Tuesday, January 19, 2016

3T Writing Tidbit

Today I need to write a story.

Well, actually, I'm struggling with the plot for my 2016 April Fools For Love story. I'm struggling toward a goal, which is actually the first thing all the writing texts say you need--

A protagonist with a strong need or want. A goal.

But here's the thing, I'm toying with the idea of a Cinderella story, and trying to fit my heroine to that story's plot and I discovered--

Cinderella doesn't have a goal.

Think about it. She's got a terrible situation, stuck in a no-pay dead-end family/job with stepsisters/coworkers who trash talk her and dump on her and a stepmother/boss who despises her. But who gets her out of that situation?

The fairy godmother, then the prince. She's rescued, the exact thing all the writing books tell us not to do!! (and !!)

Don't get me wrong. I think a woman with a goal is more interesting--for example, the woman with the tattoos and no memory abandoned naked in New York (television show Blindspot) became a lot more interesting to me when she (*spoiler*) revealed she knew how to fight.

But that's not the Cinderella story. Nor is it the Sleeping Beauty story or many other princess tales. So what are those and how the heck did the writing teachers miss the fact that they're super popular?!?

I think (shh) they're morality tales. Stories that tell us the good gals get rewarded in the end and the bad guys get punished. That give hope to the downtrodden, that tell us sometimes things change without us doing anything but being ourselves and eventually win us through all the trials and tribulations.

That if we stick to being good, we'll be rewarded.

So now I have a choice. Which would you do? Do I tell an active story with a striving protagonist or an April Fools morality tale?

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.


  1. As you say, Mary, Cinderella's goal is to endure whatever is forced upon her with grace and dignity and kindness. To maintain her integrity, her personhood. That's not an active goal in writer parlance, but it's still a goal. The challenge, then, is to write a story with such a persistently passive heroine. The only times Cinderella (in the Disney version) gets emotionally invested is when she gets a chance to go to the ball and when her stepmother locks her in her tower. The fairy godmother helps her with the first, and the mice help her escape the second. Maybe in your story you could find a way for her to hold a mirror up to her stepmother and say, "You were once me; I don't want to become you. You had dreams and lost them; I'm not going to let you destroy mine."

    1. Oh my goodness, Helen--that's brilliant!!