Fairy tales are often one of the first pieces of writing we hear as children. For many people, they can influence our lives in fantastical ways- hopefully without the talking mice and dancing silverware. But, for many, the simplicity of the fairy tale is also taken for granted. Re-tellings of fairy tales are relatively difficult to breathe new life into if not approached properly. Being able to invent new fairy tales, and also bring a new spin to the old stories, is a challenge that can not come without advice, so here are a few brief tips from me to hopefully make your piece stand out from the rest and make for a fantastic bedtime story.
You need to make the important distinction, from the state: are you retelling or starting from the ground up? In either case, you need to know the basic structure of these tales. Good and evil, fantastic lands, talking animals, underlying messages- these are all necessary elements, but there is still a difference between taking a Cinderella story to a new place and creating something completely new.
Keep your audience in mind. Writing for children, young adults, and literary publications all have different expectations. Though fairy tales are usually targeted towards children, there have been quite a few young adult novels written on the premises of fairy tales, and likely even more published for more adult audiences. Writing with your audience in mind is absolutely crucial in order to making the pieces successful- or, as the case may be, making your piece successful across all audiences.
Keep your atmosphere in mind. This genre of writing can come in many shapes and sizes. Take for example the difference between the Disney rendition of Cinderella, and the Grimm brother’s original take, with gruesome details on the step sisters’ foot mutilation. Many of the fairy tales people here are about sweet fairy godmothers and talking animals, but is that the tone you’re going for? Something to keep in mind while you write.
Are you following the tradition of the fairy tale, or does the happy ending seem too easy? Again, we need to make an important distinction between what the fairy tale needs to serve its function, and what traditions you want to break. There are multiple published works, plays, and films that explore both alternate endings to fairy tales we all know, continue to examine them past their definite ending, or those who simply tell much more grim stories than most people think children should hear. The traditions being broken could either make or break the story, depending on how delicately you handle the subject.
Read a lot of fairy tales!
If you’re interested any more in this topic and are looking for examples, or perhaps you just want to take a look at some stories a little beyond public view, here is an extensive list of other fairy tale adaptations. If you’re looking for the originals, the Grimm brothers, Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Anderson, and Joseph Jacobs are the most well-known and well-documented writers of the genre.
Now that you have a place to start, go finish those fantastic tales of yours before midnight and have fun doing it. Bippity-boppity-boo!
– Melissa Klein