Once upon a time, back in 2012, I ran into a HUGE wall. I had idea after idea falling on its face. I didn’t know then that it takes me several months to bake an idea. I had only been writing again for a year after a two year hiatus, and before that hiatus, I had a four year college-related hiatus. So…I had a lot of things to learn about myself as a writer.
Back then, I thought if an idea wasn’t gelling, it was a bad idea and needed to be trashed. Now I know things just need to bake.
Among those many ideas that melted and died were several fairy tale retelling ideas. I started off with a Hansel & Gretel idea (that finally happened – YAY!). At the time, I got the furthest with this, which isn’t saying much at all. But it was analyzing this idea that helped me figure out the problem.
The original is set in olden times, therefore my story was set in olden times. The problem is, I’m not a great olden times writer. I can do it in small batches as long as the world doesn’t get too big. Meaning, if the scenes that take place in the past stay confined within in a certain area, like just this one house, with just this one group of people, then I can handle it without melting or frying my brain.
The other problem is that my idea for the retelling was too confined to the original idea. The original has a surly step-mother, so my story had a surly step-mother. But there was no reason for a surly step-mother to be in my story! And that is, in fact, exactly where that story fell apart.
So, several months later, summer 2013, after binge watching several King Arthur-esque movies in a row for some reason (I really have no idea, I just got a hankering for them), I thought to myself, “I hate Guinevere – why does she never have to suffer?” I’m not kidding, outside of First Knight, I always hate Guinevere, and the worst thing that ever happens to her is that she goes to a nunnery. That’s not a punishment. And she volunteers! No one was anywhere close to making her go.
Since I’m a writer (haha), I decided to create the framework that would give me a viable reason to torture Guinevere. ^_^
That was final push over the stumbling blocks. A fresh perspective combined with a fierce desire to do something different with the King Arther legend. I immediately had my champion, a nice, hostile, modern gal, and because her story didn’t have any of that olden times stuff it, it helped my brain think more outside of the box. Instead of looking at the Arthurian Legend and trying to retell it, I focused on the character inspired by the legend and built a new story around her, letting the old elements inspire me however my brain wanted. 😀
It showed me a new way of retelling stories. A more indirect way, where my ideas are heavily inspired by those old stories, but I’m not necessarily trying to to retell them in a super recognizable way.
I personally like all kinds of retellings, but I can honestly say my least favorite are the ones that are almost verbatim to the original. Because then, I kind of feel like, “What’s the point?”
Because what’s the fun in playing with old tales if we’re going to keep them exactly the same? Creative people should do what they want with them. NO BOUNDARIES! And if we get to the end of the story and the fairy tale, legend, folk tale or whatever is unrecognizable, that’s fantastic! We’ve managed to take something old and make something entirely new out of it. 🙂
You might wonder why I mentioned Hansel & Gretel specifically. You might not. But am I low-key saying that HOUSE OF FALLING EMBERS was inspired by Hansel & Gretel? Maybe. 😛
Quick update on that: the level of nitpicking on this read through is insane. I’m still rewriting sentences, and I don’t usually do this level of editing at this point in the journey. I’m trying to figure out what caused it so I don’t go through this again next time, but I’m hoping to be 100% done by the end of the night. There are just a few chapters left. (faints)