she was inside the wolf!) Needs to avoid woodchoppers. Getting more ethically sourced meat would also be a good idea.
- Cinderella's stepmother and ugly sisters. Coming to terms and making amends with Cinderella would be a good step, given she is now in a position of considerable influence. If they can't stomach doing that, moving to another kingdom might be a good idea. Cinderella might not harbour thoughts of revenge (though the stepmother and ugly sisters can't know that for sure).
- Dracula. This blood lust thing always ends badly - for the vampire. Time to take up Terry Pratchett's idea of the Black Ribboners who swear to foresake human blood (and live off animal blood instead. Generally goes down better with most people, though admittedly the vegetarian and vegan communities will still not be happy, but then it is impossible to please everyone).
- Mrs Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. Given she has got her two eldest daughters married off (well at that!), Mrs Bennett should focus on something to make good use of her time and abilities and to show there is more depth to her. She is often considered a "silly" woman but her concerns for her daughters were based on a real fear of losing the Longbourne property and the family being in real trouble.
- The most successful pig of the Three Little Pigs. Now this depends on which version of the story you read. The classic version shows only one pig surviving (and outwitting the wolf via a boiling cauldron - ouch!). A more common version shows the two more foolish pigs escaping and going to live with the more sensible one (though the wolf still meets its watery fate). But the successful pig could definitely develop a career as an adviser to those who need help to pick the right building materials.
At the start of a New Year, we are all thinking about new beginnings and my post on This World and Others is all about that topic. On a lighter note, this post lists those fairytale and other characters definitely in need of their own fresh start.
This time of year is usually a time for reflection. We look back at the past year, enjoy the present (hopefully! Time off, going out perhaps, still relishing our presents, chocolates etc) and anticipate the future (what will 2017 bring? Will it be less sad than 2016? Do hope so. Am really sorry to hear about the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. A sad note to end the year on and my heart goes out to their family).
I'm of the view that being able to see into the future is not a good thing. It can paralyse you now. My fairy godmother, Eileen, deliberately limits her abilities here on the same grounds. (The argument she uses is you never get the entire picture anyway). But of course so many characters in fantasy and science fiction do have this ability and do use it. So if you write this, what use do your characters make of this? Do they abuse being able to see into the future? Are they brought to account for it?
How do your characters commemorate their past, make the most of their present and anticipate the future? What is their "end of year" event which would make them reflect like this (or is it a custom that everyone in their world carries out a reflection every six months or whatever time period you've chosen to use)?
If fairies were allowed to write their own wish lists for Santa, what would be on them? My thoughts here are:-
My Chandler's Ford Today post tonight is What I Like (and Dislike) About Christmas.
Likes and dislikes often reveal a great deal about a character, especially why they like or dislike something. This can be a good way to create back story for the character.
For example, Character A dislikes sprouts because their mother made them eat them as a child, so what did they do to get around this? Did it lead to huge rows between them and their mother? Or did they wait till they left home and ditched the sprouts forever? Was their mother a dominating woman or was the child being unreasonable because Mum only offered sprouts once a year and didn't force them on anyone (this being a child's faulty perception/memory)? Lots of information could be revealed here just from this one example (not least how Character A deals with things they don't like!).
Sometimes of course we like or dislike things/people etc because "we just do" but for a character there does need to be a more solid reason than that, even if other characters consider that reason flimsy.
A great way of discovering more about your characters is to draw up their wish lists. See what they want, what their attitude is towards money and so on.
A lot of fun can be had, from a writing viewpoint, in denying your characters their wishes for as long as possible in the story. You then see how they overcome the obstacles in their way (assuming they do, of course).
If you want to unleash even more chaos, then let some of the wishes of your characters come true. Getting what you want isn't all that it's cracked up to be at times. How would your characters react if what they wished for wasn't as good as they thought it would be? (They'd probably be more careful what they put on their wish list another time though!).
A variant on the Ernest Hemingway six words short story exercise, this is is my one line fairytale idea.
All of these could be flash fiction pieces or standard length short stories.
For Sale: One old castle complete with its own spinning wheel. Rest of realm doesn't have any so this is a unique opportunity for those who like needlework. Must also be a gardening fan. Outside of castle is rather overgrown. Will probably take sword to hack back the hedging.
Wanted: Someone to explain to three bears why they're not really meant to (a) live in a house and (b) eat porridge.
Wanted: Someone to tell a golden haired kid she does not have the automatic right to break and enter into someone else's home, vandalise their furniture and eat their food. It doesn't matter if the occupants are unusually hairy.
Wanted: A big book of birds with lots of pictures so The Ugly Duckling can figure out their real identity a lot sooner.
