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Writing prompt 8: Rewrite a Fairy Tale

12 February, 2008

This is a great prompt because you already know the story. All you have to do is add your own twist.

Choose a fairy tale you like and rewrite it by changing one important element.

To explain how this works, I’ll use the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

  • Change the point of view / perspective.
    Fairy tales are invariably told in 3rd person. What about trying 1st person? And whose perspective will you use–Little Red? The wolf?  Or will you try bringing the perspectives of both characters?
  • Change the time period. How would you revise the story to place it in modern life? Perhaps you can try placing the plot essentials (e.g., innocent girl, attempted murder through impersonation) in another time period, e.g., 1920s Sydney, frontier USA in the 1800s.
  • Change the relationship. Revise the kind of relationships Little Red has. E.g., with her grandmother, her mother, the wolf, or the woodsman who saves her. How does this affect the story and particularly the ending?
  • Change the genre. Move the story from the genre of fairy tale to another genre. Ensure your writing style matches your choice. For example, one of my students wrote a hilarious account of the Goldilocks story, using the crime/detective genre. The story was told in the words of a tough ‘Dragnet’-style cop investigating Goldy’s crime.How would your selected fairy tale change if you wrote it as a frothy chick-lit diary, a la Bridget Jones? Or as sci-fi, western, action/adventure, romance? Or as a breathless ‘kiss and tell’ memoir? Psychological thriller? Zany comedy? A whodunit?
  • Change the ‘place’. Place can be physical, cultural or socio-economic.

    • Physical: Move the story from the woods to somewhere else. Will you set the story on a beach? In a shopping mall? On a cruise ship? At a skate park? In a coffee shop? How does this change the ingredients?
    • Cultural: Place the story in another culture. E.g. an Australian barbecue, a Balinese market, the planet Genetica. Or within a sub-culture, formal or informal, e.g., skinheads, battle re-enactment group, a bonsai association.
    • Socio-economic: Working class/blue collar? People on the edges of society, the fringe-dwellers? The stratospheric rich? The middle-class?

Variations:

  • Writing group exercise: Brainstorm in a writing group to create a list of possibilities for one fairy tale. Then individuals choose from the list to create their own take on it.
  • Reversal: Select a modern account (e.g., news item, celebrity exposé) and rewrite it as a fairy tale. Have fun deciding who’s the evil fairy, the trolls under the bridge, the fairy godmother, etc.
  • Plot: If you don’t want to write a whole story, analyse the main character’s motivation, then sketch out a possible plot. Consider how you’d establish a memorable beginning and ending.
  • Non-fiction: If you’re interested in non-fiction, consider the message your chosen fairy tale suggests.  Does this message hold up in today’s world? How or how not?
  • Poem: Write a poem about whatever captures your attention in the fairy tale you’ve chosen. Will you write the poem without referring to the characters or the fairy tale by name? Or is it important to do so?
    Or start with the first line of a well-known poem and incorporate elements from your chosen fairy tale–and see what happens. E.g., Whose woods these are I do not know. But I need to walk through them to get to my grandmother’s house. Today, the woods seem even more dark and deep. As I walk through them I watch them fill up with snow. Suddenly….
  • Creative warm-up: Use the prompt as a creative warm-up, where the aim is to let your creative mind off its lead so that it can explore the familiar for unusual links and associations.
    If you freewrite, write the title of the fairy tale at the top of your page. Then, start writing—without stopping—for at least 10 minutes. Let your mind play with the issues of who is involved, what happens and why. Let it go off on tangents. For example, writing about Cinderella may remind you of a disastrous school dance you attended.

    Or try clustering or mapping ideas on a sheet of paper. Capture the odd associations your mind makes as it plays with the fairy tale.

Have fun with this one,

Marsha

19 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 April, 2012 2:33 am

    I appreciate your writing prompt. I too am in a poem-a-day marathon. So much fun!
    Thank you.

    Linda

    Like

  2. Lola permalink
    5 June, 2011 7:02 pm

    Thank you! This is really helpful! I have to rewrite a fairytale for school and this website tells me everything on how to do that.

    Like

    • 8 June, 2011 8:55 am

      Thanks very much. I’d love to read what people come up with when they rewrite a fairy tale. It’s a great exercise. I’ve used it with university students–they came up with unusual takes on the familiar tales.

      Like

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