Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Writing Life: The Perils of God Mode

Being a god involves a surprising amount of paperwork.
I won’t pretend that we writers aren’t attracted to the craft, at least in part, because of raging control issues. In real life, most of us only have a limited number of things we have any real authority over, and most of those fall under the category of what to eat for dinner.
Writers, however, have absolute power within the boundaries of our particular world. If we want the sky to be green, all we have to do is say so. If someone annoys us, we can kill them off in as grisly a fashion as our heart desires. We can fill a thousand different conversations with the things we wish we’d said in life.
It takes a little time to realize that having all the power means more than just being able to do what you want. You have to do *everything,* from keeping track of each and every character to making sure that they have everything they need to give you the ending you want.
One character may keep a gun in a drawer next to his bedside, but if you don’t make certain he stops by his house to grab it before the final battle then he’s going to go in unarmed. You also need to make sure he has some skill at actually shooting the gun, and come up with a reason for him to have that training that makes sense. Making note of all these little things, and assuring that they’re both in place and believable, is the literary equivalent of a police officer filling out paperwork after a case.
The more complicated a story, the more paperwork you have to do. My Sleeping Beauty, Elena, is a sorceress, which means I’ve had to hear far more about magic than I ever wanted to. More specifically, I have to study magic, figuring out why a particular spell works and what will happen when I introduce this outside element to another spell. Because Elena would know, and has a tendency to explain such matters in a far more technical language than I use in describing anything, ever. Since she knows, I have to as well.
Most of the time, I adore dealing with even the finickiest of details. It’s like building an enormous, world-spanning dollhouse, and it takes someone who finds equal delight in making sure the walls are structurally sound and writing tiny little headlines on the fake newspaper on the coffee table. You have the power to send a bedset plummeting off the third story, and it can be fun to watch it smash on the rocks below. But you also have to be the one to sweep it up, and make sure that the upstairs bedroom gets a replacement bedset at some point.
Of course, you could simply blow the house up and solve all your problems. But then you’d have to figure out what kind of device would cause the right amount of damage, smuggle it into the house without anyone noticing, and decide whether or not you want there to be any survivors.  Depending on the answer to that question, you’re left with a whole new set of problems.

If being a god was easy, anyone could do it. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Getting to Know You: Jon Charming, Kate’s happily-ever-after (played by James Wolk)

Next up is Jon, Kate’s Prince Charming and the leading man from “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.” I thought it was only fair that I give him the same getting-to-know-you questions as Kate (which I borrowed from

*Minor spoilers*

What was your favorite food when you were a child?
Whatever I could fit in my pockets that wouldn’t melt. Rupert and I would sneak down to the kitchen in the middle of the night, and while he was playing with the cake I’d fill my pockets with crackers and nuts and go off walking through the city. When I came back, I’d wake up Rupert, help him wipe off the icing, and we’d both go back to bed.

What is one of your favorite quotes?
“Take the weekend off. I promise we can manage two disaster-free days without you.” – No one’s ever actually said this to me, but I’d love to hear it.

What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
Arguing domestic policy. Yes, Lawton mocks me endlessly for it, but it’s the only time I can get people to listen to me without having to sign their paychecks.

What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
Trying to understand my mother. It gives me a headache faster than anything else.

What is your favorite form of exercise?
I never have enough free time to figure out the answer to this question. There’s also supposedly these magical things called “hobbies,” but I’ve never actually seen them for myself.

What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
Mornings. If I time it right, I get a solid hour or two of uninterrupted quiet time before Rupert and my parents wake up. Once that happens, the rest of the day is usually devoted to putting out the small disasters caused by their day-to-day existence.

What’s your least favorite mode of transportation?
A visiting dignitary once insisted on having his personal sorcerer magically teleport me to a meeting location. Unfortunately, he explained the magical theory behind it first, and spent five terrifying minutes wondering if I was going to show up at my destination with my head on backwards.

What is your favorite body part?
Why would I have a favorite body part on my own body? I have several favorites among Kate’s body parts, but that is definitely not something I’m going to go into detail about on the Internet.

What sound do you love?              