For Sale: A golden ball. Princess really does not fancy kissing the frog.
One aspect of fairytales I generally like is the role animals have. They are fully rounded characters in their own right and not dependent on humanoids at all - e.g. Puss in Boots, the big bad wolf and so on. I was also very fond of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell when I was growing up and suspect my loathing of animal cruelty stems from reading books like that.
I also love Terry Pratchett's wonderful creation, Gaspode, the talking dog in the Discworld series. Gaspode talks a lot of sense!! (Mind, as a border collie owner, I am going to be favourly impressed by things like this. Cat owners would probably be more impressed with Puss in Boots. It is clear who the boss is in that story and it isn't the miller's son!!).
So I think animals do have a wonderful role to play in fiction (there's Babe as well of course and I;m sure a host of other stories and books I haven't thought of as I type this). I don't like "twee" animal stories. (Watership Down shows how fully rounded animal characters should be shown - nothing twee about that story at all, far from it).
So animals as characters should be as well depicted as any other type of character. (And if you can get them showing up human stupidity or the fact humans aren't the only ones with intelligence, so much the better as far as I'm concerned).
I like a story start that gets me right into the tale. I often use dialogue to start off a story (it also means I can introduce my lead characters pretty much immediately and I can hear their voice at once).
I like an opening line which makes me want to know more about the character or the set up of their world. And by the end of the first paragraph I want to know who are the main characters, what world are they set in, and an inkling of what is likely to be the conflict trigger within the story. The whole point is to get going and not waste time/word count.
The trick to successful writing is knowing when you've written enough! The story must not go on a moment longer than is needed to say what you have to say. Likewise a blog post... (I was tempted to stop there and prove my point but I do have a bit more to say on this!).
I learned over time how to make my writing concise and it is actually far easier to waffle on. But one tip that helped me was one idea = one line. One paragraph = two ideas at most. That means short, snappy writing, which of course helps pace.
Get the pace right in whatever you're writing and you won't want anything slowing that down. Say what you have to say and get out is the motto I try and use on all of my writing. It is amazing how easy it is to repeat yourself so on that note time to stop here!
Awkward questions can be fun. They can be a great way to test what your characters are really made of as you can put them on the spot this way as well as "dropping them in it" with crises etc in the course of the story.
What questions would your character not want to be asked and why? Then get another character to ask said questions! Instant tension... instant conflict given they are, at best, going to resent being put on the spot like that and are bound to question the other character's reasons for doing so (well I would!).
It's also not a bad idea to ask yourself awkward questions from time to time. Why am I writing this? Is this the best way of writing what I want to say? Is my meaning as clear as I think it is? This, of course, is where beta readers can come into their own. It's also where honest reviews can be useful to the writer. If anything is puzzling your readers, it will come out in reviews (but they have to be honest reviews to be at all useful).
You know you're really in trouble as a visitor to the magical world if you hear or speak the following:-
I sometimes wonder, when gripped by a really good story, what happened to the characters after the tale officially ends. (Indeed for me this is one definition of what a really good story is!). So in the fairytale world then:-
There have been some great unseen fairytale sales people. My suggestions here are:-
Further to yesterday's post, here are some more possibles for classified adverts for the magically enhanced.
Wanted: Anything that can make a better marker than breadcrumbs. All ideas welcome. Please send to Hansel and Gretel at Avoid Gingerbread Houses at all Costs.
Wanted: Replacement coat for girl whose original one was badly damaged by a wolf. Would like the coat to be in red and with a hood ideally. And if there could be additional pockets with useful weaponry for dealing with a talking carnivore, even better.
Wanted: Some sort of spinning wheel detector. Nervous royal parent is certain at least one has escaped the recent big bonfire of the things. Send details of invention to the palace.
For Sale: The Magic is Easy and Can Eliminate Cleaning Chores for Ever big book of spells. Apprentice has just had nasty experience and lost job as a result.
Fairytale classified adverts could look something like this:-
WANTED: Apprentice to do the cleaning for a very busy wizard. No short cuts using magic will be tolerated (not after last time).
WANTED: A sure fire magical lock on a house in the woods that is guaranteed to prevent greedy golden haired girls from gobbling our food and destroying our furniture. Ideally it will curse anyone trying to break in so they get turned into something horrible. It comes to something that knowing bears live in the house did not prevent the brat from doing this. We want to make sure it cannot happen again.
WANTED: A new set of glasses for a witch keen to increase her ability to see suitable children...er... sorry sources of meat for her oven. It will also stop her being pushed into the oven by a sly kid because the witch will be able to see clearly into the oven without having to get too close to it. Sadly the witch's late sister did not have a decent set of spectacles.
