One Writer’s Journey

September 12, 2017

Folk and Fairy Tales: Inspiration for All Ages

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:56 am
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Have you ever written a story inspired by a folk or fairy tale?  It is something I’ve been noodling over a lot lately in part because I ran across this blog post – #5onFri: Five Myths to Plunder for Ideas and Inspiration.   These age-old stories can be great sources for story ideas whether you do a fairly vanilla rewrite or use the tale only as a jumping off place.  Just how you use the story may depend on the story itself.

For example, the Celtic story about Brigid and Bres (see the above post) is all about a peace treaty secured through marriage.  Eventually the greed of the bridegroom, King Bres, gets the better of him and everyone ends up fighting once again.  There are deaths and grieving mothers — it is actually a pourquoi tale about funeral customs so you know it is a bummer story.

Picture book potential, no.  MIddle grade?  I don’t think so.  But there are a group of “sons” who have to go to battle because of greedy Dad.  Make one or more of these sons a teen character and you’d have a young adult idea on your hands.

Any story that can be retold for an elementary audience can inspire a picture book.  Just look at the numerous versions of the Gingerbread Man or The Three Pigs.  But retell it from another point of view, with a new setting, or some other twist and you can still have a great picture book such as LIttle Red Gliding Hood or Little Red Riding Hoodie.

But these tales can also make strong middle grade novels as I recently discovered when I read Rump. This novel by Liesl Shurtliff tells the story of a young boy whose mother died shortly after giving birth.  She tried to name him before she lost conscious but all she got out was Rump and the partial name stuck.  The reader journeys along with Rump as he seeks for his true, complete name as well as some clues to who his mother really was and why he can spin straw into gold.  Rump’s best friend is a girl but there’s no heated romance.  He falls out of a tower window and hurts himself but the violence is actually pretty non-violent by fairy tale standards.

Whether you are a fiction or nonfiction writer or someone who writes for the picture book crew or young adult or middle graders, look to folk and fairy tales for inspiration.  You may very well find gold.

For more on traditional tales, check out Fairy Tales: Fracture them to come up with something new or Science Fiction vs Fantasy.



September 8, 2015

Fairy Tales: Fracture them to come up with something new

A favorite fractured fairy tale in the Edwards' household.

A favorite fractured fairy tale in the Edwards’ household.

I have yet to successfully write and sell a fractured fairy tale but Tara Lazar has inspired me to revisit a Billy Goats Gruff retelling.  Lazar is the author of Little Red Gliding Hood due out in October.  In this spin off of the well known fairy tale, Red is an ice skater.  There are many ways to fracture a fairy tale and Lazar’s post on this topic got me thinking.

Play with the title.  That’s what Lazar did in Little Red Gliding Hood.  She replaced Riding with the rhyming word Gliding.  Try this with something like the Three Bears.  You can have Three Pears (believe it or not my son LOVED this story as a preschooler), Three Squares, Three Mares, Three Hares, or even Three Eclairs.  I’m not saying any of these are brilliant but you get the idea.  Change one element and you change the whole story.

Play with the characters.  One of my son’s favorite picture books was Gator Gumbo by Candace Fleming.  This is a Little Red Hen retelling in which Fleming replaces the hen with an aged gator.  What if Goldilocks was a grifter out to take advantage of the bears?

Play with settings.  I’ve often wondered what Candace Fleming decided to do first — swap the hen for a gator or move the story to the swamp.  It would change the story just as much to set it on the tundra, in the rainforest, or in the outback.

Play with the POV.  That’s what Jon Sciezka does in The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.  Instead of telling the story from the pigs’ POV, he gives voice to the wolf.  What would happen if you retold The Gingerbread Man from the POV of the gingerbread man?  Granted, that could easily get too strange for a picture book, but with the right twist it could be warped fun.

Play with props.  Many of the characters in fairy tales have important props.  Swap out Jack’s beanstalk for a sunflower.  What if the witch tried to feed Snow White a cookie but couldn’t guarantee that it was peanut free?  Lazar puts Red Riding Hood on skates.

Take a familiar fairy tale or folk tale out and play with it.  You may end up with a twist that takes readers on a whole new literary journey.


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