About Me · Writing Process

The Writing of the B&B Retelling

Seeing as my Beauty and the Beast retelling  ended up so different from my initial idea of it, I thought this would be a good opportunity to give (and gain) some insight into how I write some of my stories. Each of my stories has its own process, but when it comes to short stories, this is generally how it works.

While thinking of which fairytale to write, I immediately latched onto the story of Beauty and the Beast, not because I am fond of it in any capacity, but because I hate it. The Disney version aside, although that is far from my favorite animated movie, I always found the story strange, uncompelling, and inefficient. After rereading the standard version of the story, by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont, in its entirety for the first time in years, I was able to pinpoint exactly which elements of the story bothered me so much:

“The youngest, as she was handsomer, was also better than her sisters.”

In fairytales one’s beauty always indicates one’s goodness, and this has always bothered me because it feeds into the physical attractiveness stereotype that is a constant around the world. It gives children the false impression that beautiful people are good and intelligent whereas supposedly ugly people are cruel or incompetent. Furthermore, the sentence is at such odds with the moral of the story, which would imply that physical beauty isn’t everything and you mustn’t judge people by their appearance – or does that only apply to men? This sentence just never sat right with me.

“When Beauty was alone, she felt a great deal of compassion for poor Beast. ‘Alas,’ said she, “’tis thousand pities, anything so good natured should be so ugly.” 

Beauty determines that the Beast is good-natured despite the threat upon her father’s life and him forcing her to stay in his stead, though he has given no good reason for these conditions.It seems to me too similar to circumstances in reality where individuals fail to see that they are in a limiting, controlling relationship due to gifts and kind words. Perhaps the story is simply a product of its time, but as I read it in present day, I cannot overlook the abusive connotations of the setting.

“‘I had rather die myself,’ said the monster, ‘than give you the least uneasiness. I will send you to your father, you shall remain with him, and poor Beast will die with grief.'” 

This declaration and the entire exchange that follows frustrates me to no end, because what kind of emotionally abusive circumstance is this – it is not fair to tell someone in any emotional relationship with you that you will die if they leave you; that is called manipulation and it is indeed categorized as abuse. Also, what a drama queen, Beast, get over yourself, you’re no better than Dorian Gray. Get a hobby. Take up knitting. Read some of those hundreds of books of yours. But instead, Beauty goes to visit her father, is held up by her sisters, and returns to find the Beast dramatically strewn across the canal.

“‘You forgot your promise, and I was so afflicted for having lost you, that I resolved to starve myself, but since I have the happiness of seeing you once more, I die satisfied.”‘

Honestly, Beast, I cannot believe you. If you were my younger brother I would have kicked you and forced you to play video games or run in the sun or something. What bothers me most about this snippet is what it reveals about the Beast’s character, for this is not just Beast dying of grief – he is consciously starving himself in an act of slow-paced suicide, and although this might not qualify as directed emotional abuse because he didn’t know that Beauty was going to return, the reader also cannot say with certainty that he wasn’t planning this as some kind of punishment for if she returned late. Also, this is just proof that the Beast is a failure of a self-sufficient person, which would be fine in a character if he weren’t presented as such a catch of a husband at the end of the story.

“‘No, dear Beast,’ said Beauty, ‘you must not die. Live to be my husband […] Alas! I thought I had only a friendship for you, but the grief I now feel convinces me, that I cannot live without you.'” 

This kills me every time because I cannot for the life of me tell if Beauty is saying this to save his life or truly believes this, but even if she does believe it, the entire situation is incredibly unfair to her – her choices here are to marry him or supposedly be the one to kill him. And then there comes the fairy, whom the Beast deems “wicked”, but I am discouraged from believing the Beast’s opinion on anything, really, because he seems to me nothing more than a brooding child.

“‘Beauty,’ said this lady, ‘come and receive the reward of your judicious choice; you have preferred virtue before either wit or beauty, and deserve to find a person in whom all these qualifications are united.'” 

