This post continues the previous discussion, which explored some of the motivations and general thoughts upon which The Littlest Dragon and the Princess is based. I wanted to tell a story about a world where hard work, equality and imagination can overcome the difficulties that life can bring.
Our cultural awareness in the western nations especially the United State has significantly evolved over the last hundred years. The social equality of peoples of different ethic backgrounds and gender is beginning to become the same in most Western countries but as it does there are some questions that lurk in the back of my mind.
The international suffrage movement had little success during the 18th and 19th Centuries. Most developed countries move to give women the vote took place during the first half of the Twentieth Century. Since 1950 many of the third world countries joined this movement. My 21st Century mind finds it’s difficult to understand how anyone could truly believe a hundred years ago that women shouldn’t vote. Many proposed that if you gave women the right to vote it would put so much pressure on them that they would face mental break down. (Please!) A common belief was that since women were emotional creatures they were incapable of making sound political decisions. (My eyes are rolling.)
The issue is that as children we tend to grow and accept the beliefs of our parents and other primary caregivers. We are taught ideas and concepts of the past, some of which are valid, some are not. Slowly social change takes place and we look back on ideas like women don’t have the capacity to make wise political decisions as provincial now but back then it was accepted common wisdom.
This brings me to the point of this post.
If the common man in the 19th Century couldn’t see that he was in error due to his ignorance about women’s capacity to vote, what are those beliefs and opinions that I hold today, that tomorrow’s enlightenment will make me shrink with chagrin from those former unsophisticated viewpoints?
I’ve taken some liberty with the appearance of my characters while writing this story. It was an interesting surprise that in the process of drawing the dragons that the different types took on different appearances. This was not something that was planned it just happened. It could be likened to dressing a strong willed small child who is very opinionated about what clothes they will wear. “Don’t put that green shirt on me, you know I don’t wear green” they might argue. The drawings would wrestle back and forth on my drawing board until their features were acceptable to them and then I could move on to the next character.
The Grand Wizar is a very social dragon that leads the dragon community in the seasonal festivities and especially the birthing celebrations in the spring. He has a plump effervesce about him where as The Old Dragon Sage is very wrinkled and has a stoic appearance. Both of these character’s dorsal crest are similar to the traditional approach of drawing an upside down V, which curves backward from their head to their tail. It was also a pleasant surprise that The Littlest Dragon dorsal crest didn’t follow suit for it was similar to fur that begins with his Mohawk hair cut and proceeds down to his tail. Not only does this hair cut hint at his mild mischievous nature the addition of this feature made the little guy more appealing, even cuddly.
There have been observations that Princess Leizu doesn’t look Chinese, this was
on purpose since I’ve aimed at a universal appeal and I wanted
her to look Eurasian. One of the biggest changes from reality was the place of women in Chinese society historically and currently.
There are things about our culture worldwide and historically that concern me but the one that really upsets me is the treatment of women. It is so discouraging the way that they are regarded and not given the same opportunities, social ranking or liberties as men. I applaud the changes in the western world even though they’re not complete and I’m horrified at what goes on in the East today. I guess it could have reflected the fact that men are usually stronger than women but the fact that this perception has lasted as long as it has truly amazes me.
I’ve put Leizu and her Aunt Wu in a position of authority in the weaving mill so they could be involved with the production of the fabric and eventually the strange circumstances would reveal why Leizu dropped that first cocoon into her tea and discovered silk. This line of attack was also taken so that I could tell a story about a world where hard work, equality and imagination could overcome the difficulties that life can bring. It is about creating a world that I would like to exist rather than the reality that still exists.
This isn’t something that is unique to me since many artistic works display utopian themes. The painter, illustrator Normal Rockwell said that the motivating force behind his presentation of wholesome American values was that he was disappointed in the world around him so he painted the world the way he wished it would be rather than the reality that he experienced.
It’s interesting how this project’s has grown in complexity. I had been constantly reminded that the creation of a book was the easy part. Finding an agent and getting it published was the difficult part.
Since I was amazed at the magical manner in which the story was revealed to me I wanted to be the exception to the rule. Now five months since completing the final drawings and eight weeks since finishing the final version of the manuscript I’m still researching publishers, agents and sending out queries.
One of the problems is that it’s hard for an editor or any other person operating the door of acceptance to know what a successful book looks like. Years ago I took a number to writing classes at U.C.L.A. ext. At the beginning of the first class the teacher, Tara Ison, makes the interesting statement, “Nobody in Hollywood knows what a successful screenplay looks like.”
Then she went on to tell her story about a script she wrote with her writing partner and all of the difficulty getting it picked up. Finally an agent agreed to represent them but told them NEVER show the scrip to anyone again, it just wasn’t a good idea. They agreed, spent about a year writing other works without success and finally parted ways with the agent. They returned to their first script, worked it a little and after awhile it finally was made. The result was the commercially successful “DON’T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER IS DEAD,” giving Christina Applegate her first staring role.
Finally a break with my research I was able to share this post and I’m back to the work of queries and submissions.
Perhaps it was because Princess Leizu was raised in such a poor land that she was so dedicated to her responsibilities. Perhaps it was because she was so young when she was put in a position of authority that some of her youth melted into a compulsion to follow what seemed to be her duty. Perhaps it was because of her karma that lead her in a direction where she blindly accepted her reality and her fate regardless of how dire it was.
When she faces a crisis in the middle of the story because she makes her decisions through what she feels she must do, by necessity rather than by opportunity, she eliminates any other possibilities that might set her free from the dilemma. And as great as Leizu’s character is, kind, hard working, pleasant attitude, cheerful spirit this is her one unresourceful trait.
Fortunately because The Littlest Dragon had been just average in intelligence when he grew up that he had to develop self-discipline to be able to complete his classroom lessons at school. It was this experience that lead him to deal with the crisis in a different way. His ability to stay focused on a problem until he found a solution combined with the wise words of the Old Dragon Sage would spin the conflict in the middle of the story in a different direction.
It is common in today’s society to refer to this as the ability to think outside of the box. Too often we don’t know how to develop this ability and when we think we’ve identified the box and are outside of it we don’t realize that we’re just inside a larger box that surrounds the old box.
An essential approach in thinking outside the box is to understand how we make our decisions and of how our operating system works so that we can discard approaches in solving problems that don’t work. The first step in this process is to understand how we make decisions, how we filter the external stimulus and what filters we use to help us make these decisions.