How Rewriting Made “Sleeping Beauty” a Better Story

It’s funny how things change.

Five years ago, I wrote a short story on a whim. There was a contest for reimaginings of classic fairytales in modern settings. I always thought there was something kind of creepy about “Sleeping Beauty,” so I thought it would be fun to retell the story of a young woman who is poisoned, falls asleep, and can only be awakened by True Love’s First Kiss.

I didn’t win the contest ( or even place), but I liked that story a lot. So, when I embarked on my e-publishing adventure, I decided this was a piece I wanted to publish. After all, the rise of the e-reader made short stories a viable model again. People were willing to pay 99 cents for a short piece they could download and read in one sitting. It was sort of like paying 99 cents for a song on iTunes.

I figured “Sleeping Beauty” would allow me to get another piece out pretty quickly. After all, it was already written. It just needed a cover and maybe a little tuning.

Apparently I had forgotten that I didn’t win the contest.

My editor, who excels at finding things wrong with my stories, read and told me it was missing something. She didn’t know what, but she felt certain it wasn’t complete.

To be fair, the contest had specified a maximum length of 4000 words. That puts space at a premium for developing plots and subplots. But, when I read it again, I agreed with her. We just didn’t know enough about pretty much all the characters.

“Sleeping Beauty” releasing 25 June 2012

I wrote another draft. Carl, the Prince Charming character, mentions to Beth (Sleeping Beauty) when he’s talking to her while she sleeps a character named Meghan. This girl used to be a friend of Beth’s but, now that’s Beth’s been in a coma for two years, Meghan has become the worst kind of high school bully. I expanded on that, writing some scenes with Meghan.

I also wrote a story line for Beth’s father Rex. It is he who casts the spell on Beth, dropping her into a coma until the right man comes along to marry her. Obsessed with sex, Rex is convinced his little girl will be seduced by boys and somehow ruined. The original version of the story traces his quest to “protect her” by finding a spell. That’s still there in the new version, but now we also get to see his arrogance. He’s an investment banker and is convinced he can make money by buying into a technology company despite warnings from his partner that it isn’t safe. The new plot helps demonstrate his belief that he knows what is best for everyone and that he cannot fail.

But after this draft, my editor felt the subplot with Meghan didn’t resolve satisfactorily, and I thought there wasn’t enough time given to Beth’s mother Marie, who is driven slowly insane by the loss of her daughter.

So I went back to work. I developed yet another subplot — this one for Marie — where we learn Beth was being manipulated by her mother too. I cut a scene between Carl and Meghan and wrote a completely new scene featuring the victim of Meghan’s machinations. I also changed at my editor’s suggestion the resolution of Rex’s investment subplot to make it more satisfying.

By the time I was done, “Sleeping Beauty” had grown to be over 8000 words in length. It’s a different but much better story. The plot of the original is still there. Anyone who had read both drafts would recognize they are the same piece. But the current version is much more satisfying. We get to know these people much better, understand their motivations more completely, and shudder at their intentions a little more.

It’s funny how things change. Without the space limits imposed by that contest, I was able to write a much better short story. I’m very excited to get this new, improved version out there.

“Sleeping Beauty” releases Monday, 25 June 2012 through Amazon’s KDP Select. I hope you’ll check it out.

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