The writing makes it unclear as to whether or not this is the same fairy that cast the spell upon the Beast. Regardless,  I fail to give this supposed fairy any respect, for she seemingly believes that the Beast is a paragon of virtue and that he is somehow intelligent as well. I see none of these qualities in this so called prize of a prince. If he was virtuous, he would not have threatened to kill a man over roses, coerced a woman to stay with him, and then threaten to die if she ever leaves him. If he were intelligent, he would have gotten a goddamned hobby. Maybe he would have gardened more or spent more time admiring his roses, which he claims to “value beyond any thing in the universe”.

Furthermore, it doesn’t seem to me that Beauty ‘preferred virtue before either wit or beauty’ but more that she was desperate to save a life, and she was kind enough to do so by marrying someone she did not care for. Yes, there is a romantic reading to this fairytale, but to me it is lost under all the external factors that could have influenced Beauty’s choice.

Thus, having identified all the elements of the original fairytale that I despised, I began to conceive an idea of how I wanted to retell the story. There are many retellings already that are dark twists to fairytales, including such retellings of Beauty and the Beast, one of which I found on the Toast while preparing for the writing of my adaptation. There was a time in high school where I thought myself clever for thinking of darker re-imaginings of classic fairytales, but this time I hoped to accomplish something different. My goals were as follows:

  1. Write a fulfilling relationship that is happy for everyone involved and has no elements of coercion. A wholesome relationship. A relationship that doesn’t leave me worrying for the two individuals involved.
  2. Address the idea of beauty equating goodness, especially in the context of the physical attractiveness stereotype. Bonus points to me if I can make the ‘evil siblings’ redeemable and understandable too.
  3. Make the Beast a self-sufficient individual who, at the very least, learns to live with his curse and endeavors to be satisfied with it rather than drowning in self-pity.

There were then little details that I needed to fill in, for I still endeavored to write more detailed a story than a standard fairytale. The lacking of fairytales, in my opinion, is that they are simple stories with archetypal characters, and as such romances are shallow as we do not get to know nearly enough about either of the characters. Thus, I needed to design fully-fleshed characters with motivations, desires, and pasts.

One element I immediately had to address, then, is how the Beast became a Beast. The Le Prince de Beaumont version of the story does not address the issue, and I have not aspired to be one of the handful of people who have read the original novella written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve just for this information. The success of the Disney film from 1991 has made it such that the generally accepted reason is that the Beast denied an enchantress shelter on a stormy evening. This reason was not attractive to me because I felt that it would diminish any growth or virtue the Beast presented towards Beauty. The ugliness would have been a poison for which the cure was marriage, and it would have colored all of the Beast’s interactions towards Beauty with the question of “does he truly care or does he simply wish to be rid of the curse? If it were not Beauty but anyone else, would he have acted just the same?”

It was at this time that I remembered the story of Elisabeth Bathory, famed as the bloody countess who tortured hundreds of servants to death in a number of creative ways. More specifically, I remembered the research done by Rejected Princesses, which claimed that most of the famous stories about the vindictive countess were slander by a man who feared the power she was left with upon being widowed, and worried that Bathory would team up with her cousin to seize the Hungarian throne. And then I remembered several historic women in power of great intelligence who faced smear campaigns over the years in order to diminish their authority and people’s respect for them. Such campaigns, especially against women, often depended upon appearances, either rendering powerful women exotic seductresses such as Cleopatra (who was actually quite average in appearance, as it turns out, with all her allure coming from her intelligence and charisma) or mudslinging stories about twisted cruelty and physical ugliness. Pop culture still presents Elisabeth Bathory as that madwoman who bathed in virgins blood in attempt to keep youthful.

And so my Beast became a woman of authority, and out of wonder for what would happen, I made my Beauty a boy. I did consider having them both be women, but we had already had a female Beauty, and to be fair, I thought the protagonist of the original fairytale to be an alright character (though I have no idea what her values or motivations for anything are;;). Besides, the original authors would know better about being a working woman in that era better than I ever could. And so Beauty was a boy, and the Beast had a past, and I immediately conceived of a scene that I could start out with.

