(Warning: It’s very difficult to explain or discuss the Alternate Ending version of Sleeping Beauty–which involved changing the ending of the novel–without divulging what the ending actually is, so for anyone who doesn’t want to know what the outcome of the original story is, STOP READING HERE!)
The original novel Sleeping Beauty is about a woman (Claire Beau) who has a sleep disorder called Kleine-Levin (aka “Sleeping Beauty”) Syndrome, which causes sufferers to black out for weeks at a time. Claire “awakens” after seven weeks to find that she’s supposedly in the middle of a whirlwind love affair with a man she despises (the gorgeous neurosurgeon Dr. Brendan Charmant), over the strenuous objections of her best friend (the hot surfer Davin Wibbens), who is also in love with her. In short: it’s a love triangle. Although the novel received mostly four- and five-star reviews on Amazon, fans seemed at the start to fall pretty solidly into three “camps”: Camp Brendan, Camp Davin, and Camp Whatever.
To illustrate, a typical Camp Davin review (or e-mail or Facebook post or tweet) reads like this:
Did not like characters.
OK, my title of this review is a little bit of a lie. I LOVED Davin. I hated Brendan…I wanted him out of the story…I had to force myself to finish it. And even then…I only did because I was hoping she would end up with Davin.
And here is a typical Camp Brendan review…
More depth than I expected
I was touched at how much Brendan obviously loved Claire: He was willing to start over again, at Square One, because the relationship they’d already developed was worth it, even if Claire didn’t remember any of it up to that point. … I think his actions helped Claire to choose the path she did when all was going down the tubes and things looked their worst.
And someone from Camp Whatever…
A Pleasant Surprise!
Brendan, West, and Davin provide interesting situations throughout the story. I laughed, cried, and debated outcomes with myself as I was reading. I would recommend this to anyone who likes some suspense with their romances.
In the original Sleeping Beauty, Claire ends up with Dr. Brendan Charmant. I was honestly flabbergasted by the Camp Davin phenomenon. For reasons that will completely ruin the novel for those who haven’t read it (if I haven’t accomplished that already), as an author there seemed to be compelling, straightforward reasons why Claire had to end up with Brendan Charmant. (In fact, one agent pointedly remarked that even the Claire/Brendan ending was “… probably too wacky … a bit too far outside the bounds of romance or romantic comedy etiquette.”) In my mind, a Claire/Davin ending was not even in the cards, and apparently even a Claire/Brendan pairing seemed to be pushing the conventional mold. Claire had to end up with Brendan Charmant…right?
And then I wrote an “alternate ending” for Sleeping Beauty in which Claire ends up with “the other guy” (i.e. Davin Wibbens). Who knew?
It was strange, but in a good way. My characters are real people to me, and in the time it takes to write a book, the characters begin to feel like old friends. When a book is finished, all those people who you’ve come to care for disappear from your life. It would be as if a group of your “real-life friends” all suddenly told you that they didn’t like you anymore and stopped returning your calls. So going back to Sleeping Beauty manuscript and seeing my “old friends” was nothing but a pleasure. From a craft perspective, it was an interesting exercise. Simply jamming an alternate ending into the book would’ve felt completely contrived. The key was to go back through the manuscript and find the “tipping point” — that moment when, with one small change, events naturally unfold to a different conclusion. I treated the original and alternate versions as parallel universes, with the same characters wholly unaware of the presence of the others, and each making slightly different decisions that altered their futures. I never felt conflicted or uncomfortable while creating the alternate version.