Top 5 Tips for Fairy Tale Retellings

By Kayla King, editorial assistant for Harlequin Nocturne

I’ve always loved fairy tales, but it’s no secret that some of them haven’t exactly aged well. And while there are a lot of fairy tale retellings out there, some of them make the mistake of just running over the same old ground.  Here are my top five tips for refreshing your favorite stories and making what’s old new again!

1. Switch around the roles we all know so well. For instance, someone who was a hero before might now be a villain, and the villain just might be the hero or at least an unexpected ally.  This is an obvious switch, but depending on the story, the results can be surprising.

2. Consent! It doesn’t have to be done in a big way, but I breathe a sigh of relief when a fairy tale with some fairly dark implications suddenly has proper conversations about sex.  And protection.  Talking about sex is good!

3. Secondary characters neglected in original stories can be pulled out of the woodwork and made interesting. There’s a lot of sleeping potential there just waiting to be woken up.

4. Do a total setting overhaul. You don’t have to stick to any one time period or place.  How many fairy tales have been rewritten into modern day New York Cinderella stories?  Maybe too many.  See what’s out there and come up with something that really excites you.

5. Show the characters really falling in love. The war against insta-love is endless and this is your chance to rewrite history.  Have them learn things about each other and see them for what they are—complex people.

Which fairy tale would you love to retell? Let us know in the comments!

5 replies on “Top 5 Tips for Fairy Tale Retellings”

I’d love to do a Sleeping Beauty, where Aurora is in a coma and there is a volunteer who comes to read by her bedside every day and chats with her even though she’s asleep. And then in her mind she’d trying to escape whatever is keeping her asleep, which she equates with the curse in Sleeping Beauty with the thorns and everything, and his voice is leading her on and giving her strength to fight.

Years ago, just for fun, I wrote a short story – kind of a Cinderella spin-off. I called it Cinderfella and he was the poor boy abused/enslaved by his step father and brothers. It was light and fun. I never did anything with it, but I do remember having fun writing it.

I would love to do a retelling of Beauty And The Beast! I’m thinking maybe an eccentric billionaire who has an attitude problem and a deep dark secret. He’s living in a world of depression, regret, and denial. The beautiful bookworm that’s forced to work for him brings out the good that’s hidden deep inside him through her Christian example. Of course her favorite book is the Bible. 🙂 Ooh and the guy that’s trying to catch her eye is actually a great guy that everyone admires and approves of. Even her dad. So she’s torn between making her family and friends happy by going with the great church going guy or making herself happy by marrying the “Beast” that everyone hates, but whom has captured her heart.

I liked the idea of retelling a Scottish fairy tale, but I couldn’t think of any so I looked some up. Little Daylight is the story of of a princess who is cursed, in similar circumstances as Sleeping Beauty was, to sleep all day and wake all night and wax and wane with the moon. The curse will be lifted if a prince kisses her. A prince sees her dancing when the moon is waxing, speaks to her and falls in love, but the swamp fairy stops him from seeing her again until the new moon when she is withered and weak. But this doesn’t put off the prince, he looks after her, carries her to try and find help and kisses her; and the curse is lifted.

I think there is potential here to write about a modern day heroine with insomnia and a mood disorder, who expects during her lows to always be alone, and a hero who loves her anyway, and gives her hope and stability.

I like to write a Beauty and the Beast story in which it is the hero who is a beauty and the girl is a beast. The heroine (the Beast) is a young girl who has an anger problem and for medical reasons has to eat on a strict gluten-free diet. The hero (beauty) is a School teacher who is hired to be a tutor for her orphaned niece and nephew. The heroine is influenced by the hero to become a better person due to his Christian faith. The niece, and nephew and cousins plot to get them together. There is another girl (Gaston character) who looks lovely but is ugly on the inside. Men drool over her and everybody pressures the hero to marry the other girl. The problem is the hero already does not like herZ. He also had fallen in love with the Beast girl. His character arc can be about learning to stand up for himself and not let people push him around.

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