WANTED: Something that can stop a woodcutter from attacking a big bad wolf who is only trying to go out about its business in peace (and would like to digest its meal in peace too).
Apologies for the no-show last night, which was due to an annoying bug (affecting me rather than the computer!).
Just to say Bridge House Publishing are issuing daily extracts and interviews with the writers in their Baubles anthology. Naturally my slot went up yesterday and I missed it!!
Having said that, I share the link above and would recommend having a look at all the extracts as there is a very good mixture of stories in this anthology. Personally, I also love a good nose at what other writers are up to and, better still, if they share in an interview what inspired them, I love reading that too.
In my link, I do share what led to me writing my humorous fairytale, Helping Out, and there is a short extract. Hope you enjoy. I loved writing the story which is about a fairy and a witch teaming up to help one another against the dangerous plotting of their respective bosses.
The magic of writing is in being able to create your own worlds and characters and literally seeing on the page something coming to life that was in your head. Okay there may be some strange things in said head - I envisage rebellious fairy godmothers and dragons after all (neither are common where I live!) - but writing literally takes you out of yourself. You are focussed on what you are creating. This is why I think writing is a wonderful therapeutic art.
And the magic of writing can be found when writers get together to support one another. I was at the Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit joint book launch event last weekend. I have stories in both Baubles (this year's Bridge House anthology) and The Best of Cafelit 5 (Cafelit's annual anthology). What was nice is one story is a longer short story, the Cafelit entry is a piece of flash fiction, both accurately represent what I write. (Both books are available on Amazon and in Kindle and print).
What I always love at events like this is being able to talk about the joys and frustrations of writing and know other writers will understand that, regardless of what genre either of you work in. There's a certain amount of cross the board sympathy between fiction and non-fiction writers too (which is useful given many of us, including me, write both).
So if you get a chance to go to such an event, do so. I find it does me good to get away from the desk for a while and it's a wonderful way to practice your networking skills!
I'm glad to say my short story, The Delivery, is now up on Alfie Dog (Fiction). The link takes you to my Writer's Notes page, which includes a brief interview with me and a listing of my stories on the site.
The Delivery is about a former favoured servant of The Dark Lord who has fallen out of favour - not a good place to be! If you click under "More Details" you can read a short extract.
Mind, all writers, regardless of whether we write fiction or non-fiction and genre, have to ensure our delivery lives up to the promise of our stories. If we are writing humorously, are our stories funny (in the way we meant them to be)? If we write horror, are the stories scary?
Valerie Penny shared, with my blessing, one of my posts from my This World and Others site, where I talk about story structure. This link takes you to her wonderful book review site (she also shares good writing advice) and if you are looking for ideas for books to read and want to see what others have mave of them first, then do try out Valerie's website as an excellent place to start.
But going back to story structure, I see this as the edit where I make sure my story (or blog post funnily enough as well) makes sense. I am making sure I have delivered on what I wanted my story (or blog post) to be.
So "deliver" your story. Ensure it is what you want it to be (or as close as you can get - no story is ever perfect). Deliver a story well and hopefully readers will come back for your next one and the one after that and so on.
Fairytales can make great flash fiction pieces, as well as standard length short stories. And there is a reasonable market for them. There are more sites out there taking "quirky" fiction. (See Cafelit for one!). Then there are the specific flash fiction sites too.
I think the massive development of flash fiction as a format has been largely due to people reading on tablets, mobiles etc. I'm not complaining though. I started writing flash fiction by accident as I had a story that I couldn't pad out but wasn't long enough to send anywhere. I saw that Cafelit took very short fiction so I send the tale there and it went up on site. I've not looked back since. Many of my pieces on that site are very brief fairytales.
A short story has been described as a moment of change in a character's life. Well flash is half a moment! I use "incidents", not long enough in themselves to create a short story, to form a flash fiction tale instead. Occasionally I will take a flash story and expand it out to the standard 1500 to 2000 words length. I don't do this often as I'm focussing on creating new stories all the time but it is an option.
And most genres suit flash. Some of my pieces, coming up soon in my collection From Light to Dark and Back Again (Chapeltown Books), verge on horror. Others are crime stories. The majority are fairytales with bite. Flash is a wonderfully flexible format so whatever genre you write (bar epic I suppose!!!), you could use flash.
When writers aren't worrying about their craft or trying to catch up with their own reading (it helps inspire what you write), marketing is the big issue. How much to do? When to do it? Will I come across as pushy (if you worry about such things - I do!)? But it struck me there could be marketing within the magical world. How would this be done?
A good day for a fairy godmother would mean:-
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.