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What's A Fairy Tale?

Fairy tale (n.) - "oral narrative centered on magical tests, quests, and transformations," 1749, translating French Conte de fe├ęs of Madame d'Aulnois (1698, translated into English 1699). Per Chicago Manual Style (CMS): fairy tale. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. tale (accessed: February 16, 2016).

Once upon a time, I was a small child. Hard to believe, right? Well, it's true. For Christmas one year, I got a book of fairy tales. I liked most of them, and knew several of them already, because telling kids fairy tales is easier than making up your own stories. It's tradition, really. But I didn't like one--it was about this Japanese child who drew cats (pretty sure it's called The Boy Who Drew Cats, who was sent to live in a rat infested building. He drew cats on the screens in the building and one night a giant rat thing attacked. The cats on the screen killed it, happily ever after and all that. That story scared me because--rats. (On a side note--if you're ever bitten by a rat, you're five times more likely to be bitten again in life.)

I was terrified at night, couldn't sleep, and my mom had to yell at me because, duh, child, you have cats on your blanket. They'll keep you safe. And as far as I know, no giant rat king ever ate me. Not because of cats on my blanket, but because fairy tales aren't real and there's no such thing as giant rat kings.

I tell you all this for a reason. Fairy tales are fictional stories with little basis in reality. Most of them don't even make sense. I chose the above definition because it didn't mention children, and therefore applies a little better to the point I want to illustrate.

Wildwood Spring is a romance novel based on Beauty and the Beast. Except the hero isn't a beast. He's a recluse who's afraid of a beastly world. Along comes the heroine, who also has cruddy experiences in a beastly world, but they find comfort in one another and overcome that junk, because happily-ever-after, after all. It is, for most intents and purposes, mostly historically accurate for Victorian era writing, except the servants are friendlier than perhaps they ought to be. They're exceptional supporting characters thanks to that. I love them. Because, like in any Disney fairy tale you've ever watched (or been forced to watch), things are not always what they seem. It's fiction, y'all. Servants are people too, with quirks and loves and lives, and, yes, opinions. I don't hide them in my fairy tales because it's a fairy tale. ANYTHING can happen. Be surprised.

So when asked to write a fairy tale for a Regency inspired box set, I went out of the box and found something weird. Because of course I did. It's based on The Dirty Shepherdess. Read it. Read it again. Now, let me tell you again, there are a lot of fairy tales out there that don't make a lick of sense. No one in her right mind is going to be a princess and then suddenly hate her life when her dad is mean to her, and run off to be a shepherdess. I'm not saying that in some ways princesses don't have it as hard as shepherdesses, but let's see, well-fed, nice clothes, clean living area and a life you've always known versus possible starvation as a peasant, dirty clothing, disease-riddled areas, and hard work. What are the odds that a princess quit her princess job and still managed to marry a prince? Probably zilch.

To bring us back to Beauty and the Beast by Disney. When do you suppose that was set? By their dress, I would've guessed late 18th century. And then, ha ha ha, they throw in the Eiffel Tower. Guess when it was built? 1889 for the World's Fair. Anyway, there's no chance in hell that Belle was showing off her ankles in a short dress, even at that period because it was a sin to reveal that much skin, unless she was hooking. Oh, wait. Fairy tale!

The fact is, as writers, we tend to glorify the details of the past. We romanticize them, because between you and me, I don't want to read about how dirty everyone was, how bad their teeth were, how probably half of them had syphilis or something worse, or how shit-filled the streets were. None of that appeals to me. Instead, I'm going to (sorry, Andy Weir), fiction the crap out of an era and give you some mouthy servants instead of the disease and horror that were prevalent.

Fiction (n.) - 1. literary works invented by the imagination, such as novels or short stories
2. an invented story or explanation; lie
3. the act of inventing a story or explanation
Chicago Manual Style (CMS):
fiction. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. (accessed: February 16, 2016).

So paaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrddddddddddooooooooooon me if you don't like the way I write stories that I'm clearly unafraid to label as a fairy tale, even if it's supposed to be set in a certain era. It's a fairy tale. It's not a factual document.

Hater gonna hate, writer gonna write. *drops mic, walks away*