Tuesday, April 30, 2019

No Originality: Rumpelstiltskin Flash Scene

When Christine, Faith, and I all started Fairy Tale Central, one of the things we were most excited about was hosting writing prompts based on the featured fairy tale of the month. We're all writers, I love writing prompt-inspired scenes, Faith and Christine do too, so win-win.

The prompts go up on the third of every month over on Intuitive Writing Guide, and here, finally, is my scene for April's Rumpelstiltskin prompt. As usual, it started out supposed to be 600-800 words and clocked out at something like 1,500 words.

This scene fits into the Pendragons and Pimpernels universe, which I'll be back to talk about later.

This was the prompt:

What had her father been THINKING?
Well, it’s plain he wasn’t thinking at all.
Mary looked around at the workshop. There was very little hope that this monumental—and impossible—task could be accomplished with anything here at hand, but she looked anyway, methodically picking up and examining every tool, every material, every piece of plastic and straw and metal. Every pot of paint, including the ones she'd brought.
Nothing. Not even her vague plans had prepared for this large a job.
Just to be sure, she repeated the process, looking under and behind everything in the workshop.
Still nothing. I knew it was impossible! But if I don’t, Father will be evicted. What had possessed him to say such rubbish? How pissed out of his head was he?
Groaning, she crossed her arms on the table and buried her head in them, giving in to tears. It’s no use. I tried. How am I supposed to fix this?
“Come now, mädchen, certainly it is not hopeless yet.”
With a scream, she leaped up and back…or she tried to. Her hip bumped sharply into the edge of the table, and she lost her balance, falling flat on her butt on the floor. Staring wildly around her, she finally located the speaker by the door.
The door that was theoretically locked.
No, it had definitely been locked. She’d checked, no less than four times.
“Who are you?” she snapped out, trying to sound like he hadn’t just scared her so badly that her heart was still beating frantically and her breath came in gasps.
“I think the bigger question is why am I here, Madame, would you not agree?”
“Madame? I’m not…I’m…where are you from? Who talks like that anymore? This is 2017.”
“So many questions! Would you not be more comfortable asking them from anywhere other than the floor? Well,” he amended. “I do not recommend the ceiling either.”
Getting up sounded like a really good idea, and she scrambled to her feet, looking around her for a sharp or heavy object. Being armed also sounded like a good idea.
“Come now,” said man placatingly, for man he definitely was, she could see, now that she was standing. “If I were here to injure you, I would already have done so, before you could be up or arm yourself. Far less danger to me to do it quickly, while you were still surprised and off guard.”
Well, that was reassuring.
“Who are you?” she asked again, or rather, demanded.
He sighed and finally came out of the dim shadows by the door into the full light of the center of the workshop, limping and leaning on a staff taller than either of them.
By the harsh light of the overhead bulbs, he looked old. Old enough to be her grandfather at least. Shorter than her even, he was thin, but not bony. Just lean. When she looked at his face, he seemed old. But looking straight into his eyes…that impression faded. His wizened face settled in lines of quiet, and he cocked his head to the side, studying her as if she was something fascinating.
“What?” she huffed finally, as much from curiosity now as from wariness or caution. “I’m not an alien.”
“Aye, that you are not, Miss Mary Miller.”
“You know my name! How do you know my name?”
The man sighed heavily, the same way her father did when she asked too many times about their finances that month or the same way she did when the answers were unsatisfactory. An irritated sigh.
“It was not hard to fathom. A rather boring name. Did your parents have no originality?”
“My parents…what? Why are you here?”
“So many questions.” He cocked his head at her, studying her as if she was some kind of specimen. “But so little consistency in them. I am here to do what you deem to be impossible.”
She snorted. “It is impossible. You’re cracked out of your head if you think it isn’t.”
With another sigh, this one sounding exasperated, he limped over to a stool and sat down on it, leaning his right leg out in front of him. She could see now that it was rather twisted, and she looked away, trying not to stare.
“You British humans are so factual,” he said, both hands clasped around the staff as he leaned forward, looking around the workshop. “Is there no belief left in you?”
“British humans? What, other humans are better?”
He raised his eyebrows at her, and she felt as if he was about to scold her. But his voice was mild as he said, “Better, worse, these are just words which are hard to apply to degrees of belief. The French still believe. The Americans do not. The Russians cast a curse over one shoulder and a charm against witches over the other. The Germans…” he paused. “Well, it has been many years since I met a German.”
That made something click in her head. “Did you speak German earlier? Madken?”
“Mädchen,” he corrected. “You can at least recognize German when you hear it. Good.”
If she had thought that his answers would make anything clearer, she was obviously mistaken. He was just another crazy old man who had somehow picked the lock from the outside and was here to yarn on with old stories. She should feed him, and then he’d go away and leave her to her impossible task.
As if he’d heard her thoughts, he tapped his staff lightly on the floor. “Now, about this task of yours.”
She laughed shortly. “You mean the insanity my father’s drunken boastings led me into? The impossible one that will become a viral video tomorrow? ‘Girl Tries and Fails to Turn Straw into Gold’. That task?”
“The very same, Miss Miller.”
“Right.” She’d heard enough. “Here, sit down. I think there’s a beer or two in the fridge; I’ll get you some.”
Moving around the table toward the mini fridge, the question stopped her so suddenly that she bumped her other hip into the table. She winced. Great, another bruise. At least they’ll match.
“I just thought you’d want some,” she said. It was a lame reason, and she knew it, but how did you tell a person they were crazy without telling them?
“You clearly don’t think I can do this. Children these days. And no use telling me you are already an adult,” he chuckled wryly when she drew herself up to do just that.
Getting up, he limped over to the workbench and picked up a single piece of straw. He held it between his fingers for a minute, just held it, as far as she could see. Then he reached his hand out to her, the straw on his palm.
Gingerly, she took it. It looked like gold. It felt like gold. It even smelled like gold.
But…how? “You did…did…it,” she stammered. “How?”
“A good alchemist never reveals his secrets save on his deathbed, and that is yet far off for me. Do you believe me now?”
She had to be dreaming. Had to be. There was no other way this was actually true, that this man—wizard, charlatan, fake, whatever he was—had actually turned this straw into gold.
“You’re actually here to help me,” she said slowly, trying to make sense of it. “You’re really going to turn this straw into the gold that will help my future father-in-law become a jewelry millionaire?”
“Yes,” he said simply, and then his mouth twisted as if he’d smelled bad food. “But you can do better than him, child.”
She shrugged, bypassing that and going straight for the question that seemed to matter the most. “How?”
“Give me your necklace.”
“My what? Why?”
He shook his head, turning back to the workbench. “So many questions. Because it’s gold, that’s why.”
Blinking, she shook her head, wishing she could get rid of the feeling that the entire thing was a dream while knowing it wasn’t. “Wait. Aren’t you going to make gold for me?”
“That is the bargain, yes.”
“Then why do you need my gold?”
This time, his sigh filed the entire workshop. “Do you want my help or not?”
“Well, yes, I do.”
“And as I understand it, it was this very necklace that started this whole shoddy business?”
“Well, yes.”
“Then you should have no qualms in handing it over to me.” He held out his hand expectantly.
“You still haven’t told me why you want it,” she insisted, making a last effort to figure out what rabbit hole she’d disappeared down.
“Bah.” He snapped his fingers in irritation, but as she came closer, his face changed, settling into lines she hadn’t seen in years.
“My guardian angel,” she whispered, her voice hitching in shock.
“Yes. Now can we at last set to work?”
Wordlessly, she handed the necklace over and sat on the stool he indicated, drawing a deep breath and settling in to watch closely. There were a lot more questions she wanted answered before the night was over, and if silence now would make him more amenable to giving her those answers, she would barely even breathe.

