the wonder in a story

A while ago I shared my idea that a story is a journey with certain waymarkers to guide the heroine on her path towards self-fulfillment. Here is the original post, and also part one : thresholds. Today I give you the second waymarker for the journey.





I think that, at the beginning, a story opens itself for the heroine. And always she chooses how to respond. Her choices may not be good ones, but after all that's what story is here for - to help her learn better choices, stronger ways of being her true self.

And so the world has lay out a path, for better or worse, for the heroine. This is the springtime of the story, the courtship season, a deepening of the start. Like a new lover, or a sapling attempting the sky, our heroine faces possibility, promise, danger. And she opens her heart to it, coming into a new relationship with the world. (Or she doesn't, and there is work to be done.)

Now, she sees everything as if a child, wide-eyed, curious, worried. Every gesture or suggestion takes on a vibrancy of potential. This lights her with wonder ... and stills her with the shadow of mystery. Who, she asks, is the young man she meets in the forest? Will he be kind to her, or beneath his smile does there hide a beast? Why does he look at her so intently? What is he hiding in his pocket? Will he kiss her – and if he does, will she be transformed?





These questions keep her circling slowly on the path, hedging her bets. The choices she makes now, even more so than the ones she made at the beginning of her story, will influence how she ends up. Does she open herself to possibility, even if that means danger, or does she turn away in terror, ignorance, laziness? The broken-winged bird she helps now may fly to the ends of the earth for her, and pluck a pure white rose from the winter queen's tree for her, so that she may win the hand of the prince she loves.

So often a heroine is dragged fast and hard into story without having an opportunity to wonder at this new turn of events. It means she has to work even harder, further down the track. Just as lovers leap together without doing that slow and wondering dance – will she bless me? is he a bear in disguise? will this hurt? – and find themselves falling apart for the want of certainty, a heroine must lay her path with answered questions, or it will not be her own path at all and must be rewalked, repaved, every question considered again, every choice broken apart and restoried.

2 comments:

  1. "Will he kiss her – and if he does, will she be transformed?"

    Will she be transformed? This line struck me. Since it seems, the male is the one, waiting to be transformed usually. The Beast... The Frog... But this is a new take on the "transformation" aspect. New is good!

    Tessa

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    1. I think a first kiss transforms everyone, doesn't it? :-) And in the best tellings, the beast is transformed physically but the heroine is transformed in her heart. I don't like versions where she is perfect to begin with.

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