Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Density Intensity

Are fairy tales expanded or fairy tales updated anything other than an excuse for ornamentation? Since many of these tales are short in their "original" form, are longer versions necessary?

For me, the answer lies in whether the writer is using the bones of the story as an excuse for ever more outre or thickening detail or whether they are being used as a subtle guide for a plot that runs of its own accord, not slowing down to admire itself in the mirror as it passes. As a writer, I am in love with detail, with the single image and the way words ring together or perpetuate a discord through a paragraph. As a reader, I prefer a story in which each part (action, description, characters) become an indivisible whole. Even freakishly detailed pieces can accomplish this, provided the author is aware that details serve the story.

Lately, I've encountered a few stories in which the opposite occured. These were fairy tales that were expanded like taffy, impossibly rich narratives in which the plot gave way beneath you, slowing you down and smothering you. The fact that I "knew" the story in each case made me impatient for the plot to move forward. Why linger on the side of the road staring at the magic-laden bushes when there is an evil sorceress after you? Why spend time nattering on about your wedding night, the color of the carpet, or the rude staff when your husband is the equivalent of a murdering pirate? Although some of the phrases are beautiful and the images arresting, the rest of the work is the equivalent of a slog through muddy paths leading to the next camera-ready view.

Short stories typically have an easier time merging the details with the action and miss most of the over-indulgency of the longer works.

Where do you stand on reworked fairy tales? Any favorites that I might have overlooked?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I can't think of a favorite reworked fairy tale right now, but I do know that my preference is when the details are reworked enough that the story doesn't feel recognizable - that is, I can't say with certainy what will happen next as it feels unfamiliar.