Rainer Maria Rilke had this to say about expectations, judgments, and truths:
Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us, is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
Maybe you find this concept troubling even outside fiction writing, not to mention within it. But don’t visualize Walt Disnified princesses and dragons. These are metaphors, symbols to tweak however you wish. Often, though, metaphors are the best way to express the unsayable.
So which ideas does this metaphor suggest?
~ Identify the dragons in the lives of your characters.
What if the sources of terror and repugnance craved love instead of blood? How many of those only reside within? What new insights might this generate?
~ Look beneath the surface.
Though dragon imagery shifts from culture to culture, the basic idea’s always the same. Or is it? Perhaps humans and dragons share traits in common. Why do dragons represent so many things? What does it really mean to be a dragon? A princess?
We associate dragons not with beauty, vulnerability or tenderness, but such hideous violence that slaying one makes you a hero. When we change both image and message, readers experience both original and new versions. How efficient is that?
~ Reveal similarities, whether in heart or history, in drama or dream.
How does the antagonist resemble the protagonist? How do both antagonist and protagonist manifest the strengths and weaknesses everyone shares?
~ Play God.
The role of Supreme Being capable of infinite wisdom and understanding suits fiction writers well. We write fiction, of course, from yearning to expose what we consider evil and good. But that yearning must remain so secret that every dragon harbors a bit of princess. Wouldn’t your readers appreciate that kind of wisdom and understanding ?
Great plots reveal the possibility of the improbable, the morality that becomes possible because the hero makes it so. You won’t need a single dragon or princess. Just larger-than-life characters and a causal plot.
Tip: Use the metaphorical dragons and princesses surrounding us to gentle your novel’s dragons and
fortify its princesses.