Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Flat as a Fairy Tale

Torn between two ideas: sci-fi idea derived from Star Wars that I'm not really sure I can write well, and old old literary idea that I love and which I'm pretty sure I'm going to fuck up if I try to write it. So, yesterday, I wrote neither, which I'll grant was a pretty stupid way to avoid the problem. Plus there's outlining the Marilyn book, which GAH-BLAH.

There's also this old story, a fairy tale, that I workshopped with the Barrelhouse group during the fall. They told me that my main character wasn't interesting enough and quibbled annoyingly with my first line. I made my main character an everygirl on purpose, because that's how you do it in fairy tales, right? Snow White is not exactly the most three-dimensional character ever to strut around a Disney landscape. Oh. Pun. Ack.

Point is, this week I've been thinking over whether I want to rewrite this story with this idea in mind. It was this post at Errantry that put me in mind of it. My main character sings (which becomes an important aspect of the story at the end of it), and that is her Only Thing, like the love of honey of the tale Kathleen illustrates. To the workshoppers, this was not enough, and she was really flat and boring. I tried to argue that I'd constructed her like a normal, flat fairy tale heroine, the kind you can project your own characteristics on because she has none of her own (ahem*BELLA*ahem), but they didn't care. The more I think about it, the more I become concerned (not quite convinced) that they're right. I think I'd end up adding a hell of a lot more words if I made the character more interesting, which I guess is okay with me, except that I was happy with a 4,000-word story and don't really want it to be a 7,000er. If it makes the story better, well of course, but it won't necessarily be more saleable if it's better and too long. But that spins me up into asking what the point is, whether I want to write a good story or a saleable story, when the answer is really both. I guess write more, and then try to cut back elsewhere?

I unintentionally created part of a universe in this story that I want to explore elsewhere, so I don't think it would be a bad thing if I were to work a little harder at this first foray into it. It's too short to get much into the universe, so that would be part of expanding the word count, expanding the world. The conflict admittedly appears a little late, but I thought the language made up for it, a bit. I could break it down and start all over, from the top down, with the universe in mind, rather than sneaking into it with just my main character in mind the way I wrote it originally. But that sounds like an awful lot of work, she whined.

Like I said above, I'm still not convinced that flat heroines are entirely wrong for fairy tales written in the present day. (Not set in modern times, just written right now.) Just as I think many readers like predictability to a certain extent, I think many readers like characters they can live through more personally due to having few specific characteristics. Vibrant heroines who are thoroughly foreign to the average reader, but who still possess some universal traits, are one kind of way to draw in readers (cf Scarlett O'Hara), but I think the opposite way is not invalid. Children's books and YA are rife with these sorts of folks, after all.

Y'know, having thought through how not-fun it will be to rewrite this story, I'm suddenly far more interested in working on the SF story. Unexpected bonus. Maybe I'll get down to it today.


Ian said...

I approve of a science fiction story decision. I hope you follow through so I can read it.

Katharine Coldiron said...

Oh, Ian, thank you for your support, but you may be sorry. :D