Guest Posts by Me

Michelle D. Argyle shares her guest posts found around the web. They are compiled here on her blog for permanent archiving.

Light and Dark, Fae and Humans: A Look at the Immortal Film “Legend”

Cinderella from Cinders | Cinderella from Bonded

Admittedly, I did not first see Legend until 2003. My husband purchased the Ultimate Edition, which contains both the original 1985 theatrical release and Ridley Scott’s director’s cut version with a new score and enhanced features. I’ve heard many places that true fans ofLegend don’t like the director’s cut version and absence of the musical score by Tangerine Dream, but since the director’s cut version was the very first version of the film that I saw, I’m partial to its clearer story, more complete dialogue, and less (dare I say?) cheesy and flat musical score.

This, however, is not necessarily a look at the differences between the two films, but Legend as a whole. As a writer, I have never been partial to writing fantasy or fairy tales—that is, until I decided to write a continuation of the Cinderella fairy tale. My novella, Cinders, opened my mind to the magical simplicity of fantasy. As I watched Legend (for the first time in years!) with my four-year-old daughter last night, I realized some amazing things about fantasy and what we call the fae, or an assortment of magical creatures like goblins, fairies, and elves.

When I first started writing Cinders, I didn’t intend to introduce any sort of fae-like creatures. It was realistic. It would be an all-human cast. However, I eventually gave up that goal when the story steered me into the direction of sprites and elves and fairies – and ultimately, dark magic. Last night, as I watched Legend, I realized why my brain might have steered into that direction.

Legend is the story of the balance between Light and Darkness. The Lord of Darkness, a demon who can exist only in darkness (imagine that) seeks to banish light from the earth once and for all. He wants the world to be a place where he and his dark creatures can frolic in pleasure. How can he do this? Only by killing off the last two unicorns—the protectors of light and innocence, so to speak. These unicorns can only be found by innocent humans, however, and it isn’t until Jack (a forest boy whom I still can’t figure out where he really comes from) and his friend Princess Lily inadvertently lead the Lord of Darkness’s minions to those beautiful unicorns. This, of course, allows those minions to steal one of the unicorn’s magical horns, and the world begins its decent into wintery darkness as the minions kidnap both Lily and the last unicorn and drag them into the underworld. The only hope of light returning is that the one unicorn still lives, and if Jack and his magical fae friends can retrieve the lost horn, the last unicorn, and Lily, all might be saved.

Legend’s story is based on the simplest plot out there—the fight between good and evil, light and dark, innocence and guilt. Beautiful, innocent Lily is the one who ignores Jack’s pleas not to go near the unicorns. She believes her pure heart will not harm the unicorns, but in touching one, she allows the beast to stand still long enough to be poisoned by a dart from the dark minions. When she discovers that she is to blame for the world’s plunge into darkness, she suffers with feelings of guilt and anger through the rest of the movie. This is where I think the true heart of the story lies—this realization that innocence and light can plunge so easily into darkness, but that in the end, integrity and trust and can restore it again. Even when Jack witnesses Lily dressed as a bride for the Lord of Darkness as she is about to happily kill the unicorn, he reverts to his initial trust in her and does not shoot her as his fae friend, Gump, keeps telling him to do. Despite what he sees, Jack trusts Lily is not lost to darkness. There is still hope. That, to me, is the point of the entire story—even as we still question whether Lily has given in to her dark side or simply been bewitched by it.

Like Lily in Legend, my novella, Cinders, portrays Cinderella as a darker character than readers are used to seeing. I give her guilt and pain for choosing magic to fix her problems. I give her another man who she lusts after (an elf of all things). She has a more human and fallible side than most fairy tales show, and in doing that I believe I accomplish what this amazing film Legend portrays as well—the realization that there is duality in all of us. None of us are purely good or purely evil, and it is a shame when fairy tales present the world to us in this way. Even the Lord of Darkness, the very son of the devil, had a soft spot, a desire to be loved and love in return by the Princess Lily.