How my writing process works is that, at least in the beginning phases, I write the scenes in the order I conceive them, just so I can get a feeling for the characters and what I intend to accomplish with the story. In the case of my retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I was inspired to write the ending first. Now, I’m sharing my first draft here, but anyone who reads it isn’t allowed to laugh at it because I know, it sucks, it’s awful and there is a reason it’s not in the final cut. I’m sharing it for learning purposes so just shhhhh:

“I love you,” Beauty declared, “and worry not, for I will break your curse. We’ll be wed within the week, and all those who left you will return, and you will never be alone again.”

The Beast looked upon him with such surprise that her sightless eyes grew round as pale moons, and then she laughed, deep and from the belly as ladies of her status were long discouraged to do.

Beauty faltered, both fascinated by the sound and disheartened by her mockery. “Your laughter is lovely, my lady, but I fear you wound my pride,” he told her.

“Boys and their pride,” the Beast said, her voice lilting like the swoop of a swallow. The folds of her face lifted, and she shared a sharp-toothed smile. “I am not rejecting you, sweet one, not in the way you think. I simply have no wish to break this curse.”

 And this statement, Beauty could not understand, and without thinking he glanced to the portrait in the hall of the Countess, once sublime. When he returned his gaze, he flinched to see the Beast’s clouded eyes staring as if to see his soul. Her smile was softer now, as if she had known what he’d done, and patient, as if waiting upon a child. Beauty was no child, so he set aside his assumptions, and gentled his voice. “I ask then, why not? Why keep the ailment when you’ve been offered the cure?”

The Beast remained silent for a long moment, and then she rose to her clawed feet with a practiced grace. “What rumors have you heard of me?” she asked of Beauty, reaching for her cane.

Beauty scooped it up and pressed it into her large, furred hand. “I’ve heard many,” he confessed, and his voice smoldered with resentment for those who had spread such falsehoods.

“Tell me of them.”

He hesitated, reluctant to repeat such vile words, but he realized that the Beast surely knew of them already. “They call you a monster,” he said, “that you’re a creature with no heart nor reason. They claim that you were cursed for your cruelty, so that your appearance reflects your soul.”

“Well, I must agree there,” the Beast mused as she walked. “I’ve always been rather warm and fuzzy.”

“There are no rumors of your humor,” Beauty added drily.

“Falsehood, like the rest of them.”

At her casual delivery, Beauty gave a startled laugh, but the Beast bade him continue, so he did. “They claim your home is empty because you slaughtered all within it,” he told her. “That you devoured the men for their strength and bathed in the blood of the women so that you can be young and beautiful again.”

They came upon the rose garden, where to her will, tea had already been served in the dark blue cups with golden trim. Beauty could tell by the fragrance that it was his favorite kind, and it warmed his heart to know that the Beast knew such intimacies of his person.

Sitting down, the Beast hooked her steaming cup as she always did, with one hulking finger looped through the handle. They sat a moment in silence, drinking their tea, and Beauty enjoyed looking upon the roses bloomed in moonlight when suddenly she spoke. “Do you know who spread those rumors, boy?”

Beauty set down his cup, posture tight with rage. “Those rats who hoped to scavenge your estate,” he answered. “The suitors whom you rightfully rejected. The men who felt insignificant in your presence and writhed like serpents with their envy.”

The Beast shook her head, glowing in her delight, and as if imparting a secret, she leaned in closer to him. “I did,” she said, sotto voce, and Beauty jerked in surprise.

“You spread the rumors?” Beauty echoed, uncomprehending. Surely he had misunderstood. However, the Beast simply nodded, took a sip of her tea, and then offered him a platter of thumbprint biscuits.

He took the tray and set it to the side, still reeling from this new revelation. “I don’t understand,” he said. “Why would you slander yourself so?”

And though the Beast did not know this, her expression sank into a nostalgic sorrow, the ache of an old wound in the rain, and Beauty ached for her, wanted to smooth away her sorrowful expression. He only held back because he feared he would not be welcome.

