Today we continue with the third of my ‘fairy story’ structures: Hansel Gretel.
Start with a life-changing moment and lead your characters through the story to show us who they become.
Hansel and Gretel starts off with a bang: two kids, alone in woods, abandoned!
What are they doing to do?
After the big opening, all their struggles teach us about the kids’ characters. By the time Gretel finally kicks the witch into the oven, grabs her brother and they make their way out of the witch’s cabin, we know enough about these kids to know they’re going to be OK.
How can you replicate this for your characters?
This is a big week at StoryADay: we’re creating a lot of skills that will help you build stories throughout the rest of the month and beyond. Stay tuned!
And don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know you’ve written, how it’s going, and what you’re learning.
Today we’re looking at the third of my ‘Life Changing Moment’ writing prompts (find the first one here, the second one here)
tell a story using the Hansel & Gretel story structure
This story structure is very different from the last two. The life-changing moment happens BOOM right up front.
Two kids, alone in the woods, abandoned by their parents.
This time, things start big and get bigger and bigger until they reach the crunch and something snaps.
Every time the characters take two steps forward they take three steps back. Each time you give the reader a little hope and then take it away:
- They leave breadcrumbs, but animals eat them;
- They find a candy house! But a witch lives in it;
- At least they have somewhere to stay…But the witch wants to cook them and eat them.
In this case the characters’ deepest desire is safety. And tellingly the story ends when Gretel kicks the witch into the oven, rescues her brother, and they walk out of the house.
The storyteller doesn’t waste any time telling us what they do next: we don’t know if they’re going to go home. We don’t know if they’re going to be reconciled with her family or seek revenge. What we do know is that these kids are going to be okay. After all their failures after all their setbacks they summoned up their courage to overcome their circumstances. That’s when the story is over.
- Again, choose a character. Gives them a desire or need, and then put obstacles in their way.
- If you’re getting stuck for ideas at this point, take one of your previous stories (it could be the one from yesterday or the day before) and tell the story again with this new story structure.
- Start with a bang. Do the worst thing you can think of to your character and let them dig themselves out of trouble. But don’t make it too easy. Let them try and fail, and try and fail, until you and they are running out of ideas.
- When I say, “make life difficult for your characters”, you don’t have to write a depressing story. In my chocolate cake story from the other day I could start that story on the day the government outlaws chocolate cake. I can have a lot of fun getting my character try to find ways around the rules ways to obtain cake until finally she realizes what she has to do is get elected. Or I could start the story at her first stump speech and explain the reasons as she campaigns. There are many opportunities to use this story structure with different genres, tones, moods, problems, characters, etc.
- Dig deep, as you think of complications to throw at your characters. Be outrageous, if you want to. Remember, this is StoryADay. This is a safe space. No one is going to grade your story. If it’s a good story, great, you can revise it and publish it and become rich and famous. If it’s a terrible story, you will still learn something from writing it.
Leave a comment to tell me which story structure you enjoyed writing the most.