In order to get into character, I had to do a lot of mental adjustment. My heroine, Gretchen, is barely four feet tall. She lives in post-medieval Europe, somewhere around the Schwarzwald, or the Black Forest. She has the most common form of dwarfism, achondroplasia. It is the form you are probably most familiar with.
In order to get to know my character–to try her out, to see if she would work–I wrote a little scene about the kind of treatment she has to put up with:
“We have a dwarf here in town.” Gretchen looked around to see who had spoken. It was Gisela, of course.
The minstrel turned toward her. “Yes, so I’ve heard.”
Gretchen sighed. She may as well get it over before Gisela said something nasty. Gretchen stood and clambered onto her chair, and then onto the table. “Over here,” she said, waving her handkerchief.
His eyes snapped her way. “Fräulein,” he said. “Maybe we’ll share a beer together after my performance.”
Gretchen didn’t want to, but she nodded anyway. She would listen to whatever demeaning thing the minstrel had to say in order to hear more about the dwarf asylum.
“Why not meet her now?” Gisela yelled. “Bring her forward!”
“No!” Gretchen yelled, but it was too late. A big man named Karl, who had been sitting with Gisela, jumped up and grabbed her before she had a chance to climb back into her chair. Two other men joined in, although it wasn’t really necessary. A hand clamped around her breast, and fury surged into her heart and stung tears in her eyes. Gretchen began to slap with abandon.
“Stop it! Put me down!” She clouted an ear.
“Ow!” One man yelled.
Emboldened, she began to kick. She heard an “Oof!”
“Gently!” the Spielmann said. “She is a lady, after all.”
This elicited a chuckle all around.
Karl plunked her down in front of the minstrel with too much force. Gretchen’s knees buckled, but the minstrel’s hand shot out to steady her. She glared at him and swiped a tear off her cheek.
When this scene practically wrote itself, I knew I had to keep writing. The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf is a retelling of the Snow White story from Gretchen’s viewpoint. She hears about a farm owned by dwarfs and that that employs only dwarfs, so she travels there in search of love–or at the very least, a husband she can tolerate. She does not expect to actually find love, since she doesn’t exactly lead a charmed life.
Once there, she finds a lot of things she doesn’t expect.
She doesn’t expect to become a very sought-after young lady. She doesn’t expect two men to fight over her. She doesn’t expect a kind and mentoring relationship with the farm wife. She never expects to be swept up in a magical adventure with a runaway princess and a cursed prince.
And the last thing she expects is to have to become a hero, especially at the side of the man she loves.