“You could not possibly imagine,” she whispered, and in that moment, despite her form, she seemed vulnerable. Beauty realized that all this time, she has been vulnerable. “There was a time before the rumors, when the truth circled throughout the lands. Men from all walks of life would flock to me, hoping for my affection. Each of them had some veiled agenda. Nobles assumed that I, despairing, would be wooed by their lies. Townspeople thought that, looking the way I do, I could do no better than wed below my status. Servants flocked to me, thinking I would overlook petty thieves, desperate for company. All of them thought they were doing me some tremendous favor.”

Beauty found that the Beast had been right, as she so often was. He could not imagine how painful that might have been. “And so you made yourself a monster,” he murmured, understanding.

“Indeed I did,” the Beast said, and then she drew herself up, the melancholy forced from her face. “I made myself a monster, called myself cruel, to keep people away. I claimed that I slaughtered all my servants to let the ones that ran away know they’re free to live their lives. I declared that I devoured men for strength as a message to those petty, offended men that this curse did not expose me as weak, as they had hoped, and then I said that I killed women for their beauty for the irony of it, so that the one who cursed me would remember that I chose his curse over him.

“So I have no wish to marry,” the Beast said, the breeze ruffling through the fur that she’d grown to accept, her voice gravely but far from grave. “I have no wish to break this curse.”

And though his heart ached from even this gentle rejection, Beauty took a breath and steeled his resolve. “Then I will respect your decision,” he said, but could not help himself and added quietly, “but I am compelled to confess again: I love you dearly, my lady, and married or not, I will care for you always.”

The Beast, hearing this, did not speak, though there was much she might have said. She did not remind him that she was old yet undying and that he was in the prime of his life. She did not tell him that there was so much more for him out in the world, that there were brilliant young women with no curses to ail them whom he could admire instead.

She told him none of this and simply asked for his hand, which he gave to her without hesitation. “Do not speak of always,” the Beast said, “for always is merely another curse.”

Beauty locked his graceful fingers between the claws of the Beast and held fast. His hold was steady, warm, and honest. “But you have told me that I no longer have to be alone,” she said, and as if confessing her darkest secret, she covered their clasped hold with her other hand in a quiet, measured embrace. “And I would rather like that.”

Those of you who have read the story I uploaded last Wednesday might notice that this scene is remarkably similar to the final version – most of the dialogue and a lot of descriptors were kept intact – but hopefully you also notice the jarring difference in tone.

The primary difference lies in Beauty, as in this version he still comes off as pushy and childish. His decision to marry the Beast seems idealistic and naive and impulsive. His anger towards those who wronged the Beast seems polarized and overly emotional. Because he seems so young, it removes his agency from any relationship, romantic or platonic, he might or might not have with the Beast – I don’t trust this Beauty to make his own decisions as an adult.

This is Beauty as he is at the beginning of my story, and so when I wrote the rest of the scenes that came before the ending and wrote in his development as a person, I got to my initial draft of the ending and went, “goddammit this brat is going to make me late for school,” and had to rewrite it.

So, in hindsight, the first draft looks awful, but at the time it helped me to get a sense of how I imagine Beauty and how I imagine the Beast, as well as what values they would be starting out with. It also, at least vaguely, gave me a starting dynamic. The things I learned from this scene were the following:

  • The Beast is apparently immortal or something, and she is extremely aware of how much older she is than Beauty.
  • Beauty wishes to be viewed as a man, although whether this is out of an issue of personal pride or romantic interest is ambiguous.
  • The Beast apparently knows magic, lives alone, and may be blind.
  • Beauty knew of the original rumors and likely changed his opinion on them over time.
  • Roses are probably going to be significant like in the original story and they bloom in moonlight.
  • Apparently they drink tea together???

And in this way, I could conceive a beginning. I knew I wanted to mirror the original fairytale at least at the beginning, so that shaped both Beauty’s family and his introduction. However, by nature of the genderswap, I had to alter certain details of his upbringing, as the expectations of boys and girls were different, and I found it difficult to excuse a boy of the time being recognized by everyone as Beauty. It took some experimentation, but I found an explanation that I could tolerate.

