Tattered 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.
The following section contains spoilers for Tattered Heart.
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.
The Wicked Fairy
In Tattered Heart, the wicked fairy of the fairy tale is not so much a fairy but a wizard. He is not resentful or prideful as the fairy. He’s greedy and selfish. Where the wicked fairy sought revenge, he benefits from Aribella’s ordeal; sacrificing her for his immortality.
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 later 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.