Fairy Tale Panel at Stan Lee's Comikaze

I had the pleasure of appearing on a panel about one of my favorite subjects: fairy tales, especially the dark kind! Neo Edmund was the moderator and we discussed how to write complex characters and the role of female characters in contemporary fairy tales. My main advice? "Look at what demons you are dealing with and personalize a fairy tale to your own experience.” What fairy tale would you pick to retell?

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Here are a few shots from the convention.  It's interesting to see how myth and fairy tale permeate our popular culture in such powerful ways, as demonstrated, even, by the guys below.

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Are you looking for some holiday gifts?

Here are a few ideas (more to come):

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Accessories from Aurora Lady will make the glitter girls on your list shine!

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For the romantic: lingerie from Mansfield Lingerie!

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Glamour girls on your list will love anything from Fete clothing. The bag is a one-of-a-kind from Viva Las Vixens.  The photo is by Nicolas Sage.

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Weetzie fans might like this custom made tote bag with art by Emma Kisstina. Photo of Augusta Gail by Emily of Fete.

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And for literary friends who like darker short fiction about love and sex: Rough Magick, an ebook edited by Jessa Marie Mendez and me. It's only $3.99! Cover photo by Danishka Esterhazy of Logan Brendt.


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How's your NANOWRIMO going?

One thing a lot of writers run into trouble with is how to create TENSION on every page, especially in the middle of  the book. Here are a few quick tips.

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1. Give your characters strong OPPONENTS.  In the middle of the book add a new lesser ANTAGONIST if your main antagonist isn't in the picture. Make sure the new antagonist challenges the protagonist in ways that move the story forward and carry the protagonist farther along the trajectory of their arc. Torture your protagonist!

2. Give your characters strong WANTS. I know I keep saying this, but it really works. In the middle of the book your character may have already achieved his/her initial want. Give him/her a new, escalated want.

3. Use SETTING for conflict, either directly (a haunted mansion, a dangerous precipice, a storm) or for contrast (a bucolic setting where people are arguing)

4. A FLASHBACK to a trauma from a character's past can add tension if the present time action is slower. Try to write these as scenes, not exposition.

5.  FORESHADOWING can be done with ominous description.  If you are using omniscient POV (Death, God, an Angel, a disembodied all-knowing Presence etc.) or first person with a character who already knows what is going to happen, the ominiscient voice or at least partially informed first person narrator should be too savvy to give everything away but smart enough to drop hints that will keep us reading. If you are using close third or first in present tense or told from a character who is looking back only a short ways, they won't be able to foreshadow things but you as the author can!


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Last Friday I took myself on an amazing date.

I saw Mark Z. Danielewski at Vroman's, Pasadena. I don't go out much alone and I don't like to drive the freeways at night but I managed to make it to the event. I adore his novel House of Leaves. It's poetic and experimental but its also a perfectly constructed love story and ghost/horror story.

Earlier that afternoon I went to see my beloved therapist. She is in Pasadena so I usually just talk to her on the phone. Seeing her in person was such a relief. After my mom died I've become increasingly close to my therapist and I feel so lucky to get to share my life with her every week. Even if I became completely neurosis-free I would go see her! She's a visual artist as well as a therapist, specializing in attachment theory and Jungian psychology, and raised three children as a single mom.

After seeing her I had my nails done (pink sparkle toes) and ate at Sage, Pasadena. It's not as nice as Sage, Culver City but it felt comforting to be able to order my carrot juice and tempeh burger with pesto.

I arrived early at Vroman's and got a good seat. Mark came out wearing his signature straw hat and a T-shirt in the perfect shade of pink with one of his cat drawings on it, and read from his latest book The Familiar II. Then he spoke and took questions. I tried to catch his quotes but I might have missed something so, Mark, if you read this and I've made any errors, please let me know!

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Francesca Lia Bock: What was your inspiration for "The Fairy Prince" in Rough Magick

Alise Wascom: I wrote "The Fairy Prince" not long after moving down to Louisiana from Massachusetts, so I was thinking a lot about place and displacement, about the psychology of picking up and leaving and complicated feelings of homesickness, even when you’re the one choosing to go (themes I’m still working out in my novel!). I don’t like to write too close to myself—that gets boring for me as a writer—so my character’s situation is flipped: Florida moves from southern Louisiana up to Boston. I’m also interested in “flash forwards” in fiction. They’re hard to pull off, but when it’s done right, it’s fantastic. Jennifer Egan is super masterful of the technique in her collection, A Visit From the Goon Squad. I like to challenge myself, so "The Fairy Prince" is also my (hopefully successful!) attempt at this device. 

FLB: I love that answer!  What is your connection to fairy tales and mythology? 

AW: When I was beginning to write, I really struggled with plot. It was difficult for me to literally move the story forward. I remember going into workshop (at Emerson College) with these little, three page scenes and my professor, Rick Reiken, would say “Ok, this is good, but where is the rest? You need to finish the story.” This is not a very romantic answer, but it’s the honest one: mythology and fairy tales, those became my cheats. I would write re-tellings so I wouldn’t have to worry about plot—I knew where the story was going and where it was supposed to end up. I could flesh out the details, deepen the characters, explore different point of view, all the while knowing that, no matter what, Red Riding Hood was going to have to meet the Wolf at some point. And, in doing so—in really studying and writing and re-writing over our most classic tales—I learned about story arc. I figured out pacing. It’s during this that I really fell in love with Grimm and Anderson and of course the Greek myths. It’s a love affair that continues to this day.   

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Rachel is a New York City It Girl living for the long nights in white faux fur, drinking champagne and listening to her lover play rock n roll.

