by Camela Thompson
I've been on a Pride & Prejudice kick lately.
Anyone who really knows me experienced shock upon reading that sentence. I'm not what you call a romantic. My idea of a date night involves comfy pants, an oversized sweater, a lot of chocolate, and binge watching action movies on Netflix. I feel Valentine's Day is an effective marketing ploy that took hold over the years and I'd rather sprain my ankle than cry over a Hallmark network movie. Disney's version of true love makes my eyes roll back in my head, but there are love stories that I admire and enjoy. Pride and Prejudice happens to be one of them.
My husband listened to our recent podcast covering Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and expressed surprise at my dislike of the book. In his mind, the only way to make the book enjoyable is the interjection of zombies. I disagreed and pointed out the subtle but vicious wit he enjoys in Downton Abbey (we love Maggie Smith). The tension conveyed through dialogue or, more poignantly, a lack of dialogue is a magical thing. Too often today's movies rely on explosions and CGI rather than writing. He expressed his disbelief.
So I was a jerk and played the poor health card so I could binge watch the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. My husband does this thing where he pretends that he's dying when he really hates a show. His head lolls back and he groans. It's quite dramatic. Despite his best intentions of shutting out the show and focusing on the latest update on Peyton Manning's retirement status, he giggled when Mr. Bennet subtly implied his wife missed the big picture only for her to drone on about something mundane. Only then did he admit that perhaps high school wasn't the right time in his life to read the book and he enjoyed the subtle humor.
Colin Firth's rendition of Mr. Darby gives the broodiest of vampires a run for their money. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy begin with an apparent dislike of one another, only to discover they have both been deceiving themselves. It's a classic ploy, but effective in its simplicity. Miscommunication exists everywhere. Personality conflicts also get in the way. The growth both characters must display to make a romance between the two of them believable is epic. Jane Austen makes it work. Unlike Disney' true love, their affection is messy and complicated, but it prevails.
I mentioned that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was not my favorite book, but I enjoyed the movie. My friend heard about my recent kick and suggested Pemberley Ranch. This is a rendition I can get behind. The author used the same premise, major plot points, and many of the character names, but changed enough of the details to make it his own. Remaking a classic takes more than employing a thesaurus and interjecting content. The characters must also change to fit their surroundings.
What is your favorite love story? Do you enjoy true love or are there elements that must exist to make the romance real?
by Camela Thompson
Say 'vampire,' 'werewolf,' or 'zombie' and anyone with a television knows you are talking about a very specific kind of monster. This isn't a bad thing. Despite the lectures I've heard from agents and publishers, if someone manages to find an interesting spin on these creatures, people will read or watch it. That said, there are thousands of creatures to draw from. Why not mix it up a little?
While I work through The Hunted series, I try to throw in mythology I don't hear on a regular basis. The heroine of my series is a vampire (kind of), and I wanted to avoid the werewolf-vampire love triangle. I adore werewolves, but it wasn't right for the series. I needed a fierce warrior, and a timely reminder of Vikings flashed on the History Channel in my living room. Why not a Berserker?
Some coworkers thought the creators of Clerks conjured the word 'Berserker.' These warriors existed and they were terrifying. These men were minimally armored and rumored to be immune to fire and iron. They wore the hides of their totem animal (a bear), ran into battle, and welcomed death. They were also high out of their minds on a hallucinogenic plant blend that numbed them to pain, creating the illusion they were invincible. Like I said... terrifying. When a rich foundation in reality reveals itself, building a fictitious creature is easy.
In the world of paranormal writing, reality is just the starting point. Options are plentiful. The berserker could be a shapeshifter, adopt some of the animal features, or maintain human features with limitless strength. The creature could fight with skill or it could adopt additional powers more fantastic than legend. I chose to use the myth about iron and use it as the catalyst that changed the berserker from human to other. I exaggerated fire and gave them the power to wield lightning. Instead of having the berserker shift fully into a bear, I chose to have the features distort in the flashes of lightning.
