Four Steps to Start Your Fairy Tale Retelling

A trend that I never want to see go out of style is fairy tale retellings. Ever since I picked up Beauty by Robin Mckinley, I’ve been hooked. Nowadays, we see all sorts of retellings hitting the shelves, from familiar tales to tales that have been waiting for their chance in the spot light.

If you’ve been wanting to start a retelling, but didn’t know where to start, here is your launchpad. Follow these four steps to begin writing your fairy tale retelling.

How I Overcome My Writing Doubts(1)

Step One

Pick a fairy tale that inspires you.

The world is chock full of them. Don’t limit yourself to the tales that Disney has made a fortune on, unless that is what floats your boat.

Personally, I adore Eastern European folk tales, especially involving Baba Yaga. Folk Tales are the bread and butter of the world from the time before we had writing. People sat around fires and told their children dark tales to teach them how to keep themselves safe.

Read mythology books. Read folk lore books. Look into tales involving your cultural/ethnic heritage. Find a culture that inspires you. We always need more diversity on the page. You can pick any kind of tale and make it all your own.

Step Two

Pick your genre!

Don’t feel like you have to be confined to High Fantasy unless that is the story you need to tell. Marissa Meyer shook that with her oddly dystopian fantasy. Or, you could make it super modern like Ashley Poston’s Geekerella.

The genre that you decide to write in will help shape your retelling by creating a world and a culture around your folk tale. Both of these things will define how your characters interact and can help push some of your plots along. Characters have phones? There will be a bit of texting, for sure. Neighboring countries hate one another? Throw your characters in the crossfire.

Step Three

Figure out what your twist will be.

Believe it or not, someone out there is going to be familiar with whatever folk tale/fairy tale. To keep things interesting, you’re going to have to figure out what kind of a twist you want to add to the familiar tale.

Marisa Meyer made Cinderella into a cyborg. Melissa Bashardoust made Snow White about the relationship between Step-Mother and Step-Daughter.

Adding this twist will draw your readers in and keep their attention through out the whole book!

Step Four


You could begin by writing a rough outline and some character sketches. You might need to do some world building. Stick all of these things in a folder so that you have them at hand.

Then, start putting words down. Don’t worry about whether or not the story is perfect. It won’t be on the first pass and that is quite all right. Just put the story down and, later, when your first draft is finished, you can start to make it into the story you envisioned.

That might include a few rounds of revisions and that is alright. From there, the story will evolve. It will change as the characters come alive on the page and make awful choices. Go with the flow.

1 thought on “Four Steps to Start Your Fairy Tale Retelling”

  1. I love this post! Fairy tale retellings are some of my favourite books, I’m actually outlining a YA magical realism reimagining of The Secret Garden for Camp Nano next month 😃 I’m excited to sit down and write it!

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