The exercise on P.48 asks that you retell the Cinderella story from different perspectives including a) the Fairy Godmother, b) The Prince and c) The Stepmother. And I had SUCH a blast writing these.
It’s also making me more aware of my ‘voice’. I seem to enjoy writing from a first-person singular, almost monologue kind of way… as if I’m addressing the reader as we sit together at a kitchen table or over a drink in a wine bar. I don’t really know what I mean, but I do know that mid-way through writing the first Pov, I thought ‘hang on… is this how I’m MEANT to be writing it? And then answered myself with a vague reassurance that actually, as there are NO RULES, then yes… of course this is how I’m ‘meant’ to be writing it; this is me – it’s all beginning to take shape now. So… here’s some snippets from all three pieces (they came in at around 1,000 words each) I hope you enjoy…
a) ‘ALL IN A DAY’S WORK’
[….] Ah. I knew she’d be surprised to see me; well, who wouldn’t? Who expects to look up from miserably scrubbing away at a grimy soot-stained hearth and see a vision of sparkling brilliance standing before them with freshly-set hair and a wand in their hands? Not this slip of a thing, that’s for sure. Get up child; arise. I don’t bite.
Yes child. It’s yours. To keep; yes. I know it fits perfectly, but there’s no need to keep twirling, you’ll make yourself dizzy and fall over. And if you land back in the dirt and the coal-dust then you’ll only have yourself to blame. Oh, no, don’t upset yourself, I was just thinking out loud. Godmother, yes, that’s right. Fairy. Yes. No, I know you didn’t know I existed before now but that’s how these things work.
Because you deserve it, child, that’s why. Why else. No, please, you don’t have to thank me. It’s all part of the service. Oh, but there is one thing you’ll have to remember. Yes… they were mice… No, it’s perfectly normal for a toad to speak when it’s had a spell worked on it. Did you hear what I said about Midnight? Oh, yes, I know… beautiful aren’t they? Hmm? Glass. Yes, I know it’s an unusual material for dancing shoes but then this is magic. Well they might rub a little to begin with but this is magic so perhaps they’ll feel like slippers made from the softest silk.
You will remember about the Midnight thing, won’t you? …..
I particularly enjoyed writing the one-way dialogue. Reflectively, it’s interesting to note that told from the FG’s perspective, the structure doesn’t allow for Cinderella’s backstory to be told b/c we’re only seeing interaction from when the FG appears. Equally once Cinders has gone off to the ball, we won’t know what happens at it or after it (unless we introduce a crystal ball as well).
b) ‘DUTY CALLS’
…..These past few weeks I’ve been making the most of my freedom. I’ve been getting up especially early, saddling my horse up myself and stealing out of the castle walls into the mists of the morning before anyone is awake. There’s a particularly lovely clearing in part of the forest which I didn’t think anyone else knew about. Until the morning I heard her singing and my breath stalled in my throat. It was like hearing a songbird.
I didn’t dare look to begin with; it could’ve been a child or a boy; it was hard to tell. So I quietly dismounted and crept behind a tree to see if I could see whose voice this was. And I’ve never seen anyone more beautiful in my life. Not only the voice of a lark, but the face of an angel and my heart was stopped. But her clothes! Oh alas, she wore the scrubby brown skirts of a scullery maid; her blouse was threadbare and sooty and her feet were bare and blackened. I listened and watched her for as long as I dare and then, after she’d picked an armful of forest flowers and sighed at the sound of somebody calling, she turned and skipped off with what seemed to be a slight sadness in her step.
I confess that writing the Prince’s story felt a bit ‘sappy’ – as if he were almost the Disney-fied version of Prince Charming. But then I decided that as he has led a sheltered, privileged existence up until now, then he probably wouldn’t have any of life’s cynicism and hardship to cloud his rose-coloured view of how life really is. To him, everything really IS quite simple and straightforward – even down to holding a ball to find a wife.
c) ‘A PERFECT RIGHT
…. I’m good at getting what I want. My mother always told me a smile would get me anywhere – especially when it came to the feebleness of men. She was right of course. At the first opportunity I found a widower who had enough to provide us with, and ensnared him with my winning smile. He only saw it the once. I don’t like to waste precious things unnecessarily.
Of course he was just as pathetic as the last one. And came with baggage. This insipid creature with skin you can almost see through – a bit like her soul; far too giving and sensitive. Not our kind of person at all and unbearably delighted that her darling father had found love once again. Ha! Men; they’re all the same. Emotional, needy, desperate for physical as well as emotional fulfilment; it was unbearable. It was fortunate that I’d been taught the way of mushrooms. Drop by drop; spoonful by spoonful… nice and slowly; I didn’t want it to look suspicious.
Of course we had to let the housekeeper go. And the scullery maid. And the cook. Well, what’s a widow to do? Utilise existing opportunities that’s what. We seem to have managed sufficiently so far using the girl to perform these menial duties. She has her own room – the whole of the kitchen – she wants for nothing. She probably eats just as much if not more than us because she’s around it all the time. Greedy girl. Still, I won’t press charges, she is still a kind of step-daughter after all.
I like an unlikeable character to play with. Unscrupulously magnificent, the Stepmother. Oblivious to anyone’s needs but her own. Loved it.
And, of course, the same reflection applies to the Prince and the Stepmothers’ stories; they both have to start with them and end with them – Cinderella becomes a part of their world but isn’t the main focus and therefore all kinds of backstory is neglected in her story. There’d be no reason to tell the story from anybody else’s perspective because none of these characters goes on an individual ‘journey’ – they don’t find themselves transformed by things that are happening in Cinderella’s life and two of them won’t even be affected by it.
It was interesting to take a well-known story and try writing from different viewpoints because what comes from it makes or breaks the true core of the whole piece and effectively turns it into something either very memorable or very, very pointless.