I’m trying to kick off this writing thing, but man it is hard. On June 27 I started an online writing workshop through author Kate Messner’s website. My challenge to myself was to write everyday for 30 days. It didn’t matter how much, just something every day. Maybe a list of things to include in the story, a character sketch, a map of the town, anything, every day. Well, today is day 10 of 36. (For every day I’ve missed, I’ve tacked it onto the end.)
A few months ago I was chatting with my friend and writing mentor. We were talking about books we love. I had started reading some of my favorites to get my creative juices flowing and had just finished Robin McKinley’s Beauty and Rose Daughter back to back. This woman wrote the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale twice! The same story twice! We were both raving about how Beauty and the Beast is our favorite story when she challenged me to write one myself.
Write my own Beauty and the Beast? But hasn’t it been over done? Wouldn’t it just sound the same? Who would want to read it?
I would, she said. Write it just for me to read.
I accepted the challenge.
During my first quick write, I was writing down aspects of the story that need to be in the fairy tale:
roses - definitely, it’s not Beauty and the Beast without the presence of roses
family - maybe sisters, I certainly like the versions of the story where there are siblings, father’s occupation?
magic - obviously the enchantment, but how much of a role does magic play in Beauty’s life before the Beast?
servants - there have been animated objects, animals, sprites and vapors, talking wind, etc.
Then came the thought: what if I switched the genders? What if the Beauty character was a male and the Beast a female? Would I have to come up with different names? As a wrote a scene where Beauty was under an enchantment and the male lead came to rescue her I realized an important plot point in Beauty and the Beast. The woman saves the day. It is one of the few fairy tales where the guy is the one locked in the castle and the woman comes in to save him. In switching the genders I was changing the only feminist fairy tale into the same-old, same-old of the guy rescuing the woman.
I wasn’t really sure how it was going to work out, but I kept writing. The Beauty character I named Jonathan, his sister is Anne and there is a village boy who helps them named Silas. I haven’t written a father character, it seems they are on their own. I like these characters so far, but they don’t seem to fit into the Beauty and the Beast story I was going for.
So, I am at a cross-roads. Put aside Jonathan, Anne and Silas for another story and write a more classic Beauty and the Beast. Or, forge ahead with the mixed up, switched up tale.
Here is a snippit to whet your appetite:
Beauty reached out her hand to touch the smooth bark and felt the vibrations before her fingers touched. It felt alive.
“Well of course it’s alive” Beauty said out loud, annoyed at herself for the fear that knotted her stomach. But this was different, it felt alive like the flank of a horse feels alive under your hand, pulsing, breathing, moving.
She took a step towards the grey trunk, then another cautious step, ready to walk past it. With the third step it was as if a switch had been flipped, the earth seemed to leap and buck beneath her feet, her head spun, her stomach dropped; she stumbled back, all was still. She stared at the grey tree rising tall into a dark, green canopy above her head. The trunk was thin for being so tall, she could almost encircle it with her hands. There were identical trees three paces to each side of the one that stood in front of her. She knew they continued, three paces apart, all around the great estate; encircling her, caging her in.
Beauty turned away from the line of trees, back towards the heart of the circle they made, back towards the great house. The grey stone of the house gleamed weakly in the dusk. In this light it looked the exact same shade as the bark of the trees. Beauty could see candles winking on as she entered the courtyard. Her dinner would be laid out soon. She climbed the stairs slowly, trying to make sense of what had happened.