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29 September 2011

"It's the journey, not the destination" - part 1

The destination of every fairy tale is the happily ever after: wishes are fulfilled, true love conquers all, villains are  punished, and world order is restored. I deliberately chose to modernize a fairy tale because I'll be going in knowing all the checkpoints along the road. What I will be filling in is the why of the journey.

I'm treading the familiar ground of my previous post about character motivation, but I believe it is vital to understand why characters do what they do in order to make them believable so that in turn the story becomes believable. Character motivation is the first roadblock that I as a writer need to clear. Only then can my characters begin their journey.

Before things are set in motion, let's take a look at the world at rest. Since I am basing The Beggar's Wife on Grimm's King Thrushbeard, I already know I will have at least three characters: a princess, her father, and King Thrushbeard who disguises himself as a beggar.

In this post I want to focus on King Thrushbeard since I find him to be the most problematic character. According to the fairy tale, when he first meets the princess she is nothing but rude and ridicules him by giving him a terrible moniker. With only her beauty to recommend her, one is left wondering why King Thrushbeard would want to marry her at all.

There's something disturbing about a man who concocts an elaborate plot to marry and humble someone just for insulting him. Is his pride so frail that he is motivated by revenge? Does he simply hate women and is compelled to put them in their place? Or did he see past the princess's beauty and arrogance to some hidden goodness deep down inside her?

King Thrushbeard definitely has a devious quality to his personality that I find intriguing. He is a scoundrel, albeit a likeable one. In other words, he has a hint of Odyssean guile.


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