I’m writing a fairy tale retelling, and it’s got me thinking a lot about fairy tales. The archetypes. Their sheer endurance and popularity. We love these tales. We come back to them time and time again.
When I was a little girl, Little Red Riding Hood was my favorite fairy tale. I used to act out theatrical versions in front of the family room fireplace. And now, as an adult, I’m seeking out new ways to tell the stories I love.
How do we make an old story new? How do we add an unexpected twist? How can we create a suspenseful, surprising story out of something so comfortable and familiar as a fairy tale?
Once Upon a Time has certainly done it. Give Snow White’s evil stepmother some nuance, turn Red into a wolf, give Snow White herself some agency, make Rumpelstiltskin the ultimate bad guy and have him constantly reminding us that magic always comes with a price.
There’s something special about these stories. They’re magical, sure, but they also tell tales of good triumphing over evil. They are, in their own way, precious.
I’m keeping all of this in mind as I write. What can I add to the tale that’s new? How can I dust off a beloved old story and make it fresh? How can I surprise readers?
So far, I am happy to report, my retelling is surprising me. It’s gone in a direction I didn’t expect, following Snow White’s granddaughter as she unravels the truth of her family’s past and digs into the tale—what’s real, what’s not, what isn’t what it seems.
Writing: Wrote 8,361 words this week in The Broken Mirror, a retelling of Snow White. That’s way more than my usual word count—I average about 4-5K a week. Needless to say, I’m happy with this progress. I know it will slow down later in the month when I have more papers to grade, but I’m trying to get as many words as possible in. Not sure I’ll be able to finish this one by the end of the year, but hopefully by the end of January.
Reading: Finished Clutter’s Last Stand by Don Aslett. Started reading Once Upon a Time: Red’s Untold Tale by Wendy Toliver. It’s a sweet, simple story that I’m enjoying so far. To date I’ve read 60 books this year—my goal is 70.
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Have you ever attempted or thought about attempting a fairy tale retelling? What tale did you—or would you—choose? If you’re attempting NaNo, how is your progress? How are your goals, writing or otherwise, coming along?