Writing came easily after that, especially since I knew what I wanted to accomplish with my retelling. Beauty’s insecurities shaped out of my desire to acknowledge the physical attractiveness stereotype, and his family dynamic was born partly because I, as an older child, questioned why the elder siblings are always vilified in fairytales and partly because I, as a new young adult, now recognize how teenagers often struggle to see things from beyond their own perspective.

Because Beauty’s insecurities were born from people judging his merit upon his appearance, it became obvious to me that the Beast, the other half of the story and the other half of the relationship, would have to be blind. I could think of no other reason that the character Beauty had become would feel as compelled as he did to visit repeatedly and get to know the Beast, and in fairytales, where narrative shortcuts are so important, the blindness lent the Beast a quality of hardship before we knew anything else about her.

Of course, to remove the coercive elements of the original fairytale, I also removed any forced actions. I tried to ensure that everything that Beauty did was clearly of his own volition and that everything that the Beast did was of hers. This meant that I had to find a way to bring Beauty and the Beast together without threatening fathers or imprisoning people. However, I did want to maintain a connection with the original, and so I sent Beauty to steal roses. The events that followed came about naturally as I tied a bunch of plot points together – with the Beast’s backstory in mind, I knew from the start that she would chase him away the first time, meaning that I had to give Beauty reason to return. I also wanted to show that despite Beauty’s estrangement from his brothers, the brothers do still care, so I wrote in a significant object given by one of the brothers for Beauty to lose, so that he may return to retrieve it later.

The second meeting, I had to devise a reason that the Beast has to bring Beauty into the castle, as she would have taken every measure to make sure he cannot enter the palace again, while also using this moment in the story to establish Beauty as still young and immature. A temper tantrum seemed fitting, and in the nature of storytelling, I made use of a timely rain.

Now that I had Beauty as a presence inside the palace along with the Beast, I knew that I had to quickly give him reason to return despite his fear of her. For a brash youth, in my experience, one of the greatest motivations I know of is curiosity, and it was easy enough to pique his curiosity with the Beast. When she wasn’t trying to chase him away, she would be an entirely different person – a person and not the monster he expected – and that alone would be reason enough for curiosity. However, to give him that extra push to return, I also hinted to him that perhaps, in the Beast’s company, he can find something he has been missing in his life:

“Are you?” the Beast asked, hooking the handle of a teapot with a finger. She poured him a cup of tea, and Beauty found the entire ordeal incredibly surreal.

“Am I what?”

“Good and brave and wise.”

“Certainly not as much as others I know,” he responded, words bitter on his tongue as he thought of the animosity between him and his brothers for the recognition they all knew was ill-deserved.

“But are you?” the Beast pressed, conjuring also a tray of sweets to set upon the low table between them, and Beauty floundered at the question, as he had always known he was not as virtuous as his elder brother nor as witty as his other, but he had never thought to ask if he was virtuous or witty at all.

“I,” he started, but could not form the words. In awe, he could only shake his head, forgetting a moment that the Beast was blind. It did not matter, for she seemed to know his response. Perhaps his silence was response enough.

“Perhaps in time I can answer for you,” the Beast said idly, setting her empty teacup aside. “I will not be blinded by any claimed beauty of yours, boy. I’m already blind.”

This moment and declaration are significant to Beauty because, first of all, the Beast has managed to alter his worldview entirely with just three words. This indicates to him that through her, he can find change. And then her declaration of blindness accomplishes several things I needed at once, giving Beauty a reason to return, characterizing the Beast as someone at peace with herself enough to joke of her condition, and also setting the tone for Beauty and the Beast’s future interactions.

From that point on, honestly, I got into flow, and I stopped thinking consciously about the decisions I made. Everything fell into place without planning, helped by the fact that I had started with a vague ending first, so I knew exactly where I needed to get. Rereading my story, I can easily analyze my own writing and pick out the subconscious reasoning behind all of my writing decisions, but that would be too similar to a high school literature paper for everyone’s liking, so I will hold myself back.

