A fairytale beginning

I’m slowly building confidence in my writing, enough that I listened to my inner bearded fantasy writer yesterday, and submitted a short story to one of Writing Magazine’s open competitions – for the first time! The competition called for submitters to return to the dark roots of fairytales and write a story that would appeal to adults. I have always loved fairytales, especially reimagined ones (Once Upon a Time!) so I really got my teeth into this piece.

I had to do some research into what distinguishes a fairytale. There’s quite a list of different elements that make a story fairytale-like, and people disagree on what should be included. Are talking animals particular to fairytales, or are those kinds of stories folk tales, or fables? The less contentious elements include:

– A fairytale doesn’t have to have fairies in it. I mean, this one seems pretty obvious to me, but I suppose if you’re writing a romance story, you’d expect romance, so it’s worth stating.
– Numbers are usually important in a fairytale; threes, sixes, sevens.
– Magic or enchantments usually play a part.
– Some kind of moral lesson to glean.

At first, I found it difficult to think of a story I wanted to write – but I found that once I’d thought of a setting I liked (a garage attached to an abandoned house), everything started falling in to place. Setting is something that’s really important to a fairytale – the reader (and the writer in this case) needs to feel like anything could happen there.

It was really satisfying to put together a plan, including a twist ending and even a small injection of humour. But I think the most satisfying thing about the process was actually writing AND FINISHING something. I’ve never actually finished anything since I started trying to be a writer. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that. I’m good at generating ideas, and the initial, throw-yourself-into-it passionate creation, but every time I reach about a quarter of the way through the book, I get bogged down in details, plot holes, or characters misbehaving, and lose the will to carry on with it.

Having a word limit of just 1700 meant that the goal was always in sight, even before I’d written a word – important when you write yourself into a corner and end up having to start again or restructure the whole thing (which I did have to do!). Plus I could fit it around going back to work full time this week, and having baby in the evening, and no one felt neglected or like a bad parent!

So, flush with achievement, I am embarking on a programme of short story writing for a while, and shelving the novels for the time being. Or until November, when I inevitably get drawn into doing NaNoWriMo. Watch this space!


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