Reimagine A Fairy Tale
Fire up your imagination and start working it. Sort through the many classics, fairy tales, fables, parables, and myths out there and pick your favorite. Add your magic twist and voila, you’ve landed in the fairytale fiction scene with a fresh take on an old story. So, how do you reinvent an old narrative and fashion this new masterpiece? You borrow characters, settings, or plots from previously published creations and start the overhaul process by tangling it up with your own imagination. How much or little you decide to borrow is up to you and that decision may change as you begin your first draft.
I love a good mash-up. Fuse two or more separate stories together, where characters intersect, plots crisscross, or settings intertwine. If weaved with care, a good mash-up has potential for a wild and fun read.
Orient readers to the original version of the myth, fable, or fairy tale, so they understand what story you’re retelling. Loop in some elements of the first creation, even if you zigzag and throw the reader a curve ball or two, so the reader can make a familiar connection.
Change the original damsel in distress into a badass, courageous, villain-ass-kicker, who doesn’t take crap and doesn’t need saving because she champions the struggles of the meek and weak and strives to liberate them. Change your hero into a character who needs saving. Let the heroine rush in at the right moment. Better yet, fashion a plot where they both work together to conquer the wicked baddies.
When appropriating characters, they need to be identifiable. If you’re retelling the story of Snow White, the reader must glean familiarity with her in some way, even if you change her entire persona by making her badass.
Bring a tale into the 21st century. Update the antiquated with a contemporary twist as Alex Flinn does in A Kiss in Time. Instead of sleeping beauty being awakened by a prince after 100 years, she’s met with an American teenager, 300 years later, who ducked out of his tour group. Oh, boy! I haven’t read it, but it’s piqued my interest.
Your adaptation must have independent value. Your cool new take on the old must be able to stand on its own as something different. Think Ella Enchanted, the 2004 movie starring Anne Hathaway which provided a newly concocted account of the beloved Cinderella, loosely based on Gail Carson Levine's 1997 novel of the same name. Recall Ever After: A Cinderella Story, a 1998 film starring Drew Barrymore that chronicled a very different version of Cinderella told through the eyes of Danielle de Barbarac.
Both books also sprinkle in historic references and people which is another avenue to explore when reimagining.
Retell the story from the antagonist’s or villain’s point of view. This allows for intriguing possibilities with fresh ideas about the bad guy or gal. Tell a bit of their backstory. Help the reader understand where they’re coming from with the havoc they wreak. Disclose their inner most thoughts concerning their life and how they view the world. Why is the antihero so disillusioned? Why are they vicious, hostile, and nasty?
Shape the dodgy villain into one with redeeming qualities. Stitch together a story about their virtuous side, their love of animals, their passion for cooking, or their care for an oopsie lovechild. Construct a story where the original protagonist has a dark side and their choices and decisions have caused their dysfunctional predicament. Retell the tale from that perspective.
What happened to the beloved characters? Maybe the villain has a change of heart due to unforeseen circumstances or the heroine or hero travel down a dark path that changes their persona. Fabricate an unexpected plot twist and sculpt a curious part two of the original. You know, Peter Pan returns to Neverland, Jack grows up and plants a new beanstalk, Gretel marries, and her daughter goes missing. Unbeknownst to her, the witch also had a daughter who is now seeking revenge. You get the idea.
Stephanie Meyer, author of The Twilight Saga books, took a different reimagining route by turning normally scary, villainous vampires and werewolves (shapeshifters to be exact) into beautiful characters. Most of whom jumped off the page as heartthrobs to the point of fans choosing teams.
Intensify the story by making it dark, edgy, and sexy. After all, we know sex sells.
Explore an aspect that didn’t get much page time. Expand on that concept.
Add humor, jokes, and witty dialogue.
Show a softer side of a character, like the big bad wolf, who falls in love.
Insert more fluff and new lessons for today’s children or steer the lessons toward tweens and teens.
Before embarking on this venture, you may want to check out a few reimagined stories.