She has a tiny apartment in Chelsea with an old French double door balcony where she does all her dreaming and watches the moon as much as she watches the people below. Her father left her his old record collection, which she keeps on the fireplace alongside burning white candles and an old Bowie poster. She sleeps in an all white bed under a sheer canopy by the window, makes French espresso and champagne truffles for breakfast.

Rachel spends her days creating content for her magical blonde blog, where she documents her adventures and creates dreamy photographs. She often stays in hotels in the city, just for a change of scenery.

This New York girl is in love always, with the flowers, Central Park, the Village, the people, the thigh-high boots and soy cappuccinos she carries on the subway.

She will also be *starring* in the Weetzie cookbook with recipes by Carmen Staton coming in about a month!

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One of the most important ways to grab your reader is through a SYMPATHETIC CHARACTER

Here’s how to create one in 5 easy steps:

1. Who (Character Traits): Give your character a strong GIFT that makes them larger-than-life and a strong FLAW that humanizes them and makes them relatable.

Example: In Jane Eyre, Jane is passionate which makes us admire her but also gets her in trouble. This makes us like her even more because it makes her active and creates story. A reader will forgive a lot in a character if we understand why they are flawed (usually due to some childhood trauma). But a reader will not easily forgive a character (or writer) who is boring!

2. What (Story): Give your character a strong WANT and a strong ANTAGONIST to stand in the way of that want. Create escalating tiers of wants and antagonists.

Example: Jane wants to leave her abusive aunt and cousins, then she has to endure the hardships of the boarding school and finally she wants Mr. Rochester who is   still married to Bertha.

3. When/Where (Setting): Give your character settings that provide CONFLICT.

Example: Jane suffers at her aunt’s home, Gateshead, then at the boarding school, Lowood, then at Thornfield, especially when she finds out the truth about the woman in the attic, and finally on the moors. Notice the foreshadowing created by the words “gate,” “low,” “wood” and “thorn.”

4. How (Style): SHOW your reader what it's like to be in the main character’s body using SENSORY LANGUAGE and avoiding clichés. TELL your reader what your character is thinking without overdoing exposition. Avoid stilted, forced or derivative language. The voice that flows most naturally from you, filtered through the lens of a character whose wants, needs, gifts and flaws you know well, is usually best.

(Tip: Contractions make a character more relatable. If you don’t use them you run the risk of alienating your reader with the character’s formality. This may be different in a period piece.)

Example: Jane tells her story in a close, personal way, as if she were sitting beside us in front of a roaring fire drinking tea. “Reader, I married him,” says it all!

5. Why: (Theme): Readers admire characters who CHANGE because this is a challenge we all face and because it provides story. Give your character a strong ARC. The character’s trajectory from the beginning of the arc to its resolution is usually an expression of the theme.

Example: Jane becomes more compassionate, patient and forgiving, while also standing up for herself in a mature way. By witnessing her arc, we as readers may be able to connect to these qualities in ourselves as well.

Voila, you have a sympathetic character!

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A huge thank you to my co-editor, Jessa Marie Mendez, who worked so, so hard and with such loving care to make this book happen. We both want to thank to our wonderful writers who so generously gifted us with their words. And my friend, fillmaker Daniskha Esterhazy, for taking the above photo of the ethereally gorgeous Logan Brendt, who also designed the cover.  A year ago Jessa and I had the goal of creating an anthology about the darker aspects of love and sex and publishing it on Halloween, 2015. There's magical realism, lyrical realism, even horror. We think every story and poem will haunt you. 

Please check out Rough Magick.

Happy Halloween.



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This is my new feature on how to demystify the writing process.

How To Write A Scene

1. Who:  Pick two characters. Give your PROTAGONIST a special GIFT that, in its negative extreme, can be a FLAW. Give the protagonist a tangible WANT.

2. What: Have the ANTAGONIST present an OBSTACLE to the protagonist so the latter has trouble attaining their want.

3. When/Where: Make sure that your scene takes place in one specific span of TIME and at one PLACE. In other words SHOW the action of the scene rather than telling through exposition.

4. How: Use DIALOGUE to show EXTERNAL CONFLICT between the characters. Use original (non-cliche) DESCRIPTION so we can see, hear, smell, taste and feel the scene and the characters, but don't put the description in big chunks. WEAVE it into the action of the scene. Use INTERIOR THOUGHT to trace the INTERNAL CONFLICT of the protagonist. Alternate between dialogue, description and interior thought. If you find that one is easier than the others, write a rough draft using just that and add the others. I suggest starting with dialogue and external conflict first and adding the others in.

5. Why: What is the THEME you want to convey with this scene? If you're not sure, think about the protagonist's flaw and what they NEED in order to overcome it. That will usually give you the theme.  Try to state it for yourself in a cause/effect sentence i.e. "If you open your heart you will find love." Themes can sound cliche and trite when you state them in this way but your scene/novel can make them into something unique, original and fresh.

Voila! You have a scene. You are welcome to post them here!  If you write enough of them, you will have a rough draft of a novel. I suggest you do NANOWRIMO in November.



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From The Rose and The Beast, to The Singing Bones, my upcoming film collaboration with Danishka Esterhazy, fairy tales have been an influence in my work. In fact, it all started earlier than that when I was first introduced to the original tales by my parents. I am a fan of Anne Sexton's Transformations, Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch. I think of all of my novels as dark fairy tales in some way, including The Elementals, and even the erotic thriller Beyond the Pale Motel.  

If you'd like to discuss fairy tales with me please consider coming to this panel at Comicaze this Friday, October 30th, at 5 pm

And you may also want to check out the one week class on writing the fairy tale that I'm doing at 24 Pearl Street this February.  (The website may still say October but the dates have been changed to Feb. 1-5).

Fairy tales have danger, beauty, magic and, perhaps most importantly, symbolism that reflects ancient Goddess truths to sustain us in troubled times. Let's explore together!

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