Thursday, November 15, 2012
I've spent a good long time absent from the blogosphere while wrestling with my latest book. I've also learned a great deal about the challenges of creating a novel-length fairy tale.
1. Fairy tales are short for a reason. They are compact little stories that were passed along orally for generations before someone (Grimm brothers, for ex.) transcribed them. I love the old Grimms' tales for their lively economy, but a novel requires things like fully-fleshed characters and a complex plot.
2. Fairy tales don't have to explain much. Novels require an answer to "why?" A fairy tale can begin by stating: "Once upon a time, a mouse, a bird and a sausage entered into a partnership and set up house together." (That's a real fairy tale quote, by the way.) In a children's novel, that situation might need a little more set up. In fairy tales, people make strange requests of each other ("fetch me the first hazel twig that strikes your hat") or are introduced as being quite proud of their red shoes (which never are mentioned in the story again). Can't do that in a novel. There has to be motivation and follow through.
3. And then there's "voice." The Grimms' tales make reference to the past with archaic language: trod, weep, thither, bade, thereupon... I love that stuff! But there's a danger of sounding like a Renaissance Faire trainee if one lays it on too thick. I've tried to find a balance, because mine is not a modern retelling, but a fairy tale wannabe.
I'm inching my way along, and I'll continue to see where the story might take me. Maybe I'll drop a few breadcrumbs along the road so it won't take so long to find my way back.