Plotting for a New Story
I love to read fairy tales and different versions of the same tale. There are many retellings of the classics: Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White. I read a tale called "The Princess on the Glass Hill." It was only about 2 pages long in the children's fairy tale book that I read. I was interested in the story because I had never read it before. I found a longer version of the tale online that was about 6 pages long. I was hooked. I really wanted to write a retelling of this unfamiliar fairy tale.
I sat down to write. And...nothing. I've never been a panster, always a plotter. I have to get into my characters and figure out who they are and why they do what they do. The two versions of "Princess...Hill" were from the hero's perspective. Basically, there comes word that a princess is locked up in a tower at the top of a glass hill. Men from all around try to "rescue" her from the tower. The one who can get her out can marry her. Hero Guy is the youngest of 3 brothers and the most unlikely lad in the kingdom to rescue the princess. He proceeds to accomplish 3 tasks (of course 3! It's the magic number in fairy tales!) that a fairy sets before him. He wins the contest/rescues the princess. The End.
I understand the motivation of Hero Guy (right now, his name is either Jack or Mack in my story). Youngest brother, wants to prove himself, marry a beautiful princess, etc. But I was stumped when it came to the Nameless Princess of the story. First of all, how sad that she is not given a name! (Of course, I have names running through my mind for her. Possibly Alice or Margaret or Jane. Still working on this.) Secondly, why would the princess be willing to be locked up in a tower and be the prize of this contest?? I'm not a super liberal feminist but I do believe in equal rights and NOT LOCKING GIRLS UP. I had to dig deeper before I could even start this story.
So, I started with the backstory. In most books, the reader doesn't even know the full backstory of a character. This is a good thing! But the AUTHOR must know why the character is acting a certain way and making decisions that might be stupid and saying things that are weird. For "Princess...Hill" I needed a good, solid reason for Princess Alice/Margaret/Jane to be willingly locked up. I wanted her to have kind parents, not psychos. I wanted her to have a family and a history. I wanted her to be the heroine of her own story. I mean, the story is called "The PRINCESS on the Glass Hill"!
All ranting aside, that's what I'm working on now. Random plot points, names of characters scrawled into my journal, ideas written with many exclamation points and underlining. Imagining the story in my mind, seeing the Hero and Heroine meeting for the first time. Rewinding my mental tape and working the scene again slightly differently. (Instead of the tree branch fully breaking, maybe it could just crack? What would happen after that?) Choose Your Own Adventure! ;-)
I hope you've enjoyed your trip inside this author's brain. Mind your step. There's plot holes all around.