The key to writing a paranormal creature is consistency. Develop a lore that works with your world and stick with it. I use Scrivener to help keep track of both characters and the mythology built into my world so I don't contradict the biology or magical constraints that have been established. If you're writing about a common creature, you can choose which features to keep and which to throw out. If you find a rare creature, there isn't a precedence to compete with, and that can be freeing.
Is there a rare creature you wish was featured more often in paranormal books? Do you see something in paranormal creatures you wish wasn't featured as often?
by Camela Thompson
In the past several months, I've seen articles surfacing artwork that gender bends Disney Characters. If you haven't seen these images swirling around the Internet, check out sakimichan on DeviantArt. Because the pieces are so visually stunning, I didn't really think how the perception of the characters would differ if the gender roles were changed. My cohost, Z.D. Gladstone, brought it up again on our last podcast episode and it got me thinking. If everything was left as it is today other than the genders, how would the characters resonate with the audience? How much would the stories need to change to make them appealing? I have more questions than answers.
Beauty and the Beast
Concept: A man is transformed into a beast by a witch because of his horrible behavior towards others. Only the softening of his heart by true love can turn the beast and all of the castle servants back into humans.
Gender Swap Issues: A physically domineering woman hurtling furniture at a man while in beast form must resonate as a 9.5 on the emasculation scale. Can you imagine the PMS jokes? The poor writers. I can picture them in a room fighting the urge to make chocolate and Midol jokes (she's a beast, so it's toxic, right? does she get carob cravings?).
Belle is a gentle, soft spoken intellectual drawn to books. She's patient and forever encouraging the beast to remember his humanity. Would a bookwormish gentleman read as weak by comparison? Remember, he can't restrain the Beastlette. Asking a man to stick around and fall in love with a hideous creature who flies into rages is intriguing.
The fact that women did not inherit property at this time also presents an issue. The Beastlette would not have a castle of her own. She would not rule over her servants. She wouldn't even have tenants to be cruel to. If we're sticking to historical traditions, the worst she could do is be cruel to those beneath her, such as her governess. Would this warrant the witch's punishment?
The Little Mermaid
Concept: A mer-woman witnesses a party with a beautiful man and is convinced he will fall in love with her if only she had legs instead of a fin. The witch gives her legs but takes away her voice. It should be noted the mermaid was already obsessed with becoming a human and collects human artifacts from shipwrecks.
Gender Swap Issues: A naked guy washes up on shore with no land, no money, and I did mention zero clothing, right? Back in the day, marriages were business arrangements. While it's not out of the question that a prince could settle for a pretty commoner, a princess would be traded--I mean married off--in exchange for peace or land acquisition. It is fun to imagine a talking lobster, flounder, and seagull (all female) giving him advice. "Do pushups! More pushups! Now try squats. Remember, you can't talk. All you have are your good looks. Be charming."
I really wanted to make comments about stalker behavior and hoarding, but I can't see this guy getting into the castle.
He's cute, but naked and mute. Do I call the guards now or later?
Concept: A young woman is forced into manual labor by her stepmother and two ugly stepsisters. She is granted a wish by her fairy godmother and attends a ball. Her beauty and grace capture the heart of the prince.
Gender Swap Issues: I've explained how marriage worked back in the day, so I won't rehash it. I like the picture of King (now Queen in this version) insisting that the princess provide her with grandchildren. What I find really interesting is a young man forced into domestic service. Laundry. Cooking. Cleaning. All while his brothers are allowed to do what they love. I can see these jealous brats belittling Cinder's good looks. Don't worry because this guy has mice and birds for friends.
Movies that Work
The movies that work for me don't revolve around the concept of true love. Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, and even Frozen aren't too hard to imagine with the genders reversed. All of these stories are based on friendship and familial love. Brave doesn't work as well because the big scene where they decide not to marry her off at a young age after a contest of physical feats wouldn't have the same zing to it.
Which Disney movie would you like to see with the gender roles reversed? Why? Do you think elements would have to change?
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.