Everyone loves a good fairy tale. Like the bad jokes Grandpa tells at every family gathering, there is comfort in hearing a well-loved tale over and over again. The end is predictable, we know it, but to hear it still gives a certain sense of satisfaction.
Fairy tales present good, evil, love, redemption, and retribution in story form. The story fascinates and teaches at the same time. As children, these may have been our first brushes with complex issues.
A fractured fairy tale takes the familiar story—and turns it on its ear.
A “fractured” fairy tale breaks the course of the age-old story, somewhere, somehow. Thus, the term fractured. Any deviation in the original story may be considered a fractured fairy tale. This type of story telling can be seen in books, movies, and TV series. Consider the book Cinder, the movies Beastly and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, and the Netflix TV drama Once Upon a Time—not to mention all the retellings of Dracula (though not technically a fairy tale, still a well-known story).
A fractured fairy tale can reimagine the origins of the story itself or explore the origins of a characters not covered in the original. A fractured fairy tale often gives a modern spin to the story, perhaps changing the setting, adding humor or devices seen in today’s writing, or changing the genre.
Writing a fractured fairy tale can get the creative juices flowing for writers. Want to try it? Consider these suggestions:
- Write an origin story for one of the characters: Why is the stepmother so evil? Where did the witch come from that turned the Prince into the Beast? What about the woman that locked Rapunzel in the tower? What was her deal?
- Change the setting: Locked in a tower in a lonely forest? How about the loneliness of living in a bustling city? Fairy tale in the past? Consider setting your fairy tale in the space? In Metal and Bone, I took Cinderella into the steampunk world with modified humans for a twist.
- Change the problem: All stories have conflict, but what if it is not the one that is the most explored?
- Change genres: Instead of focusing on the romance between Belle and the Beast, change the story to a horror and focus on the pitfalls of Stockholm syndrome.
- Mix it up: Bring in characters from other fairy tales and stories. In Metal and Bone, I mention Dr. Frankenstein. Cinderella’s stepsisters are Isabeau (Belle) and Aurelia (Aurora from Sleeping Beauty). Fleshing out secondary, cardboard characters from a fairy tale can be a lot of fun for a writer as they bring a person to life.
Writing a fractured fairy tale is a great way to give your muse a jump start. Practice today with these five tips.
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