Saturday, 1 June 2019

How To Write The Modern Fairytale Protagonist


Recently, I was fortunate enough to tick off something pretty major on my bucket list. I was able to attend the cast and crew preview screening of Disney's latest live action adaptation of one of their most popular animated classics - Aladdin. 

Aladdin has always had a special in my heart,  the songs of course are instantly recognisable and Robin William's performance as the Genie is one that has stayed with audiences worldwide. There was a lot to live up to, and honestly - I wasn't sure of how the live-action adaptation could possibly top it. 

However, the experience of watching the live-action adaptation was something that moved me, and has still not left me weeks later. It truly is one of the best Disney films I've seen. 


In today's post I want to share the top 5 tips I took from Aladdin's Princess Jasmine - Naomi Scott's portrayal is one of the best (if not THE best) of the Disney LA Franchises, not only because she successfully brings Jasmine into the modern world of female empowerment and strength, but because she also discusses her feelings of suppression - the comparisons of living in a male-dominated hierarchy of power in the kingdom of Agrabah  drawing parallels to a current society broken open and still pursuing an equal platform post #metoo doesn't go unnoticed.


Jasmine is far more than just a pretty princess waiting on a suitable partner/prince to marry. She has a voice, a purpose and dreams that rely entirely independently of Aladdin and their potential romantic interests/relationship. 

While she was definitely not a damsel in distress in the animated classic, Naomi's portrayal brings a much welcome depth to the role of Princess Jasmine that will surely empower a new generation of little girls and boys. 

So, let's get straight into how to write the modern fairytale protagonist that audiences can relate to, understand and empathise with!


She's More Than Just A Princess Kept Locked Away

Jasmine Writing Tip #1 


Jasmine is introduced in the midst of the commotion when she first meets Aladdin - which is soon established to be a disguise when you later hear of the sultan's reasons for keeping her within the palace walls. 

Her mother was murdered, and fearing for Jasmine's safety, the Sultan makes decisions to keep her protected. It's clear that Jasmine does not feel the same fear, and instead reasons that 'her people' miss the Queen as well and have suffered.

She openly rejects unsuitable marriage proposals because she knows she can independently rule with the support of her people (they love her like they loved the Queen) and has no desire to be kept in jewels and riches. 

CONCLUSION:


Your protagonist needs a goal - an obstacle to overcome whilst pursuing this goal - and a reason for the audience to care. 

Outside Motivation, Conflict & Goals

Jasmine Writing Tip #2


Jasmine has political desires and goals and has to strive to prove herself worthy of her title or aspirations to become a female sultan. 

She wants to rule the kingdom WITHOUT needing a man beside her,  however that doesn't mean she is against finding love. Aladdin serves as a huge motivation and confidence to her speaking out against the injustice of living in a world where a woman can't rule or be a sultan.

Jasmine's feature song 'Speechless' is being claimed as the signature of a generation -  she is a woman that has outside motivation, goals and conflict to overcome outside of her relationship with Aladdin. He is NOT the sole reason for her story existing.

CONCLUSION:


Your protagonist must have a greater purpose than just being a love interest/sidekick to other characters. What drives their story? How is this shown? What's at risk if they don't succeed?

Her Journey is SEPARATE From Aladdin's & Just As Important

Jasmine Writing Tip #3



Her POV is central to the narrative, we are shown why she would be a great leader and could lead Agrabah as a powerful and noble Sultan. 

She is politically savvy, brave and vocal about doing the right thing for the benefit of her people and kingdom. 

She endures the loss of her mother, her father's doubts at breaking tradition and allowing her to prove herself and essentially being told to be seen and not heard. 

We start her journey before she meets Aladdin - helping to feed the poor in the market - her narrative is established as having a purpose before their introduction. 

Jasmine is supported by Aladdin and her best friend Dalia, on being vocal about the political changes she wants to create, which is relevant to modern audiences in a world post #metoo. She knows that it is not about being better than anybody else, it's about having the same equal rights as the men in her kingdom. 

Meeting Aladdin along the way of her political pursuits is a happy-coincidence and NOT because she was out searching for marriage and love. 

CONCLUSION:

Give your character SOMETHING TO SAY! The audience must have reason to WANT your character to succeed, create a narrative that audiences can relate to/reflect upon/ be empathetic towards - no matter if it's a fairytale world or not - without reason to care, you have no story or audience!

She's An ACTIVE Character & Her Actions Have Consequences

Jasmine Writing Tip #4


Jasmine is FAR more than just a pretty love interest. 

While the animated version had some great moments from her character, the live action remake gives the audiences a greater look at the rationale behind her motives. 

Just because she happens to be a beautiful princess, that does not reduce her to a passive sidekick/filler role. If anything, Jasmine has greater focus on her story than Aladdin's in the LA version. 


Jasmine's greatest motivation is feeling suppressed and unheard, which comes to life in her song Speechless. Through this outburst she is able to command the loyalty and respect that she's always been worthy of. 

CONCLUSION
Make the END goal worthy of the journey - build towards the big pay-off. Your character should be tested along the way to achieve their goals and desires, greater goal for the character usually means bigger pay-off for the audience.  Every choice they have made leads to some sort of reaction, event or obstacle along the way!


She ACHIEVES Her Goal Which Is NOT Focused Soley On Marriage/Love Interest

Jasmine Writing Tip #5

Jasmine is able to demolish the age-old tradition of male sultans ruling through determination. 

This has also allowed Aladdin's narrative to be enhanced and changed - being chosen by Jasmine, now the Sultana - as someone worthy of marrying. 


Image Source


Jasmine's narrative arc has come full circle, where she achieves her TRUE goal of ruling the kingdom- The Happily Ever After  with Aladdin is an added bonus!

CONCLUSION:

Your Fairytale protagonist needs more than a romantic role - this can be used as another layer of their narrative journey and interaction with other characters, but make it relevant to their story and goals. 
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