world building and princess

Kill the Princess: Writing Tips from Kim Alexander

in Potpourri by

I’m back and talking world building, and this time I’m looking at you, writer who makes every heroine in her stories a princess! This is going to be slightly different from Chosen One Syndrome, because when it comes down to it, every protagonist is a chosen one; you’ve chosen to write about them. In this installment, I’ll be talking about working for a living.

When authors are creating their Fantasy Lands (pop. unicorns) it’s easy to spot the default–faux medieval Europe. And if you have a bunch of forbidding, craggy, windswept mountains with impenetrable fortresses (fortressi?!) atop them, the next thing you’re gonna do is make your main character a princess. (Or a prince — I don’t know your life.)

I’m here to say, try something else. I’m not telling you to make your enchanted land of Gondfloria into an Arctic survivalist encampment. But I am asking you to think a little bit outside the box, if the box is full of Northern European royalty.

(Full disclosure: the main character of my novel, The Sand Prince, is as the title suggests, a prince. But I hasten to add that he’s astonishingly bad at it.)

Sometimes it seems like every fantasy novel I pick up is crewed by the same group; the sullen yet hot warrior who is certainly hiding a secret; it probably has to do with sex, the sassy thief, the wise elder (also a thief, possibly retiring, clearly not going to make it to the sequel), and of course our hero, the member of nobility who under the cover of darkness runs with a bad crowd because: daddy issues. Any of them may be masquerading as the opposite gender. (My money is on the sassy thief.)

Don’t any of these people have jobs? And no, I’m not counting ‘thief’ as a job; you can’t put it on a resume unless you’re actually applying to be a thief. Even if you’ve decided it’s written in stone that Gondfloria has forests and castles and bears, you can still explore the lives of people living there without falling back on ‘princess’ or ‘thief.’ That was actually a vanishingly small percentage of the population! (Or of any population, I guess.)

Here are a few suggestions, on the house: bear wrangler, bee keeper, lute carver, magical bee keeper (the bees, not the person), cook, fixer for the local mob boss, mob boss, magical bee keeper (the person, not the bees–god, keep up!), innkeeper, wench (if you have an inn, you’ve got to have a wench; I don’t make the rules), dog boy, horse girl, and then way down at the bottom, thief, and finally, princess. You’re welcome.

Look, you want your story to stand out in the enormous ocean of similarly-themed and titled books. You can do that by either taping a $20 bill to the inside cover of each and every one, or by making it unique. I look forward to reading your take on a hot-yet-sullen magical bee keeper who lives in the misty woods of Gondfloira.

Next up: The Chosen One, or, it is foretold that you and you alone will fix this coffee maker and save mornings for all of Gondfloria!

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Kim Alexander grew up in the wilds of Long Island, NY and slowly drifted south until she reached Key West. After spending ten rum-soaked years as a DJ in the Keys, she moved to Washington DC, where she lives with two cats, an angry fish, and her extremely patient husband. She began writing when she ran out of authors to interview (and they pulled the plug on her channel, Sirius XM Book Radio.) Kim was in her twenties when she finally read a book not prominently featuring spaceships and/or wizards. Turns out Jane Austen was pretty funny! THE SAND PRINCE is Kim's first novel and begins a fantasy series called THE DEMON DOOR. Her husband tells her she needs to write at least ten more books if she intends to retire in Thailand, so thank you for your patronage. Please visit her at

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