The reason I love Legend—both the theatrical version (which in the final scene makes the whole duality theme much clearer than the director’s cut does) and the director’s cut version, is because it manages to keep the innocence and beauty of a fairy tale, but also presents such an innocent story in a more grown-up fashion by showing that darkness must exist in all of us for light to mean anything. Princess Lily will make a stronger queen and person because she overcame darkness, not because she avoided it. Avoiding it altogether wouldn’t allow her to grow or see the world as anything but the overly glittery paradise it is in the beginning. Similarly, my Cinderella character in Cinders will make a stronger queen because she loses those she truly loved—because of her own dark mistakes and fears—and realizes she can love again and grow from those mistakes instead of withering from them.

Legend’s story makes it clear that darkness should not necessarily be defeated, but overcome. By embracing both light and dark, we learn more about ourselves and what truly makes us human. If you’ll notice, the fae in Legend are not the ones who ultimately save light from its demise, nor are they the ones who threaten it in the very beginning. It is the humans who usher the entire story into being. In the same tone, when I introduced the fae into Cinders, I did so to set up the legendary dynamic between humans and magic. In both my story and the beautiful, immortal film, Legend, the human element shows stronger and more brightly because of the fae. They are the glitter that allows us to sparkle.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books, Guest Posts by Me

My Best Advice for Aspiring Writers

I get asked a lot what advice I have for aspiring writers. Sometimes I’m not sure how to answer because I’m afraid they expect a golden nugget of wisdom—something truly inspiring and different from anything they’ve ever heard before. I know when I was starting out, that’s what I expected. There had to be some secret, some surefire way not only to get published but to make it big, as well.

These days, when I’m asked what advice I can give authors, the answer comes a little more easily. It’s because after so many published books, so much marketing, and so much interaction with other authors, I’ve discovered only one thing matters when it comes to writing: keep writing. There’s only one way to get better, one way to get published, and one way to keep your career moving once you are published, and that is to keep writing no matter what gets in your way. Finish one book and write another, and another, and another. Get lots of feedback, and keep writing. Everything else is secondary.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Guest Posts by Me

How Fairy Tales Speak to Us

Fairy tales have been around for as long as stories have been in existence. Whether they end happily or tragically isn’t as important as the thread of truth at the heart of each one. I think this is why fairy tales have lasted for so long, and why, like Shakespeare, you can plop a fairy tale story into any setting, and it will most likely work. It isn’t about the characters and setting so much as what we learn from the tale.

One of my husband’s favorite Disney movies is The Princess and the Frog. I love Disney’s version of the tale so much because it is the first Disney fairy tale told in an American setting (New Orleans). Not only is it a different setting than audiences are used to, but it also twists the fairy tale in some exciting, unique ways. At its core, we learn how much appearances aren’t as important as what’s inside (listen to the “Dig a Little Deeper” song, for instance), and that hard work is important only if you take time to smell the roses along the way.

I think, as humans, we cling to storytelling as a way to express the most important elements of who we are. Fairy tales boil down the essence of who we are. We value happiness and reaching goals and wishes. We value learning hard lessons, even if the endings are tragic. Even from an unhappy ending, there is a golden nugget of wisdom to be found—something that can lead to happiness if we will only stop to learn from it. This is why I like unhappy endings. They make me think a lot harder than happy ones!

Fairy tales started out as “little stories” passed down orally from one storyteller to another until the Brother’s Grimm started collecting some German tales in the early 19th century. Since then, we’ve had tales written down to treasure. We continue to write them down today. I certainly can’t keep myself away from telling stories with a traditional fairy tale feel. What’s your favorite part about fairy tales? Do you prefer them happy or a little more realistic?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Guest Posts by Me

Fiction Writing Management & How to Manage it Better

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely. –Rodin
While I don’t have a set schedule for writing, I do have a good system in place. I believe there’s a difference. I also believe it’s important to realize that one writer’s way of managing their writing time will not work for everyone. But no matter how you write, no matter what works for you, if you use your experiences wisely, you will keep moving forward.