Kate’s voice. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Getting to Know You: Rupert Charming, the original handsome prince (played by Channing Tatum)

He may not be the sharpest knife
in the drawer, but he's polished very,
very prettily.
I had a request to hear from Rupert, the crown prince and older brother of “Fairy Godmothers, Inc’s” leading man Jon. I thought it was only fair that I give him the same getting-to-know-you questions as Kate (which I borrowed from

*Minor spoilers*

What was your favorite food when you were a child?
Cake. The cook would make these enormous cakes for all the parties, taller than I was and big enough I couldn’t put my arms all the way around them. The adults never ate any – you have to try and not get fat when you’re a grown up – and so it would always be there after. Later that night, I would sneak downstairs and make a running leap into the side of the cake. It was wonderful.

What is one of your favorite quotes?
“Inner harmony can only come when our inner voice is in accompaniment with the outer representation of our truth.” – Dr. Abraham Sneefleupaicus

What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
Singing in taverns. I’ve learned most of the songs, and  the barmaids are always happy to whisper explanations for the dirty jokes I don’t always get the first time. Everybody’s generally singing along by the third song, and sometimes people will even use their tankards or axes to pound along in time to the music.  

What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
I thought about doing chores for a little while, but I decided they would be far too stressful.

What is your favorite form of exercise?
Riding horses. They never ask you for conversation or try to tell you boring stories, but they always neigh in the right places when you’re explaining something to them.

What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
Things are always more fun after it gets dark. The people who would usually yell at you have already gone to bed.

What’s your least favorite mode of transportation?
Walking can get very tiring very quickly, but I would still rather walk than get stuck in a carriage for hours with my grandmother. She keeps poking at me with her walking stick and asking when I’ll give her grandchildren.

What is your favorite body part?
I’ve been told I have a very heroic chin.

What sound do you love?              
Complete strangers all singing together, really loudly and probably off-key. It makes me feel happy just listening to it. 

To learn more:

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fairy Tale Material

If you haven't already experienced the genius that is A Softer World, go do so now.
Fairy tales are tricky things.
We tell ourselves that they’re just for young people, and that the rest of us have grown up enough to stop believing in them some time ago. But then years later, we dig into our secret hearts and find ourselves hoping that a man will ride in on his white horse and save us. Or we’ll finally find the secret makeover that will let us turn into a beautiful swan and enchant some handsome prince. Because that’s the way happily-ever-after is supposed to go.
Personally, I’m not what you’d call fairy-tale material. I’m short, painfully average-looking, not skinny, embarrassingly uncoordinated and only mildly clever. My courage and determination tends to come and go in fits and spurts. If I was very lucky, I might be hired as a Fairy Godmother (and probably fired for insubordination a few weeks later). More likely, I would be Serving Girl #3 during one of the random scenes in a tavern.
Because my brain lives to annoy me, I've known all of this for a long time. Even as I devoured stacks and stacks of fairy tale books, I knew my story wasn't in any of them. People like me didn't become heroes, and they certainly didn't become love interests. Brave, beautiful and clever people got those spots, and unless someone gave me a full brain/body transplant I wasn't going to be able to pull that off. Clearly, happily-ever-after wasn't meant for people like me. All I could hope for was a lifetime of scrubbing tables and hoping that a tragic inn fire wasn't going to be a major part of the real heroine’s plot.
But… what if there was a story for the rest of us? What if there were a thousand stories? Do gorgeous, talented people really deserve all the fairy tales? Aren't their perfect teeth enough of a consolation?
So I wrote. I took all my dreams, hopes, doubts and terrible sense of humor and I spun the kind of fairy tale I wished I could have heard as a teenager. And then I spun another one, because it would be the height of arrogance to think my happily-ever-after would suit someone else. And then another. And another.

You’re not supposed to think this hard about fairy tales. They’re not supposed to mean anything. But fairy tales are tricky things, and they worm their way into your brain and deep down into your soul until you believe them without meaning to. Until you find yourself imagining that office workers, interns, and even Serving Girl #3 deserve their own happily ever after, and they don’t have to make themselves any more beautiful or clever to do it. They’re fine just the way they are, and they’re perfectly capable of saving themselves.