Writing a Fairytale

It turns out that turning a fairy tale into a novel-length manuscript feels more like writing a regular fantasy novel than ‘writing a fairy tale.’ There is something about fairytales that demands an obvious narrative voice and brevity in the story telling, neither of which I can feature throughout the bulk of my story.

I’m telling a traditional fairytale story throughout my larger narrative, weaving two stories together to put questions into the readers’ minds and inspire theories about what is going on without actually giving anything away until the right time in the larger story. In order to do this, I have to keep the narrative voice of each piece unique. Though the whole story overall is a fairytale, I want the shorter, verbalized story to stand out as the obvious fairytale until later in the story.

I’m only eight thousand words or so in on the “regular” part of the story and have written exactly one line of the “fairy tale:” Once upon a time, there was a handsome young prince. Hahaha! Writing the fairytale within the fairytale is definitely going to be fun!

After reading a terrible book that falsely promised to be something that it wasn’t, I asked the question: Do people still write fairy tales? I then did what any other too-busy writer would do and resolved to write a fairytale myself. The story came to mind around the time that I wrote my post on How to Not Go Insane While Editing your Novel, in case you were wondering what “creative outlet” I was contemplating when I wrote the first suggestion in the post.

I’ll probably post again about how the fairy tale writing is going since that is what I’m devoting the month of November to (aside from reading and beta reading). I wonder how my feelings about the story will change as the narrative progresses. How do your feelings toward your creative projects change as you work through them?  Is there a pattern or do your feelings rise and fall depending on the quality you perceive from the project?


10 thoughts on “Writing a Fairytale

  1. I’m curious what you see as the difference between retelling a fairy tale and writing a non-fairy tale fantasy novel. I’ve never tried retelling a fairy tale and I tend to shy away from books that claim to be of this type. I’m not really sure why. Perhaps I expect childishness or cardboard characters. I’m sure in many cases if I actually read the books I’d find neither. I think the criteria for a good fairy tale retelling are the same as for a good book of any kind. So would you say a book a fairy tale retelling merely because of the inspiration for it, or is there more to it than that that I’m not seeing?


    1. I think it can vary widely. In the case of the book I read that inspired this post: the story started out whimsical and magical and then took a ridiculous turn that made it into an odd religious type of story, and there was NO magic. It was strange. In the case of what I am currently writing however, I started in the realm of simplicity (a prince, a maid, a princess, a witch, a curse, etc.) and created a story that has that odd sort of fairy tale magic/mystery along with a moral and an incredibly happy ending, haha. As I’ve been writing, it has felt less and less like a fairy tale, and more and more like a regular fantasy novel though. BUT I am interweaving a fairy tale into the larger story, which will help bring it back to that fairy tale type of thinking (I talk more about it in my most recent post https://rqwoodward.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/writing-a-fairytale/).

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