Deconstructing Cinderella

Here’s a handy way to review the 7-Point Plotting approach. We’re going to take apart an old and well-loved tale and completely rebuild it. In the process, we’ll experiment with Point of View as well as the plotting formula. And, if that’s not enough, we’re going to take a run at writing to a Theme as well.

Disclaimer: There are many different versions of the Cinderella story. The oldest dates back to a Chinese tale recorded in 860AD. Wikipedia has a fascinating history of the tale (Click HERE for more information). We’ll focus on variations one might employ using the Disney version as our starting point. The actual location, or place, for all these is wide open. Call it “Fairyland” for now.

 Possible Openings (Person, Place, and Problem):

  • Cinderella at work while the wicked step-sisters taunt her.
  • Step-sister One feels sorry for Cinderella, but the Step-sister Two prevents her from doing anything.
  • The stepmother, under orders from royalty, is forced to treat Cinderella badly or her own daughters will be at risk.

Notice that the point of view character (POVC) in each of the three options is different. We experience the world through that one character’s senses. Note also there’s a unique theme for each potential story line:

  • Salvation through hard work by Cinderella (with maybe a little luck).
  • Tragedy despite perseverance by the step-sister.
  • Mistrust — just because the Prince is a prince it doesn’t make him charming.

Try/Fail options:

  • No matter what Cinderella does, she can’t satisfy her stepmother or step-sisters. She grows more despondent and her only friends are birds and rodents.
  • Step-sister One tries to do nice things for Cinderella, but Step-sister Two always thwarts her, and the threats to Step-sister One grow worse.
  • The Prince tries to lure Cinderella into an unwholesome act, but she resists him. He only grows more enamored even though she’s a commoner, and they have no future.
  • Step-sister One recognizes how despicable the prince is and tries to get him interested in Step-sister Two, thus taking the pressure off Step-sister One and Cinderella.

Climax options:

  • Salvation for Cinderella. Her furred and feathered friends come to the rescue. She goes to the ball, charms the prince, and dashes home, leaving her glass slipper behind.
  • Tragedy for Step-sister One. Step Mom sides with Step Two, and they turn Step One over to the Prince as an indentured servant. Tough nuggies, Step-One!
  • Mistrust: Cinderella and Step-One convince the Prince that Step-Two is the girl of his dreams. They even fake a slipper-fitting to convince him.

Denouement options:

  • Cinderella is happy, even if she leaves all her little friends behind. (We could even tweak that sadness into anger so the critters make life miserable for everyone.)
  • Recognizing Step-One’s attempts to help her, Cinderella poisons Step-Two and frames step-Mom for the murder.
  • Step-One and Cinderella, now romantically connected, take the house away from step-Mom and kick her to the curb. Step-Two, now serving as the prince’s live-in SM plaything, hires step-Mom as a maid.

The best thing about writing to a theme is that it’s much easier to keep your players in character. You know what their story is about, and everything they do ought to relate to it. You should never have to wonder if one of your characters has strayed from his or her natural role.

This deconstruction example provides only a tiny fraction of the possibilities one could choose from in creating an alternate version of the original story. “Fractured” fairy tales have been done for ages, and their popularity hasn’t stopped growing. If you’re looking for a new story, or a break from something you’re already working on, give some thought to finding a well-known tale you can tune up. You might end up driving a fictional hot rod.

–Josh

About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
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4 Responses to Deconstructing Cinderella

  1. Great changes! Very enjoyable.

  2. Hmmm… some interesting deviations offered up.

  3. joshlangston says:

    Most of my books feature a deviate or two. Makes life more interesting.

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