When You’re Not “The Pretty One”
Fairy tales are full of beautiful maidens and handsome princes. There’s something whimsical, charming and a bit boring about this. I suspect that most of us don’t feel drop dead gorgeous one hundred percent of the time in our day-to-day lives and these fairy tale princesses and princes can therefore seem unrelateable and a bit annoying.
In my YA fantasy series, The Tales Trilogy, I set out to invert this. I wanted my fairy-tale-inspired characters to be unusually featured – they are clever and kind (sometimes) – but outcasts because of the way they look. I wanted them to embody how we often feel inside: that we are strange and different to everyone else.
In the first book in the series, Roses, Beauty is cruelly named because she is, in fact, not beautiful. With white hair and silver skin, she is freakish-looking and an oddity. Unlike the Beauty from Beauty and the Beast, the appearance of the main character of Roses causes strangers to scream (and not in a good way). Making Beauty not classically beautiful allowed me to bring depth to her character in other ways (she’s independent, prickly and defensive) and, I think, it makes her much more accessible and understandable to the reader.
Similarly, in the second book in the series, Feathers, my main character, Ode, is not particularly handsome. He has a big nose which he inherited from his father and is overall quite plain-looking. Feathers is a retelling of Swan Lake which originated from Russian folklore, and the main character, Ode, is a shape shifter who can transform into a swan. However, this is far from a good thing and alienates him from the rest of his tribe (who do not trust Magic). Ode’s physicality is a source of frustration and shame and I think that sadly, this is a universal feeling. However, my hope is that Ode’s acceptance of his gift and the way that he looks, will encourage readers to feel the same way. Like Beauty, Ode is not ‘the pretty one’ but it certainly doesn’t hold him back.
My favorite characters in literature are also not ‘the pretty’ ones. That’s not to say that they are ugly, which is subjective anyway, but I rarely have a character that I like and empathize with, who is ‘the pretty one’ in a story. Lizzie Benet in Pride and Prejudice, for example, is the second-class beauty to her sister, Jane, who everyone deems to be the real stunner. In I Capture the Castle, it is the narrator, Cassandra, who I really love and again, she is the plainer counter-part to her sister, Rose, who has the male leads chasing her for affection. Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird is also not the primed, beautiful Southern Belle that she is expected to be, but a spikey tomboy and engaging because of it.
I love that the worth of these characters is not reliant on their physical appearance – they are interesting and endearing because of who they are rather than what they look like. In my own work I have tried to emulate this and the third and last in The Tales Trilogy will be no different!
Roses: The Tales Trilogy, Book 1
About the Book: A dark rendition of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast!
She bears no name. Her silvery appearance is freakish to the numerous inhabitants of Sago, the cosmopolitan capital of Pevorocco in a fantasy realm. With her mother vanishing at the instance of her birth, she is sent to live with the cruel, rich Ma Dane, where she is punished daily for something, though she knows not what. Tauntingly named Beauty, she flees Sago in a violent uprising that sets out to massacre all Magics and journeys to the furthest point of the country.
But Beauty cannot hide in the grassy Hillands forever. Before long, the State officials find her and threaten to take her back to war-torn Sago where death surely awaits. In a midnight blizzard she escapes them, running into a deep, enchanted forest to a great and terrible beast who will bargain for her life.
But can Beauty accept Beast? Eternity is a long time.
Feathers: The Tales Trilogy, Book 2 will be coming out July 5, 2016!
About the Author: Rose Mannering has been writing ever since she can remember. Diagnosed with dyslexia aged eight, she never let it stand in the way of her love for books. She signed her first publishing contract when she was nineteen and she writes under the names Rose Mannering and G.R Manneirng. She currently resides in the UK and her favourite things in life are books, dogs and tea.
Thank you to Rose for this wonderful post.
Thank you to Cheryl at Skyhorse Publishing for connecting us with Rose!