Keeping in mind that I am a certain personality type, I will share what works for me, and give examples of how they might work for you.

Scheduling

I have no set schedule for writing. I don’t wake up and allot specific times to specific tasks. I don’t write a to-do list for the day. Instead, I envision my finished product and give myself general goals instead of seemingly huge, insurmountable tasks.

For me, tight-scheduling allows me no freedom to move. If you’ve tried to work with a rigid schedule and it hasn’t worked for you, try backing off a bit. Instead of making the goal and deadline by a specific date, try expanding the timeline instead. Say, if I can reach five chapters in a few weeks, I’ll be doing great! You’d be surprised how giving yourself some wiggle room might free up some tension and release some creative energy.

Goals

Goals are wonderful. They can be a great motivation. Without them, we wouldn’t be aiming for anything at all! But goals can also hinder our ability to move forward, if we aren’t careful.

I used to make myself sit down and write a specific amount of words a day, and then beat myself up if I didn’t reach what I’d set for myself. Then I decided not to set word count goals at all. That was bad too. Once I realized I needed to set a word count goal, but that myattitude about it needed to change, a door opened for me. I set the goal to write 2,000 words every two days. That left me some wiggle room. I could write 500 one day, 1,500 the next. I let myself enjoy what I was writing more than focusing on how many words it all was. This simple change allowed me to write two novels (first drafts) in five months, when normally, it takes me about three months to write a first draft for a single novel. I also allow myself Sundays off if I needed a rest. The biggest change of all was that if I didn’t meet my goal, I didn’t worry about it or get angry with myself.

Rigid goals can be intimidating. Often, we start comparing ourselves and our goals (and how quickly we reach them) to others. That’s one of the worst things you can do! Instead, give yourself a break and figure out what works for you. Give yourself breathing room and work at a pace that keeps you passionate, but also relaxed. Being relaxed so you can enjoy what you’re doing is a key element.

Most of all, I’ve found managing your writing time isn’t so much about management, it’s about the right attitude.

I wish you the best in your writing!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Guest Posts by Me, Writing Process

How the Bonded Fairy Tale Collection Compares to Disney

I have a lot of people ask me how my fairy tale interpretations compare to the widely known Disney versions, and whether or not I was inspired by the Disney versions. Honestly, it has been different for each novella in the Bonded collection, so I’ll start with Cinders first.

Overall, I was inspired to write Cinders, a continuation of Cinderella, because of Disney. I got the idea when I watched a trailer for Cinderella III: A Twist in Time. I thought to myself, what sort of story would I tell after Cinderella married her prince? The idea was planted, and it took off! After that, however, I stayed far away from pumpkins and talking mice and a cheery fairy godmother. I did, however, take the idea of a fairy godmother from Disney, since the original doesn’t personify the magic giver. Instead, it’s a tree and birds, which give Cinderella her dress and shoes. My version of Cinderella, hinted at in Cinders, is really my own mish-mash of ideas woven together to work for the story I wanted to tell.Thirds, a retelling of One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes, was obviously not taken from Disney, since Disney has not told the fairy tale. I used the Brothers Grimm version as my base, and twisted a bunch of the story to work for the setting I used. It’s one of my favorites because so many people do not know the fairy tale!For Scales, a prequel to Sleeping Beauty, I most heavily relied on the Disney version of the tale as my basis. The reason I did this is because I am fascinated with Disney’s rendition of the evil sorceress (Maleficent) turning into a dragon. This does not occur in any original tales I could find. I kept thinking, why does she turn into a dragon? Why is she so angry with the king and queen? In the Disney version, the only explanation is that she wasn’t invited to the celebration, but why wasn’t she, exactly? I wanted to know more of her story, so I decided to explore her point of view in Scales. The story that unfolds is interesting, indeed!

So there you have my explanations of how the three novellas in Bonded tie in with the Disney versions of the fairy tales. A large difference in my stories is that I try to stick to a darker, more realistic view of these tales instead of focusing on happy endings. If you love fairy tales, I hope this peaks your interest in the book!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books, Guest Posts by Me