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Writing prompt: Rewrite a Fairy Tale

12 February, 2008

This is a great prompt because you already know the plot of a fairy tale. All you have to do is add your own twist.

The challenge is to choose a fairy tale—and then rewrite it by changing ONE important element–e.g., Little Red Riding Hood.

Change the point of view or perspective
Fairy tales are usually told in third person. How about trying 1st person?
Or tell the story from one character’s perspective. Will be it be Little Red, the wolf, the grandmother? Or do you want to try the challenge of using the perspective of more than one main character?

Change the time period
What changes if you set the story in another time period?
Use the same plot essentials (e.g., innocent girl, attempted murder through impersonation), but perhaps change the time period to 1920s Sydney, or the American frontier in the 1800s.

Change the relationship
Change the kind of relationship Little Red has with her grandmother, mother, the wolf, or the woodsman who saves her. How does this change affect the story and particularly the ending?

Change the genre
Move from fairy tale to another genre. Ensure your writing style matches your choice.
One of my students rewrote the Goldilocks story as a crime/detective story, with a tough Dragnet-style cop investigating Goldy’s crime.
What would change in your selected fairy tale 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 whodunnit?

Change the ‘place’

Move the Goldilocks story from the woods to a beach, shopping mall, cruise ship, skate park, or coffee shop. How does this change the other story ingredients?

Place the story in another culture. E.g. an Australian barbecue, Balinese market, the planet Genetica.
Or within a sub-culture, formal or informal, e.g., skinheads, battle re-enactment group, a bonsai association.

You can change the original characters to make them working class/blue-collar, fringe-dwellers, members of the stratospheric rich, or middle-class.

Other variations

Writing group exercise
Brainstorm in a writing group to create a list of possibilities for one fairy tale. Then each group members can choose from the list to create their own take,

Select a modern account (e.g., a news item, a celebrity exposé) and rewrite it as a fairy tale. Have fun deciding who’s the evil fairy, the troll under the bridge, the fairy godmother, etc.

If you don’t want to rewrite a whole story, analyse the main character’s motivation and use that to sketch a possible plot. Consider how to set a memorable beginning and ending.

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?

Write a poem about what captures your attention in the fairy tale. 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 the incorporate elements from your chosen fairy tale. What changes?
E.g., Using Robert Frost’s famous poem:  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-ups
Use the prompt as a creative warm-up, aiming to let your creative mind off its lead, exploring the familiar for unusual links and associations.

Write the title of your chosen fairy tale at the top of your page. Now start writing—without stopping—for at least 10 minutes. Let your mind play with the issues of who is involved, what happens and why. Go off on tangents—writing about Cinderella may remind you of a disastrous school dance you attended.Try clustering or mapping ideas on a sheet of paper. Capture the odd associations your mind makes as it plays with the fairy tale.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Cassandra permalink
    11 November, 2015 4:19 am

    Hmm interesting Idea. I’m reading the Harry Dresden novels at the moment and so immersed in them it’s easy to think that there are indeed supernatural things happening all around us that we just don’t really notice. So that trip across town’s to granny’s to do her laundry, only to find the Romanian plumber rather unexpectedly folded under her sink takes on a new twist. Thanks for noticing my blog by the way…


  2. 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.



  3. 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.


    • 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.


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