5 ideas for writing fresh fairy tales — from fairy tale flips to mega mash-ups, these tips will make “Tell a Fairy Tale Day” even more magic!
Fairy tales are an especially magical kind of story, and not just when they feature actual magic. They’re magic because they have the power to stay with us through our lives from childhood, and because they’re remembered and adapted through time — across hundreds of centuries!
Fairy tales are also special because they speak to us in lots of different ways. Through putting ordinary people in extraordinary situations, they grip and entertain us. At the same time, fairy tales probe our fears, or warn us about the perils of certain behaviours, like being vain or greedy.
As a result of this resonance, fairy tales invite retellings and reinventions, like a cauldron of soup that’s always on the boil, with new ingredients added by different chefs over time. And, given that there’s no one recipe for making this magical soup, fairy tales are a rich source of inspiration for developing creative writing skills, while having a whole lot of fun — we can all add our own flavour to the soup!
With Tell a Fairy Tale Day celebrated on 26th February, this Get Creative feature shares five ideas for using fairy tales to write original stories. Once written, you could also read our tips for telling stories aloud to make this celebration of fairy tales even more magic!
1. Magical objects
Many fairy tales feature magical objects. Think of Jack’s beans, the mirror in Snow White, the pumpkin that transforms into Cinderella’s coach, and the magic porridge pot.
Write your own fairy tale based around a special magical object. We’ve suggested a few ideas to get you started:
Trainers that don’t stop running
A phone that rings when someone lies
A Magic Money Tree
An Apple of Invisibility
Now head here for more tips on how to transform awesome objects into sensational stories!
2. Flip a fairy tale
To make a fresh and unexpected fairy tale, you could simply flip things around! For example, swap around the goodies and baddies of your story. Imagine if the Wolf was the good guy and Little Red Riding Hood turned out to be the naughty one. What if Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother wasn’t so good after all? What if Cinderella chose not to marry the prince?
3. Make a mega mash-up
All kinds of magic, mischief and adventure can happen when you mash different fairy tales together! What would happen if Little Red Riding Hood met Jack (or the Giant) from Jack and the Beanstalk? What if Little Red Riding Hood met the Three Little Pigs instead of the Big Bad Wolf? What if Goldilocks found the Three Little Pigs instead of the Three Bears? What if Rapunzel escaped the tower, tracked down the witch who’d trapped her there, and discovered that the same witch had locked Hansel and Gretel in her gingerbread house?
Now it’s over to you — pick two tales (or more) and mash them together to make your own magical fairy tale.
4. Make it modern
Traditional fairy tales are usually set “once upon a time”, in a world that feels very long ago, and very different from our own. So, you could make your own fresh fairy tale by giving one of your favourites a modern makeover.
You could change the character’s name and give them different clothes. For example, Little Red Riding Hood could be called Scarlet and wear a red hoodie. Instead of going to the market to sell a cow, Jack could try to sell some of his old toys. You could also update the setting of your fairy tale. Imagine Rapunzel in a tall block of flats rather than a castle tower. Imagine the witch’s woodland gingerbread house was a sweet stall in a shopping centre.
You could also update any magical objects you include in your tale. What if the witch in Snow White presented a poisoned pizza instead of an apple?!
5. Fearful themes
Lots of fairy tales are about things we’re scared of, and how the characters overcome those fears, perhaps through finding courage, using a magical object, or receiving help from others. For example, Hansel and Gretel is about being afraid of getting lost and being alone.
Pick a fear and fashion your own fairy tale around it. Try to express how it feels when you’re scared. Think about how your fairy tale character overcomes their fear. Maybe they realise the dark isn’t so scary after all. Or maybe they discover that the snake they’re scared of is actually pretty friendly. It’s up to you!
For more creative inspiration and activities, check out the rest of our Get Creative series.
Joanne Owen is a writer and publishing professional with over twenty years’ experience of the book industry, and the author of a how-to children’s guide to creative writing, You Can Write Awesome Stories. Alongside writing and reviewing books, she hosts writing workshops and is an Editorial Expert for LoveReading.