I did, however, set rules for the whole of the story:

  1. Only Beauty and the Beast’s dialogue would be in quotations, so as to emphasize their roles in the story and let the side characters fade into the background.
  2. Every scene between Beauty and the Beast, the reader should see Beauty grow as a person and learn something new about the Beast.

With that said, I will continue to the end of the story and this blog post and speak about the finale. More specifically, I explain my reasons for altering certain elements of the ending in my final draft. There are, of course, minor issues such as the setting which is simply due to the fact that I did not know the layout of the palace nor the significance of the different locations in my first draft. After writing my retelling from beginning to the end, I knew that I could set the ending of the story nowhere else but the rose garden where the characters first met.

And then comes the first major difference:

“I love you,” Beauty declared, “and worry not, for I will break your curse. We’ll be wed within the week, and all those who left you will return, and you will never be alone again.”

In the initial draft, Beauty was a child. He made his bold declaration in an egocentric way that presented him as a hero who felt that he knew what the Beast wanted, making assumptions. However, after writing the whole of the story and writing so much character growth for Beauty, I couldn’t let the ending remain as it was, and I rewrote it to the following:

It was staring at the moon roses, with moonlit blooms larger than hands, that Beauty finally spoke. “I could marry you,” he said, sincere. “I could break your curse, and you could have the palace full again with more than enough reason to count the years. You would never be alone again.”

Hopefully the difference in feeling is clear. Here, Beauty seems calmer, more contemplative, and instead of talking about what he will do for her sake (which is exactly the kind of mindset the Beast had to suffer from in the past), he makes an offer and gifts it to her, a suggestion she is free to reject. In both drafts, she does so, and in both drafts she does so with laughter, but the reactions of proto-Beauty and final-Beauty are rather different, and as such, the Beast’s reaction as well:

Beauty faltered, both fascinated by the sound and disheartened by her mockery. “Your laughter is lovely, my lady, but I fear you wound my pride,” he told her.

“Boys and their pride,” the Beast said, her voice lilting like the swoop of a swallow. The folds of her face lifted, and she shared a sharp-toothed smile. “I am not rejecting you, sweet one, not in the way you think. I simply have no wish to break this curse.”

Again, this Beauty seems childish – he had been so sure in his proposal that he is hurt when rejected, not having considered the chance that she might refuse. He fails to consider perspectives outside his own, and that alone indicates his immaturity, and as such, the Beast reacts by laughing at his naivety, tying his youth to hubris and skewed priorities, while also diminishing his potential as a romantic figure by using a pet name one would more liken to a child. Here, there is an imbalance in both wisdom and power, and the Beast looks down on Beauty rather than viewing him as an equal. This isn’t even mentioning the fact that I had Beauty refer to the Beast as my lady, which only seems like a self-righteous attempt to demonstrate that he is different from others who merely see her as a monster. Also it evokes too much Chat Noir from a recent children’s show, I don’t know what I was thinking.

Beauty did not understand, both fascinated by the sound and confused by her response. He kept his silence, inviting her to continue, and she did.

“I never thought I would receive another proposal, old as I am,” the Beast said, her voice lilting like the swoop of a swallow. Her smile gentled the whole of her, and she shook her head. “So forgive me if this is blunt, boy, but I’ve forgotten the etiquette for it – I refuse.”

Noteworthy here is that Beauty makes no assumptions – he does not know why the Beast is laughing, but he does not leap immediately to taking offense. Instead, he waits for her to explain herself, and they know each other well enough to pick up on nonverbal communication cues. The Beast’s response here one of delighted surprise, and though she calls him “boy” here as well, she does not tie it to any notions of childishness. It’s a title used fondly to refer to him specifically, not youths in general, and though it acts as a reminder that she is far beyond his years, it does not give the sense that she is talking too far down to him (or so I hope).

In the first draft, here, Beauty turns to gaze a the portrait of the Beast as a beautiful countess, as if disbelieving that she would not wish to return to such a state. I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote this, but it makes no sense with the character Beauty has become in the final draft, who was so anxious from the attention his own appearance drew. In the final draft, I omitted any such scene, especially since I had moved the setting to the gardens which lacked the portrait in the first place.

