I love a good fairy tale. Conversely, I really hate a revisionist retelling of a fairy tale. You know the type - the ones where we're given a sob story about the background of the (always previously despicable) villain and are expected to suddenly sympathize with them. Oh, they can't help how horrible they are! They have daddy issues! But... that's just me, perhaps. It strikes me that it's not up to me to say what path another writer should or should not take in their storytelling choices. We will always write to our consciences, and our individual worldviews will always be reflected in our works. But it also strikes me that what makes a fairy tale truly speak across ages is a certain virtue - a certain indisputable morality where the lines between good and evil are not blurred. Fairy tales are, at their core, simple and full of archetypal characters. Their simplicity allows them to appeal to children, and their use of archetypal characters makes them perfect vehicles to carry messages and display heroism and villainy in stark, contrasting ways. When the archetypes are skewed, therefore - the narratives rewritten - the stories cease to be true fairy tales.
Retelling fairy tales is very popular right now, especially in Young Adult literature. I've obviously gotten interested in this topic since I am in the process of writing a novelization of a classic fairy tale. Part of my research as I outline my own story has been to read popular re-tellings and watch movie re-tellings. (I know, I know... sounds awful, doesn't it?) :) While I am NOT writing a novelization of Cinderella, most of my current fairy tale consumption has centered on that story. I think it's because Cinderella has always been my favorite fairy tale. When I was a child, my best friend and I watched the Disney Cinderella so many times, her mom had to buy a new VHS for us because we wore out the first one. Cinderella holds a special place in my heart and has a special virtue as a fairy tale, I think. In the interest of time, and not making this blog post into a behemoth of an essay, though, I will save the rest of my thoughts on the matter for next time. So, in the next blog post, I will review book 1 of The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder, Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella, and Ever After. And as always, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts!
As some of you may know, I'm not just an author, I'm also a history teacher. It just so happens that today (by the time this goes live, at least, on Feb. 23rd in the US) is Printed Book Day. Huh! Who knew that printed books had their own day? Yeah, I didn't know that either. But it's true, apparently. And ironically, in class today, I taught my 10th-grade students about Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press. This was an invention that changed the world - an invention the impact of which is absolutely incalculable on humankind and on the course of history. It was an invention, I stressed, that led to an increase in literacy, knowledge, and general well-being and prosperity in and for years to come! Now, I'm not sure if we celebrate Printed Book Day on Feb. 23rd to honor Gutenberg, although a quick internet search could probably tell me one way or the other (but it's late and I honestly hadn't planned this blog post, so I'm too lazy to do that right now), but I'm celebrating Printed Book Day by giving away a signed copy of BREEDER and a $5 gift card to Starbucks (because what is reading without coffee?). So how do you enter this Giveaway? Well, you have to participate on Instagram, so the first thing you need to do is follow me HERE. Then just read the directions on the Giveaway post! Good luck, and Happy Printed Book Day!
2/14/2016 0 Comments
This sounds like a chipper topic for Valentine's Day, doesn't it? Here I sat down to write something love-related for everyone's favorite saint-themed holiday, and that's the title that comes pouring out of me. But I honestly can't really help it. This notion of the power of the pen has been heavy on my mind lately as I've been preparing for a keynote address later this week, and I can't help but think how it applies to YA love and literature. You see, I was a teenager once, too. (What? Crazy... I know.) The teen years are insanely emotional. Up and down, left and right. Just the wrong look from someone you like can send you spiraling into a pit of despair. Teenagers who like to read often find solace in the pages of books, and there are more YA titles to choose from than ever these days - good news for YA writers like me! But writers like me need to also be extremely cautious in how we craft our romantic leads, and we need to not forget what it was like to be a teenager, because what makes for entertaining reading for us can be soul-crushing for a teen.
The likelihood of a teenager meeting their soulmate in high school is pretty slim. I'm all for setting standards for people, and I think part of the job of the writer of fiction is to create heroes and heroines the likes of whom regular (ie. non-fictional) people want to imitate, but it's more the relational aspects between teenage lovers I often take issue with in YA literature. The heroes are usually a little too perfect, the heroines a little too head-over-heels, and I wonder: when the teenage readers of these stories go through relationships that don't meet these standards of perfection - the standards these books they love so much have taught them is so perfect - does it devastate them?
Or am I taking all of this too seriously?
At any rate, I've always tried to write flawed characters and realistic relationships, and part of the reason why is so that I don't set standards for my readers that they can't achieve in their own lives - especially in the area of romance. It doesn't mean I've never had my characters meet their soulmates in high school, because I'm totally guilty of that! But I try to put plenty of bumps along the way.
What do y'all think of this subject? I'd love to hear! And happy Valentine's Day!
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