CINDER: On Writing a Fairy Tale Scavenger HuntWhen I decided to write a series of futuristic fairy tale retellings, I was determined to write a series of books that were entirely unique, despite their fairy tale ties. After all, these stories (and Cinderella in particular) have been told and retold a million different times in a million different ways, and while I adore many retellings and rags-to-riches tales, I didn't want my book to become "just another Cinderella story."
So it became a challenge to figure out where the boundaries of the Cinderella story were, and how far I could bend and twist them, while still maintaining that air of familiarity that I love about retellings. I wanted readers to have the sense that this was still the fairy tale from their childhood, just not quite how they'd read it before.
I began by re-reading the most well-known versions of the tale - Grimm and Perrault - and also revisiting some popular retellings, such as ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine. From that, I began to pick out the elements that, to me, make up the most iconic moments of the Cinderella story:
- Cinderella as a lowly servant or in a low social class
- The Prince
- The Wicked Stepmother
- The Ball and the means by which Cinderella gets to it (help from a fairy godmother or kindly spirit, the pumpkin carriage)
- The Slipper
Once I knew which elements seemed necessary to me to keep that Cinderella feel, I was able to let the story grow and expand, through new plot twists, unexpected characters, and futuristic world-building. Soon I had a heroine who was part-machine, a plague ravishing Earth, and a society of cruel mind-controlling semi-humans from the moon who were plotting war against Earth, and I went with it, so long as I still maintained the framework of those original elements.
I also had a lot of fun taking those elements and working them into the context of my futuristic world. Cinder's low social standing is a direct result of her cybernetic make-up. The ball is an annual event that celebrates 126 years of world peace following the Fourth World War. The slipper is represented by (what else?) a too-small cyborg foot.
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