The difference in maturity between Beauty of the first and final drafts shows up several times more in the scene, often noticeable in how self-centered Beauty is in the first draft, self-righteous, trapped in his own thinking as the accurate one until proven otherwise. In the final draft, Beauty has matured enough to recognize that the Beast might have a different perspective and, thus, does not enter conversations in a blind charge of his own sentiments. Most importantly, this Beauty is mature enough to recognize that there are some things that he may never understand, but he makes up for it by giving the Beast space to work through the emotions of such things, and he is there to support her through them though he does not know what to say.

And then there’s the actual ending of the story, and there are quite a few significant changes in those last few paragraphs.

And though his heart ached from even this gentle rejection, Beauty took a breath and steeled his resolve. “Then I will respect your decision,” he said, but could not help himself and added quietly, “but I am compelled to confess again: I love you dearly, my lady, and married or not, I will care for you always.”

The Beast, hearing this, did not speak, though there was much she might have said. She did not remind him that she was old yet undying and that he was in the prime of his life. She did not tell him that there was so much more for him out in the world, that there were brilliant young women with no curses to ail them whom he could admire instead.

She told him none of this and simply asked for his hand, which he gave to her without hesitation. “Do not speak of always,” the Beast said, “for always is merely another curse.”

Beauty locked his graceful fingers between the claws of the Beast and held fast. His hold was steady, warm, and honest. “But you have told me that I no longer have to be alone,” she said, and as if confessing her darkest secret, she covered their clasped hold with her other hand in a quiet, measured embrace. “And I would rather like that.”

Reading this now, it’s incredible to me how young Beauty sounds. He’s charging headlong in and it isn’t clear to the reader whether he’s thought any of the words he’s saying through or not. Not to mention the first bit of dialogue where Beauty basically goes, “Then I will respect your decision, but only after I disrespect it by forcing my feelings on you again by telling you again that I love you,” and seems almost to try and guilt her into marrying him. And then in the end, when the Beast tells him that she would “rather like” no longer being alone, that almost seems like she is taking advantage of this boy who is infatuated with her in order to keep her loneliness at bay. I attempted to change this in the final draft:

“Then I will respect your decision,” Beauty said, but could not help himself and added quietly, “but I am compelled to confess that even so, I will care for you always as a friend, and should you ever wish to break the curse, my offer will always stand.”

The Beast, hearing this, did not speak, but she did still. They had finished a round of the garden and was back at the table by the moon roses. “Do not speak of always,” the Beast said, “for always is merely another curse.”

And then she untangled her arm from his, and Beauty took this as a sign to return to their seats. Instead, however, she turned and held out a hand. Beauty locked his fingers between the claws of the Beast and held fast.

“But for all the time you have to offer, I will confess that you are welcome at any time.”

And like that, with their hands in a quiet, measured embrace, they exchanged names.

In the final draft, Beauty respects the boundary that was drawn by letting the Beast know that he will continue to care for her “as a friend”, though whether he means it as is or was simply reining in his words out of respect for her decision is left ambiguous in the text. He also does not pressure her into the idea of marriage, simply telling her that he is leaving the choice open for her to take if she ever wishes. Instead of telling Beauty what she wants, she leaves the choice open for him again – he has a long-standing invitation which he may decide whether or not to act upon. Through this, she gives Beauty a sense of agency, and it is also a show of respect for him as a person and, despite his youth, an equal.

I then added the exchange of names, because this moment here was an escalation of Beauty and the Beast’s relationship, as it was with each of the scenes before it. To crown the moment, I needed a new level of emotional intimacy from both characters, and it occurred to me that both characters knew each other by false names. There are few things quite as intimate as a name, and after deliberation, I decided that the only way to end the story of Beauty and the Beast would be if there is no longer a beauty nor a beast.

So, that was my writing process for this story. It’s different for other stories, really. Maybe I’ll make a series about this. Either way, it’s 3am and i’m tired bye bye

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