Saturday, February 20, 2016

Writing Lessons from Movies: Ever After

While everyone raved about Cinderella last year, my heart still remained with this classic. I'm not a fan of chick flicks, but this is in my tiny exceptions list. I never cared for the original fairy tale much. I always gravitated to Beauty and the Beast or Sleeping Beauty or other Grimm's fairy tales no one has ever heard of, but Ever After changed my mind about this story.

Danielle is one of my favorite female protagonists and plus the movie has Leonardo DaVinci one of my favorite historical figures. Anything with DaVinci in it, there's a high chance I'll love. It's one reason I like the Ezio trilogy in Assassin's Creed. Seeing as this month is Valentine's I thought it a good idea to whip out that girly side I have buried in me somewhere.

Warning: Some spoilers.

Take a breath and let's get started.
1.) A Fairytale That Is Given a Historical Twist - Instead of including magic, this fairytale has been set in Renaissance period France. They altered the story accordingly to suit this chance such as having the fairy godmother be Leonardo DaVinci, included historical politics and even gypsies. To give it a more realistic touch, the movie started with a distant relative of Danielle's/Cinderella's talking to the brothers Grimm about the story. This gave a new twist to the story and made it feel like it could have actually happened.

I like this line a lot.
How this can be applied to writing: If you're thinking of a fairy retelling, could you try to make it sound like it actually happened? This could be a neat twist to a story. The cool thing about Grimm's fairy tales is we don't know what the original source of the stories are. The brothers Grimm only compiled them, but there are so many versions of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, Rumpelstiltskin, and more obscure ones such as The Six Swans and The White Cat. The possibilities are endless.

I love Leonardo.
2.) A Heroine Who is Both Strong and Feminine - Nowadays it feels like in effort to make female protagonists look strong that means they have to desert what makes them a woman such as wanting to be pretty or wanting to have children or be a wife. Danielle is a strong woman. She is intelligent, brave, kind, and all around a great role model for girls. She is a total tomboy, yet she loves pretty dresses as well. She is as strong as ever, but she isn't neglecting her identity and the natural traits of a woman.

I love her intellect here.
How this can be applied to writing: Think about your female characters. Are they both ladylike and strong? What suits their personalities? It's okay for a female character not to be able to kick-butt. It's okay to rely on a man for things. Strength comes in many ways and not just with a sword. Telling a hard truth or to forgiving another or enduring a hardship are all displays of great strength. Women are versatile creatures. We should be proud of how God made us.

That look of intensity.
3.) You Understand the Villain, But You Still Don't Like Her - No one likes the Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent. She's conniving, unkind, cruel, selfish, and careless. But you can understand where she's coming from. Back then who you married would often determine your fate for the rest of your life and even your children's lives. She married well with Danielle's father. They hadn't been married for very long before he died suddenly and tragically after losing her former husband. This was obviously really hard on her. 

Years later now she's trying to secure the future of her own daughters by having Marguerite marry the prince--and poor Danielle is in the way of that plan. Yes, it's not fair to Danielle. Yes, she's critical toward Jacqueline. Yes, she's mean to the servants. But she's doing this to secure her future even though she's going about it in a totally wrong way. She's desperate. It's wrong, but her meanness has a reason and a good one at that. In other versions, it's felt like the evil step mother really didn't have that good of a reason to dislike Cinderella.

Her costumes are pretty cool.
How this can be applied to writing: Does your antagonist's motivation make sense? Can we understand why your villain is evil? Evil for the sake of evil isn't going to cut it. There needs to be a real reason why this person is the way they are. More on this in How to Write a 3D Villain Part 1: How Did a Factor Cause Your Villain to Become a Villain?How to Write a 3D Villain Part 2: What Event(s) Made Your Character Evil?, and The Psychology of Writing: Villain Motivation and the CANE Model: A Guest Post by Casey Lynn Covel.

Well then.
4.) Holes in the Original Story Were Filled - Though the original Cinderella story is cute to be sure. It did have its flaws. Cinderella happened to have a fairy god mother? The Prince happened to fall in love with her when he had so many other girls to choose from and he only danced with her to see that he loved her? No one else in the entire kingdom could fit into that shoe? Ever After filled in a lot of these holes. Danielle met DaVinci days earlier. Henry and Danielle spent a lot of time getting to know each other. The Prince put the shoe on her as a gesture of acceptance instead of a way of finding her.

He sought to get to know her.
How this can be applied to writing: Plot holes are sticky things. Look out for them in your own story and if you're retelling a story try filling in any existent ones. A plot hole is a flaw that could have had a different outcome and even collapsed the happenings of the tale. Keep a sharp eye out for them!

We were all waiting for this to happen at this point.
5.) The Romance Made Sense - Like I mentioned about, in the original story the Prince only got to know Cinderella by dancing with her for one night. Some versions may say three nights, but still that's not much time and that activity wouldn't allow much of a way to get to know this person. Henry and Danielle are not just attracted by each other's looks, but they have things in common and admire things about one another. They both like to read. Henry admires Danielle's wit and independence. Their romance is realistic as opposed to one night fling.

This is cute.
How this can be applied to writing: Do the romances in your story make sense? Would these two characters you're shipping logically in real life fall in love with each other? Do they have interests in common? Are their personalities compatible? Do they have similar belief systems? Do they admire things about each other? These are all things that help support a romance.

*kissy noises*
Conclusion - Ever After is a great Cinderella retelling for many reasons. There are probably even more than I've listed, but I hope these few can help you in your writing. Happy Late Valentine's Day!

Have you seen Ever After? Have you noticed these writing aspects? What movies have you noticed have good writing? Let's geek out together!

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