Think of a fairy tale you like. It can be a well-known one, or one that’s not well-known. (If it’s one you’re familiar with mostly from Disney movies, though, you should probably do a quick re-read of the original fairy tale, because those movies have been known to change a lot of stuff.) Now write a scene from that fairy tale, but reset in some way — you could move it to the present day, or the future. You could also move it to another culture (make sure it’s one you’re very familiar with) or find some other way to turn it upside down. Think about what the story is saying, and how that message changes when the story gets moved.
Naomi Kritzer’s novelette “The Thing About Ghost Stories” was a finalist for the 2019 Hugo Award; her short story “Cat Pictures Please” won the 2016 Hugo and Locus Awards and was nominated for the Nebula Award. Her YA novel CATFISHING ON CATNET came out from Tor Teen in November 2019. naomikritzer.com).
Read A Book, Support An Indie
This year’s StoryADay May official bookseller is Reads & Company, a privately-owned indie bookseller in Pennsylvania. Any purchase from the site this month supports Reads & Co.
You can retell the story from the perspective of a side character.
You can modernize the story.
You can twist the fairytale and give it a completely different ending.
Use any genre for this. A Cinderella story with a happy ending featuring a trans-woman? Go for it! Rumpelstiltskin, as Nick Sparks-style uplifting tale where the goblin is really a good-hearted social worker who saves the kids from a grim fate with their terrible parent? Sure! Want to turn the story of Beauty and The Beast into a modern-day slasher-pic? Be our guest!
Leave a comment telling us what source material you picked, what you did with it, and how it went. Or just post and let us cheer you on, if you’re flagging; celebrate with you if you’re still writing; applaud you if you’re getting back on the horse!
Congratulations! You’ve written for seven days straight! If you’re anything like me, things are both easier and harder now. The writing might be becoming a priority in your day: something of a habit that you’re making time for. Sitting down and starting might come easier with all this practice. After coming up with seven new stories in as many days, however, maybe you could use an easier day today. So you have my permission to steal a plot:
Re-tell a classic story in your own way
Folk tales and fairy stories are best for this, because you don’t run into any copyright issues, but if you aren’t planning on publishing this, then feel free to rewrite the end of The Sopranos or resurrect a character from a Joss Whedon show and give them a happier life.
Try placing the story in a different time from the original.
Change the main characters’ genders or ages or skin color or country of origin.
Change the ending.
Make it funny or ridiculous or poignant.
Use the structure of the original story and use your creative energy to imbue the characters with greater depth.
Tell the story of a side-character or reverse the characters’ roles (as in Gregory MacGuire’s Wicked) or tell the story of the servants who have to sweep up after the ball, or run all over the countryside trying to find out who the glass slipper belongs to…
Whether you like the Disnified Happily Ever After versions or the grim Grimm originals, fairy stories are a great source of inspiration for a writer.
You can rewrite the tales with a modern twist, or a funny one, or you can simply take the morality-play form and use it for your own story.
I come back to this prompt idea again and again because it is such fertile ground and because EVERYONE knows a fairy story or folk tale (if you need a reminder of some, go here).
Alternatively, you could choose to write an allegory (think: Narnia, or Animal Farm). If you do write an allegorical story, however, bear in mind this advice from James Scott Bell’s book Plot & Structure:
“Allegory is difficult to do well, since it may just come off as merely preaching in the guise of an imaginative tale…Make the characters real and not just stand-ins for your ideas.”