07 October 2011

Beauty and the Beast retold--a work in progress

Beauty and the Beast by Warwick Goble (1913)  
Hello, all. The last time I talked about my MFA thesis novel was here. This was a wonderful post because I got a lot of comments and input when I wrote about my adaptation of Beauty and the Beast...it's wonderful to see that people care about what you want to write and are interested in it.

Here's the thing: since this is my first novel ever, in the beginning, I made stupid mistakes everywhere and spent a lot of time rewriting (I still make mistakes, but they're not as stupid).  And after rewriting, I resubmitted the same chapters over again to my mentors. Speaking of mentors, they are the pinnacle of awesome. Shout outs to Tim Waggoner and Scott Johnson!

Anyway, I took for granted a lot of my time with my mentors and critique partners in the program. I should've conserved my time and energy by finishing the book instead of going back and rewriting all the time (even though the work needed some heavy editing). The rewriting problem stems from my perfectionism, and another habit: impulse writing. This is not only writing "whenever the mood strikes," but also writing with no plan in mind...just improvising as you go along.

Impulse writing is NOT a bad thing (in terms of improvising. It is BAD when you write only when you feel like it)...the key word here is risky. As in, you run the risk of having your writing take you in a completely different direction, and having this happen frequently. 

Being in a great program like Seton Hill's Writing Popular Fiction has taught me so much. And it's also confirmed a few things I already knew about myself: my best writing comes when I do not plan or outline. My best writing comes when I feel the pressure. When I overplan, over-research, and overthink, the end product requires a lot more revision and rewriting. But I can't drop-kick planning and plotting and scheduling out the window...because if I do, it leads me to the current problem I'm in...
Beauty and the Beast by Walter Crane
  • I don't have much time to finish the work, let alone revise it. I have messed up, and it's no one's fault but mine. I can still finish and do well, but at this rate it's like a devil's deal. I have ensured the project will not end easy for me!
  • By writing by the seat of my pants, I've done some awesome things, but now the story does not lead to or resemble Beauty and the Beast in any form. This is a huge deal (and something my mentors could see coming from a mile away, back when I submitted a detailed plot outline a few semesters ago).
  • By writing by the seat of my pants, I've made choices that have destroyed what little detailed plotting and structure I already painstakingly created.
All is not entirely lost, though. I can work some Beauty and the Beast magic into the novel, but only if I render it more like an archetype and less like an actual interpretation of the tale itself. 

I'm excited and angry about this at the same time. I had some really cool ideas about the Beast's castle, how he got enchanted, and what exactly the Beast's curse entails. I had several neat subplots involving all the fairytales that are concerned with beauty (Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty...I even had Donkeyskin in there but doesn't exactly fit in with those fairytales). I had an Evil Uncle archetype, an Older Sibling Mentor, and several Supernatural Beings (like fairies and such...but the older, darker fairies, not Pixie McGee).

What's funny is even I saw this coming...a long time ago!  During my second mentor meeting with Tim (January 2011), I said, "I think...I already think I'm going to have to cut a lot of this stuff..." At the time I was considering all the fairytales. I had no idea I'd be cutting MUCH more than that.

Here are the casualties so far. Let's sing a song of farewell before we bury them: We wish we knew you, knew you well. But if I keep you, the book's gone to hell. *Sigh*
-Kizzy Camomescro
-Lord Marcus Noreth
-The Beast/Prince

-The Beast's Castle

Plot and Subplots (some literal, some metaphorical):
-Nods here and there to Jean Cocteau's masterpiece, as well as the Villeneuve version of the tale
-The Beast as Sleeping Beauty 
-Lily and Mother as Snow White & the Queen
-The Mother as Sleeping Beauty 
-Andresh as the Gaston/Avenant character from Beauty and the Beast
-Laney and Lord Marcus as the Princess and King characters from Donkeyskin
-Kale Camlo and Estella Noreth backstory
-The Beast and the Fairy backstory
-The merchant Father and his encounter with the Beast in the castle
-Pretty much all of the traditional Beauty and the Beast fairytale
-Andresh's sacrifice (involving Laney..I won't blab it cause I may be able to save it)

The Title of the Novel!
-Lily Beauty, Lily Rose
-The Fire Lily

That's a lot of cutting. Some whoppers on this list. Whew!

If I think about it, a lot of my changes were inspired by television shows I've watched religiously: FMA, FMA: BrotherhoodGame of Thrones, True Blood...and some of it's inspired by books I've read: Sabriel by Garth Nix, the horror novels we've had to read for my Genre Class...some from the research I've conducted (Buddhism, Hermetic Alchemy, Shamanic Healing, the Roma, etc.). Even my fellow writers at Seton Hill have inspired me (shout out to all my classmates in my horror class, to all the Troublemakers, and in particular to one of my crit partners-- author Jennifer Loring, who's been through chapter one and onward). Not to mention close friends and family members. Everybody's opinions and input keeps my brain whirring.

What did all these things do for me? It made me realize the following:
-I can make the story darker
-I can cross genres!
-The characters need to be stronger and more complex
-The story needs a lot more action and a stronger, better plot
-I need to keep my reader contract
-I want to pass The Fantasy Novelist's Exam (tee hee)
-I need to up the stakes
-There needs to be more magic in this world
-I want the story to be badass, so bring it on
-One character: Andresh Camomescro. I've made you too freaking interesting. Congratulations, you're not Avenant anymore. You are now my Beast. And I think secretly, all along, this might've been what I wanted.

Yeah, all of the above has shaken the story into something completely different, but despite all of these changes, I want to keep the story's strengths in characterization and relationships. And yes, there still has to be love in the story, too, despite all the stuff I'm tweaking...part of the reader contract, you know. What a tall order....


Shit's about to get crazy! Let's see what rabbit I'll pull out of my hat next.  I'll keep you updated.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! It's been a pleasure to read, and I can't wait for more! I'm most excited about the Andresh change, as I mentioned in my last e-mail. Plus, hooray for darker!

    And don't forget, all of those wonderful ideas (and they really are wonderful) can be recycled into other stories. The Beast as Sleeping Beauty, yes, please! I'd still love to see your interpretation of Snow White as well. So, file them away while you work on your thesis, but don't bury them for good!


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