The prompt is still open here, if you want to write your own scene and add it to the comments.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Interview with Faith White and...Fairy Tale Central is Live!

I'm beyond excited. It's still surreal to me (and I think to my fellow site authors), because I've spent the last few weeks pushing so hard to get everything ready that I'm still in that phase of wondering if I've left anything out, have I forgotten something, is there something I'll remember in three days that was important that got left off a list?

BUT IT'S LIVE NOW. And we are beyond happy and excited.

To celebrate its launch, today I have one of my co-administrators here to answer some questions about her love of fairy tales!

Welcome, Faith!

What draws you to fairy tales; what is it that you love most about them?

Among the many reasons I'm drawn to fairy tales, I absolutely LOVE imagery in fairy tales. One of my many favorite fairy tales is Snow White, just for the richness of all the motifs - from magic mirrors to poisoned apples to seven dwarfs. Many of the tales have specific numbers they reuse, with three being the most common number. It's storytelling at its purest form. I mean even today you will see that in writing: the first-time fail, second-time fail, and finally third-time triumph. It's just a stable foundation in the hero's journey.

With straw into gold, coins dropping from girls' mouths, giants and princes, dragons and princesses, there's this whimsical, magical side of our imagination that is drawn out through fairy tales, and I love that it can reach that childhood place of wonder for us.

What fairy tale theme/moral really speaks to you personally?

It's the most common theme there is (I think) but it honestly is to me the most powerful - good overcomes evil. It doesn't matter how much the evil stepmother stole from Cinderella, or that Rapunzel's prince's eyes were blinded in the thorns, or that Snow White is lying dead-like in a casket.  Ultimately, there is a happily ever after for all those that overcome in these tales.

And a very similar theme in relation to that is: authentic/true love overcomes. Ultimately, true love broke the spell off of the beast, true love united Cinderella and her prince and set her free from her past, the true love in Rapunzel's tears healed her prince's eyes. It's a message of hope amidst often dark tales.

I find it amusing that people say life isn't a fairy tale - while I know they refer to happily ever afters, if you look at fairy tales, they are often very dark and difficult with impossible obstacles and evil villains destroying lives. But hope and love save the day in the end, and I think believing in that in our own lives is a powerful thing.

What fairy tale retellings are you writing or specifically planning to write in the future?

I currently have a Regency Beauty and the Beast retelling (Beauty’s Beast) that I'm in the process of writing. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale and I'm a huge Jane Austen fan, and I thought a combination of the two would be a lot of fun.

I'm also working on a trilogy about three royal sisters (Princess of Gara series), one who tries to outwit a dragon prince, the second who must save their father from a vicious shapeshifter fox-woman, and the third who must find a way to escape a palace where seven prince suitors live.

Last (but not least, lol), I'm in the works of a superhero series (The Warriors) that will be soft fairy tale retellings, including Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Pinocchio, and more. I've been a superhero geek since I was a kid, so it's a lot of fun dreaming up a superhero team myself.

You can follow Faith on:
Her blog

Visit Fairy Tale Central here.

Also, check out Christine's blog to continue the tour and see my answers to the above questions and Faith's blog to read Christine's answers.

Which of Faith's retellings interests you the most? Are you excited about the launch of Fairy Tale Central?