Fairytales: Someone Needs To Be Rescued
A good story is about a journey. A great story is about a journey that leads to overcoming. Finding hope. True love. Destiny.
Fairytales masterfully use the elements of despair and hopelessness to drive the hero and heroine toward change.
All is dark in fairytale world, usually manipulated by some supernatural, evil force, to confine goodness. To constrain voices of truth and love.
To kill and destroy.
Hum… won’t that preach?
But we don’t want to preach in stories. We want to show.
Typically, but not always, the heroine is the character in the most trouble. The one who needs to be rescued. Though on occasion, the hero can be a bit of a rapscallion and get himself in trouble.
Beauty and the Beast anyone?
The need and act of rescuing is vital to any fairytale-like story.
Cinderella needed to be rescued from her unjust life as a servant. From the cruelty of her stepmother.
Snow White needed to be rescued from the curse.
Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, same thing. These women needed a manly-man kiss.
Think about your favorite love stories. Doesn’t the heroine, even though she might be a strong, independent woman, need some kind of rescuing?
Back to my favorite example with The Proposal (Y’all are going to be like, “Rachel, move on,” when I’m finished with this series.)
But it’s such a perfect, modern example of fairytale elements.
Margaret is the classic, modern, independent yet wounded heroine. She has her life all together. As long as it stays on the careful path she’s carved out for herself.
She doesn’t even realize how uptight and cold she is because it’s the only way she knows to preserve herself and her heart.
Margaret needs to be rescued or she’s going to end up alone the rest of her life.
There’s no curse involved in The Proposal. No real evil other than what life itself can dish out. We don’t know until later that she was orphaned at sixteen and get a glimpse into her “why.”
Drew has his own issues but he’s more sure about his life and choices. He’s not an orphan. He has a rich heritage in his home town and with his family.
He’s the perfect hero for Margaret.
What about While You Were Sleeping. Another great Sandra Bullock flick where her character is alone, orphaned.
She has no one but her work “family,” a sweet but odd neighbor in Joe Jr., and a heart full of dreams. While she’s making her life for herself, she’s going nowhere.
Lucy needs to be rescued from hopelessness.
Jack is just the man. He’s competent, sweet, kind and like Drew, rooted in a family of love and tradition.
Both Drew and Jack make perfect heroes because they “get” the essence of their heroines.
Interesting to note that Drew and Margaret have similar economic backgrounds – affluence. One by working hard the other by inheritance.
While Jack and Lucy are both from working class folks.
You don’t have to create similar socio-economic backgrounds but it’s an element to consider for your story. What works best?
While Cinderella was probably of the aristocratic but not royal set, she was poised to be a princess from the posture of her heart toward others.
Snow White and Aurora were both daughter of kings.
There’s a certain endearment, innocence, to heroines who are strong, courageous but vulnerable.
Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora, Lucy, even Margaret want to believe in others, want to believe there is something better.
They are hopeful in the midst of what their heart is declaring despair.
What about the wounded hero?
Well, the Beast is certainly a wounded guy. He needs rescuing. He’s living under a curse that only love can break. Man, that will preach too!
Weren’t we all under a curse until Love broke in and set us free. Jesus is the ultimate hero.
Anyway, Belle’s love for the beast sets him free.
In Photogen and Nycteris, Photogen ends up needed rescue in the end because the night frightens him so much. Nycteris sits with him all night, comforting him.
Then he returns the favor and slays the wicked queen/wolf to save Nycteris.
Consider your book. Does the heroine need to be rescued? How about the hero. Rescue elements not only play well in fairytales but in love stories.
So how do you create a solid heroine/hero who needs a bit of rescuing? We don’t want wimps on the page after all.
- Develop the Woundà LikeàFear journey we talk about at My Book Therapy. The dark wound of the past forms a lie which morphs into a fear. This kind of character backstory allows your hero or heroine to have a flaw but with time and maturity, think they have it managed.
But hold on… not so much. It’s the wound, lie and fear that will ultimately cause your heroine or hero (pick one, not both) to be rescued.
- Secret Dream. Develop the secret dream that’s in contrast to the fear. It’s what I also call the heroine or hero’s true identity.
For example, Lucy in While You Were Sleeping, wanted to travel, see the world. Yet she worked at the Chicago L which only sees Chicago and lived in a one bedroom walk up. She wasn’t seeing anything of the world.
Margaret wanted to be loved and accepted. But she had so many barbs and barriers no one could get close enough.
The secret dream is what causes the heroine or hero to press on in the journey and overcome the fear.
Cinderella wanted to meet the prince. Snow White wanted to live!
- Create a problem. The heroine or hero in a safe place do not need to be rescued. So create a plot situation that forces them to face her or his greatest fear. If they don’t conquer it, they will never see or achieve any of their dreams.
Cinderella’s problem was her family.
Can’t some of you relate?
She needed to overcome her fear of failure, her intimidation by her step mother to believe the story of the fairy godmother.
Snow White was Public Enemy #1 to her stepmother. She wanted her dead.
Lucy was in the middle of a huge misunderstanding. A family she was falling in love with thought she was engaged to their pretencous son, Peter.
Margaret was being departed to Canada and losing her very needed career. It was her whole identity.
So you have to create a situation in which the heroine or hero has to overcome, and in some way, be rescued.
- Show competence. No one likes a weak, wimpy character. Or one that is too whiny or snotty. And please, can we leave “snark” at home. Snarky heroines come off so rude in literature.
“Show” through scenes and dialog, and the plot, how your heroine or hero is good at something. That they have some sense of self.
Cinderella was cleaning woman extraordinaire.
Snow White charmed a family of dwarfs.
Lucy won over everyone’s heart. Her boss, her friends, the entire Callahan family. She was sweet and kind. We loved Lucy.
Margaret was in command. She built a life and stellar career for herself. And man, the woman did not mince words. I loved that about Margaret Tate.
In Photogen and Nycteris, Photogen was an extraordinary hunter. So even though he wimps out when he experiences his first nightfall, we get him. When the run rises, he returns to himself more assured than ever.
- Willing to Be Rescued. It’s no fun if the heroine or hero cannot or will not be rescued.
Cinderella wants to be rescued. She wants to try on that glass slipper.
Snow White is fine living in a little house with seven little men if it keeps her safe.
Lucy will marry Jack if he’ll have her.
Margaret, literally, has to be pulled from the ocean after falling in during a boat ride. She is afraid, but give her hand to Drew to pull her out of the drink. Obviously, she couldn’t stay in the water but it’s very symbolic of her character’s growth and change… she wants to be rescued.
So, as you write your stories, keep these elements in mind. Let the beauty of the fairytale sprinkle your love story. (And every story has some kind of a love story!)
Best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She excels in seeing the deeper layers of a story. With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel.
A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 15 novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and her dog, Lola. Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com. Her next book, Once Upon A Prince, releases May 7!
Go forth and write!
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