Last night I was thinking about golden apples. You see, I’ve finished my first draft of my steampunk fairy tale. And it might be eight drafts later before I can query, or it might be two. Hard to know.
But I was reflecting on how this collection of roughly 70,000 words took shape. It is a retelling mash-up of one of my favorite fairy tales and the myth of Atalanta.
And Atalanta was a runner, y’all. And she was faster than any man alive. And she was also intelligent and gorgeous and a total boss. If you wanted to marry her, and all the fellas did, you had to race against her and win. You forfeited your life if you lost.
So enter into the story, Hippo boy (I know. His name isn’t the least bit sexy. How can I Easter-egg it into my manuscript? I can’t. I’m not going to). Hippo knew he was out of his league, but he also was head-over-feels in love with Atalanta. So he went to a higher power, namely Aphrodite, and said, “You have to help me.” Aphrodite gave Hippo golden apples.
And while Hippo and Atalanta raced, he rolled these flashy, golden apples ahead when he was falling behind, and Atalanta would stop and pick them up, because come on. It’s a golden apple. You’d pick it up too.
So Hippo boy won the race. He cheated kinda, but he won the race. And he and Atalanta lived happily ever after*. Because really, she let him win.
Golden apples come up in other folklore. They are symbols. I see them as a placeholder for what is flashy enough or important enough to stop us in our tracks. What makes us course correct? What gets our attention? What changes our minds? It’s tidier to just call it a golden apple. And more fun than just labeling it a distraction or change of heart. Yay, symbolism.
If I was Atalanta, and I was running a (metaphorical) race, what would my golden apples look like?
Babies. Babies are golden apples.
Cookies. Yup. I can make a pit stop for a cookie anytime anywhere.
Thrift stores/antique stores/consignment stores get my attention. Yes, I will stop and see if I can find a pretty china plate. Cookies taste better when they come to you on china plates. I enjoying proving this at every oppertunity.
A well tended vegetable garden with neat rows of good things to eat, growing contentedly in van Gogh colored soil. I’m going to stay awhile.
Lists. Lists get me every time. Lists of instructions. To do lists. Lists of favorite anythings. Lists of questions. Check Lists. Yes. All the lists. BTW: Google Keep, y’all.
Flowers. I have a feeling they wanted to use pretty flowers in the original Atalanta myth, but flowers don’t roll the way apples do. And flowers don’t need to be made of gold to be a distraction. Golden apples FTW!
Pretty pictures of well organized, impeccably decorated rooms with whispered captions about, “Effortless, easy, in 1,2,3 steps.” I’m a sucker for it. If only following their nifty organizing checklist was as easy as reading it.
In my novel, my steampunk princess has a love of and a thirst for technology. And her fella gets it. He gets that he is out of his league, but he turns to his friends for help. And the result is three delicious, mouthwatering golden apples tinker-made to stop the heroine in her tracks and realign her journey.
So what are some of your golden apples? Are they more than just distractions? Maybe a passion for finding tidy order in a life that feels out of control? Maybe they are a conscious decision to prioritize life differently? Tell me about them.
*My blog, my ending.