Friday, October 28, 2011
Seekerville Welcomes Guest Blogger Melanie Dickerson
I’m so excited that Tina invited me to post on Seekerville during the birthday month! How cool is that? It’s probably no secret that this is my favorite blog, and I recommend this blog every time I teach a class or someone asks for my advice on their writing, or I judge a contest entry.
It’s also no secret that I like to write medieval romances based on fairy tales. I am inspired by these classic stories, and apparently, a lot of other writers are too. It’s become something of a trend to base a romance, a YA, a TV show, or a movie screenplay on one or more fairy tales. So, I decided to talk about timeless, classic fairy tales, like Beauty and the Beast, and why we love them so much.
What makes a story a classic? Why do fairy tales stand the test of time, so that we tell them over and over to our children and grandchildren? What makes people flock to see the Disney musical, Beauty and the Beast, when they’ve already seen the animated movie? There are many romance novels based on the Beauty and the Beast story. What is it about that story that fascinates us?
In two new TV shows, Grimm and Once Upon a Time, someone took the well-known fairy tales and put a new spin on them. And now there are two new live-action movies based on the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” tale, set to come out next year, with a third Snow White movie coming out soon after, from such movie-making powerhouses as Universal, Relativity, and Disney.
I think one reason these stories are classics is because Disney took them and made them into romantic, visually beautiful movies with happy endings, and now we remember the Disney movies and not the original, often grisly, stories. But that’s not the only reason. I think there’s a nugget of truth in them that we can relate to. Am I right in saying that we have all run into an occasional person whom we could cast as the wicked stepmother/queen/sorceress? We have all encountered betrayal of some kind, been naïve and let a wolf in grandma clothing deceive us, and fallen in “love” at first sight. As girls, many of us dream of marrying a prince, of castles and happily ever afters.
Beauty and the Beast has long been my favorite fairy tale. As a teenager I wrote my own short-story version of Beauty and the Beast. I have no idea where that story is, but I vividly remember writing it. Fifteen years later, after writing The Healer’s Apprentice, I knew I wanted to write more stories based on fairy tales, and Beauty and the Beast was the obvious next choice.
The Merchant’s Daughter is a straight historical—no magic of any kind. I enjoy taking a fanciful fairy tale and trying to make it completely realistic. If Beauty and the Beast was based on a true story, what might that true story have been like? The Merchant’s Daughter is the end result of that thought process.
But what is the essence of the Beauty and the Beast story? A rich “prince” is changed into an ugly beast and must find someone to fall in love with him and break the spell. A beautiful girl does fall in love with him, just in time to save him. If you look at this outline, there are probably dozens, if not hundreds, of novels and screenplays that follow this basic story. Maybe the hero isn’t a literal beast, but something has caused him to be emotionally scarred, and only the heroine is able to draw him out of his pain and/or cynicism.
That’s one theme. Another is two people falling in love based not on physical attractiveness, but on inner qualities, a romance based on emotional attraction rather than lust. I think most Christian romances follow this principle. But a Beauty and the Beast story has them fall in love IN SPITE of their physical appearances. Have you ever written—or read—a story that follows this general story line? Probably you have—more than one. But each author puts his or her own spin on the story, so it doesn’t feel cliché or done to death.
Another theme might be inner beauty winning out over physical beauty accompanied by selfishness. Think of the heroine of the story, the beautiful youngest daughter, versus her two selfish sisters who only care about material things. Beauty asked for a simple flower, but the selfish sisters want riches. I love showing a contrast between characters, because a good, noble character always is shown to better advantage by placing him or her next to a selfish, petty character.
I enjoyed exploring the themes of a Beauty and the Beast story in a Medieval setting, specifically, a 14th century English village, and putting my own spin on the story. What about you? Can you pinpoint the plot—or theme—of your favorite fairy tale and find it in books you’ve read—or written?
Thanks so much, Tina, for inviting me to be on Seekerville during your birthday celebration! I feel very honored. And I have two paperback copies of The Merchant’s Daughter (which releases as an e-book in three weeks!) to give away, so everybody please leave a comment
The Merchant’s Daughter
An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice.
Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf's bailiff—a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past.
Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger.
Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.
Check out the trailer for The Merchant's Daughter here.
Bio: Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer’s Apprentice, a Christy Award finalist and winner of The National Reader’s Choice Award for Best First Book. Melanie earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama and, in a former life, she was a teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama. You can connect with her on her website, www.melaniedickerson.com.