I have told this story elsewhere but it bears repeating.
|Great altered fairy tale: Cinderedna!|
While getting my B.A., I took every Creative Writing course I was allowed to take--and then got permission to take a graduate level Creative Writing course. For the peer-reviewed short story "final," I took the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, changed the heroine to a prince, and altered the curse. Instead of not being able to touch a spindle (can you imagine the damage burning all the spinning wheels in a country would do to its economy?!), my prince was cursed to never be able to pick up a sword. Since he is a member of a war-like culture, this curse makes him a liability and reduces his ability to lead.
The prince is plenty ticked off by all this and some of my favorite pieces of dialog between him and enchantress that cursed him concern the nature of freewill and the right to fulfill one's destiny or purpose.
The problem with the story was the enchantress, the person who cursed him. Why did she do it? Originally, I had her purpose be ultra-idealistic and noble: I'M AGAINST WAR!
|Judith cutting off Holofernes' head|
Of course, writers can and do build characters who feel differently from them, but it's difficult, especially if the writer wants--as I wanted--to create a balanced tension between two characters.
(2) The second problem with giving my female character an idealistic and abstract motivation is that it was idealistic and abstract. People can have such motivations but they tend to be subsumed in real life by mundane considerations (like, hey, I have to eat!). They are also extremely difficult to write about plausibly--without making the character TOO good or TOO sweet.
|Tolkien's text makes clear that it is Galadriel who|
|staves off Sauron's incursion against Lothlorien.|
Eventually, I settled for giving my female character a far more self-centered motivation: all of her previous lovers died in the country's ongoing wars. She curses the prince as a baby with the deliberate intention of making him her lover when he is older, a lover that won't die young.
I still didn't agree with her, but I found--once I gave her a clear, human, self-interested motivation--that I could write her sympathetically. Which is the whole point. The story became "Madeline's Lover" and can be found on my fiction page.
More about politics and fiction to follow!