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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stories, Frogs, and Kisses

One of my favorite things about fairy tales is that all of the princes tick off not-so-innocent old women, and end up as frogs. There's something wonderful about the journey. Boy starts out as a prince, sometimes spoiled, and looking for adventure. Then the boy finds adventure in the temper of a little old woman with a pointed stick. Many times he finds that his idea of adventure is not the same as living one. And of course, True Love's Kiss makes things better. Eventually.

How does this apply to writing? There's the obvious answer of being able to take out Real Life frustrations on hapless, imaginary people. And while this can help sometimes, my favorite is the second reason: change.

Great stories, and history for that matter, all hinge on change. The story isn't in it when everything's balanced and peaceful. That's the end--or the beginning--of the story. The story is about the change that happens, that upsets the balance, and requires the characters to act, to respond, to live, and to change. That's what a good
story's all about: taking a character and a set of circumstances, knocking them off their feet, and watching to see what happens.

One of the most important things about change is growth. The character at the beginning of the story should not be the same character at the end. The character may act and look the similar to how he/she was at the beginning of the tale, but there needs to be a difference in who they are, or how they see the world.  omethSing the reader can see and relate to. Something that shows that the tale did more than mark time--that it marked a person or a society, real or imagined. If the characters aren't the same at the end of the story, chances are good that the reader won't be either. And isn't that part of what makes a good story so good--the reader becoming part of the ink and paper until the story becomes part of them?

This also compares to the manuscript itself, and not just the story. How many wonderful ideas there are floating around, waiting to be written. And how many of those ideas somehow become frogs in the process, flawed and in need of some serious intervention to bring them to their greatest potential? Again, it's the journey that works about the transformation from manuscript full of holes and inconsistencies to a story that uses words to effect change, to provide a glimpse through a window into the author's world, and a little bit into their soul. Some manuscripts have fewer warts than others, but all require time, dedication, work, and the courage to kiss *dedicate one's self* to something that might not look too promising on the surface. But the rewards of puckering up are always worth it.

Which brings us to a true fact of life: not all frogs are princes in disguise. Not all stories exist to be published. Some exist to show the author that they can sit down and hammer out thousands of words from "Once upon a time," all the way to "And they lived happily ever after." Some exist to show the author how much effort is truly required to find a prince. And some exist as guideposts in the author's life, small maps that show the past, and what the future can hold.

What are some of your frogs? Ones that have become tall, dark, and handsome, or simply remained small, green, and slimy? 

Do your characters change through the story? And does the story change you? 

Danyelle collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers in her spare time. She is currently getting ready to query SLIPPERS OF PEARL, a YA fantasy. She also enjoys making new friends, and can be found at http://myth-takes.blogspot.com.


Christine Fonseca said...

Ahhh..what are my frogs??? That is the question I am pondering right now, isn't it!

Amie B said...

nice post! it seems i have a lot of frogs in my life right now....

Robyn Campbell said...

My characters grow in some way or another, Dani. So yeah, they change. And its NOT always for the better. But as you said, (well not in these exact words) by the end, the characters have to be affected by what happened to them in the story. In one way or another. Because in the story of life, we're all affected by what we go through. We're all changed by the time we get to THE END. Great post. :)

Julie Anne Lindsey said...

Trying to decide what's more awesome, the post or that frog wearing a crown! I have plenty of experience with frogs. There are a couple of my first manuscripts which I love because they remind me where I started and encourage me when I see how far I've come. Then, there are a couple that have evolved and grown legs to walk on. There's hope for these little guys and I am thrilled to have found an agent who sees it too!

Eric W. Trant said...

We saw a frog last week walking the dogs. My Pomeranian, Princess Daisy Buttercup, licked the frog right on the head.

He turned into a Pomeranian!

- Eric

Bethany Mattingly said...

It turns out my frogs were really just snakes trying to play the sympathy card. :) Loved this post!

lbdiamond said...

I LOVE reading your posts, Danyelle!

Silke said...

I have about a hundred toads disguised as frogs on my harddrive.
I'd say 99 of them will give you warts if you kiss them.
One of them might be a prince. :)