Fairy Tale OriginsTattered Heart went through several different versions before I settled on a narrative that I felt worked best. Each version incorporated different elements of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, because it’s my favorite and because it provided the primary theme I wanted to explore.
Most importantly, I didn’t want her to be a passive heroine. In the fairy tale different revelations and events turn the story in ways completely out of her control. She accepts her identity and her life and the elements that come with it. But it’s only in looking back I see the potential for that acceptance to have made her weak. As I wrote they weren’t constraints binding her into the role of a heroine with no agency. Each element cast upon her, piece by piece, is a conduit that reveals her true self.
Sleeping Beauty is cursed, first to die and then to sleep until true love’s kiss wakes her. In Tattered Heart, I thought her falling asleep would be rather boring. So, she is not precisely cursed. But her primary conflict does happen when she sleeps. In her dreams she not only contends with her enemy, she discovers and harnesses the power within her.
In the original fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty grows up in the palace, knowing she’s a princess. But in most versions she is hidden away with the fairies to conceal her identity, in the hope that it will keep her from the curse. It was important to me to establish Aribella in her home before the turn in the story. I took the time to not only introduce her family but to also ground her in that life and with those people so that, hopefully, it would hurt when they were torn away.
In the Disney film, Aurora meets Phillip before the turn in the story. It is her moment she asserts her will – declares this is the life she wants to live and who she wants to live with. But in the fairy tale, she doesn’t even meet him until the kiss.
In Tattered Heart, I wanted a prince. I wanted them to meet before the turn so that Bion had even the smallest connection to her former life; could be a grounding force in her one. And it was important in her new life that he was a friend to her as much, if not more than, a romantic interest.
The castle in many versions of Sleeping Beauty is overgrown by rose bushes. They provide a beautiful sort of dangerous protection for the princess as she sleeps. And the prince must fight is way through the tangled hedge of thorns, when there is no dragon.
Roses in Tattered Heart don’t provide protection. They are not an obstacle for Bion to make his way through. But they are present in the story as companions and as solace. And in the rose fire dream, they represent her power coming to life and burning away everything impure.
The fairies drive most of the story in the original fairy tale; whether they’re cursing the princess or granting her gifts and a reprieve from the curse. In the Disney film they whisk her way into a hidden childhood. And then rescue Phillip again and again, giving him everything he needs to defeat Maleficent. They are, in many ways, the most active characters in the fairy tale.
And while I include fairys (with the alternate spelling) I needed them to remain sideline characters. They know too much; could too easily sweep in and reduce the whole story to something that didn’t belong to Aribella and Bion any longer. So they fill an advisory role, offer a guiding hand, important but less active than in the fairy tale.
A Lopsided fairy tale
In the fairy tale, most of the story happens before the curse strikes her. Once she goes to the palace she falls asleep and it’s nearly over.
I wanted Tattered Heart to focus on what happens after she goes to the palace. Who does she become? What does it mean to discover that she’s a princess? How does it change who she is, how she treats the people around her, or how she views the world?
So, I told a lopsided fairy tale. Almost everything that happens before is told later rather than in the beginning. Since the curse isn’t a two time event (casting the curse and then late falling prey to it) it became threaded throughout the story. As did the action “after” she pricks her finger. The focus of Tattered Heart is on the princess more than the plot.
Here ends the spoilers.
Pronunciation GuideCurious how to pronounce the fantasy names in Tattered Heart? Let the audiobook actors show you how (and how not) to pronounce everything from Aribella to Amaranyllis.
The first song in every writing playlist is the key to each story. It reminds me of the tone and the feel of everything the story needs to be. The twist with Tattered Heart is that I put the key song last so that I wouldn’t hear it a thousand times and get tired of it.
But then I listened to Opening so many times, and it is elegant and powerful, passionate and a little sad. It became a theme song as well.
Truly, though, My Name is Lincoln is the heart of everything I hope Tattered Heart became. Gentle in the beginning, quietly lovely, elegance that gains in power and strength as it progresses through sadness and triumph and unexpectedly fierce and wonderful at the end. It is one of my favorite songs ever.
You’ll notice the rest of the playlist includes a lot of the Elizabeth: The Golden Age score. It came into my life just as I was beginning to write, to build the playlist that would inspire this story. I intermingled a mix of songs that complimented a fairy tale, keeping it slightly dark in order to remind myself that the story needed conflict; things needed to be hard and to let the characters wade into sadness and anger and fear.
It began at roughly an hour so I could sit and make myself write once through the playlist but it grew as I discovered new songs or added old favorites when I really needed them for a particular moment.
The one song I listened to quite a bit at the end but never put on the playlist is I See Fire by Ed Sheeran. I love it too much and too broadly to let it belong to a single novel.