How to Write a Modern Fairy Tale Movie

With Christmas on the way, we’ll be inundated with these. I’m talking about the 20th/21st century spin on ordinary girl meets royalty and lives happily ever after. Once you start looking for them, these modern Cinderellas are everywhere, especially at this time of year. The great news is that if you want to cash in on the trend, there are some simple rules to follow.

The Protagonist

Your main character should be young, pretty, American, definitely more focused on her career/education than on finding a partner, and awkward in an endearing sort of way. Maybe she’s clumsy or finds it hard to make small talk with strangers. Either way, this one character flaw will ensure she’s adorable to your audience.

The Love Interest

This is easy. He has to be a prince. Specifically, the prince of a small, non-existent European nation with a name like Aldovia or Genovia. He needs to be able to dance, ride, shoot, and speak with an impeccable English accent. (But wait, didn’t we just say he was prince of some non-British country? I’ll get onto that next.)

The Setting

The small country in which our hapless American protagonist finds herself doesn’t exist in real life. However, it must have all the following attributes: a fairy tale-esque castle circa thirteenth century, a nearby quaint town with cobbled streets and half-timbered buildings, a local orphanage inhabited by angelic-faced small children wrapped up in winter coats, and a distinctive quaint feel.

The royal family of this country, which presumably has its own language and heritage, must nevertheless speak with cutglass English accents. Because that is what we associate with royalty, right? Even though lots of other countries have royal families too. Staff and visiting journalists may have comedic cockney accents if you wish, because we all know that is the only other recognised accent in Britain, especially for commoners.

The Royals

Now, you might be worried that setting your movie in such a grand context will mean hours and hours of research into the royal etiquette of European nations. Never fear: your forerunners have set the standard for you and you only need to follow it. Be as lax as you like about the correct use of titles. Just bandy about words like ‘princess’, ‘lord’ and ‘your grace’ at random intervals, to reassure your audience that we’re dealing with real nobility here.

Broadly speaking, the rule is that you should present what people think royal families might be like, and that will be enough for your viewers. Expensive clothes, a couple of servants and the occasional tiara will do the trick.

The Plot

Surely this will be the hard part that requires some original thought? Nope!

On meeting at first, whether stateside or in Made-up-tiny-European-nation, your main character and the prince should hate each other. She should think him arrogant and inconsiderate, obviously. It doesn’t matter too much what he thinks of her, because this is a movie for a female audience, so we don’t need to see things from the perspective of the men.

The main character, transported to a grand castle, finds herself hilariously out of her depth at first. Everybody loves a good fish out of water narrative, right? She struggles to impress the stern ageing queen, who disapproves of our main character, mainly to create forced conflict later on. She breaks something, because remember she’s adorably awkward. (Note: if the thing she breaks is a vase, don’t forget that Ming Dynasty is the only variety recognised by cinemagoers.)

In the end, of course, the main character and the prince will fall in love. There will be obstacles and misunderstandings. There also needs to be a subplot about some dastardly politician or royal relative trying to usurp the prince’s claim to the throne. You absolutely need a ball where the main character has undergone a makeover and dramatically appears in a huge sparkly ballgown. At this point, everyone should stop and stare at her, despite the fact that the room is already full of beautiful well-dressed people. The prince and the protagonist will realise they misjudged one another and finally admit their feelings. Cue violins and credits.

If all that sounds familiar, it should. It’s essentially Pride and Prejudice but with a slightly fancier setting. Throw in some horse riding and a bit of well-timed snow, and you have everything you need.

Off you go now, and write that script. I look forward to seeing it appear on Netflix next year.

Everything you need to churn out a blockbuster

Posted in: Fun

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