Most little girls go through a phase where they want to be princesses. I did, and I wasn’t very girly. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t a bookworm, and my first literary love was Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede. It’s about Princess Cimorene, who is bored to death of being a princess. She’s not allowed to do the things she loves because “it’s not proper.” So she runs away to become a dragon’s princess, fights evil wizards, and sets traps for her would-be rescuers. It’s fantastic! And the basics of the story still resonate within me. That book changed me in a way I never noticed until just recently. It shaped the way I write more than any other book.
Now, I write stories about unorthodox princesses, and girls who love to climb trees. Girls who want to be free to be themselves. My favorite songs and stories all have elements of this. My favorite Disney Princess was always Jasmine, the one who just wanted to fall in love and have friends like a normal girl.
And that lead me to the type of guy I love to write. Aladdin is an ordinary young man who doesn’t question who he is. He certainly isn’t happy being a poor orphan, but he’s also not about to let it change who he is as a person. And it’s that “nice guy” personality that I love. As a teenager, I quickly recognized that the male characters I loved most were not the Prince Charmings, but the Aladdins. As I developed a love of romance, I often wished that the heroine would pick the nice guy next door instead of the serious pretty-boy that she always chose. I wanted real boys, not the too-perfect stereotypes that were out of reach for a shy girl like me. And when I discovered stories about the goofy boy-next-door or the best friend, I was ecstatic. At last, there were love interests I could root for!
And all of this tied together when I had an idea. It began with a song from The Swan Princess, which I also saw as a child. It’s funny how what we see when we’re small shapes who we are when we’re grown. The song is “This Is My Idea (of Love),” which shows Derek and Odette growing up together, and the shenanigans that ensue as they try to get out of spending time together. One day, as I saw those two awkward yet realistic children singing about how they didn’t like each other, I had an idea.
So I began writing snippets about a prince and princess who were betrothed as children, but don’t want to marry each other. It was always from her point of view, the little princess who loved playing with her brothers and being outside. And the following NaNoWriMo, I wrote up a complete first draft. She was the kind of tomboyish Princess I had wanted to be, and he was the realistic “nice guy” that I loved best. And I felt like this story, in spite of the crazy adventures, was more “me” than anything else I had ever written.
And I think that’s what writing is really about. I haven’t finished the story. I don’t even have a working title for it. But it’s made of my soul. And the strangest part? It reminds me of how I fell in love work my husband. He asked me out, and I turned him down. I liked him okay, but not like that. It wasn’t until several years and many relationships later that I realized I had fallen in love with him, now my best friend in the world. He was just always there, and it wasn’t a possibility, and then one day it clicked. Like a light turning on. I didn’t recognize it as love until another guy kissed me. And I still want to write that story. But so far, the closest I’ve got is this arranged marriage story. Ironic, since I wrote it some time before dating my husband.