I love Fairy Tales. They have a timeless quality to them that I find charming. Whenever I’m struggling for ideas for a story (or for a blog…) I tend to see myself going back to them for inspiration. So, in the simplest way possible I thought I’d break down the structure of a fairy tale, and then offer a couple of writing prompts that I’ve either done myself or thought of using.
Disclaimer: I am no expert in Fairy Tales, and you can take parts from this list out or add some in depending on the tale. There are people way smarter than me who’ve written about this and you should check them out, but here are the basics:
Common Fairy Tale Structure:
1a. The Protagonist is given a task to complete.
1b. The Protagonist is in a bad situation out of their control.
2.The protagonist is told not to go somewhere, goes there anyway. In the case of 1a they meet the antagonist because of this, in case of 1b the antagonist is the one who told them to do it in the first place.
3. The Antagonist uses some means of deception to trick the hero into a bad / worse situation.
4. Some form of outside assistance aids the Protagonist.
5. The Protagonist gets to their goal, whatever that may be.
6 . The Protagonist and Antagonist clash, either physically, mentally or with words.
7. The Antagonist is defeated.
8. Happily Ever After
Additional Common Elements:
Magic of some kind or another
Talking or Anthropomorphic animals
A guardian, of some sort.
Class struggles (usually with the poor beating the rich or the poor becoming rich.)
Physical representations of human virtue or vice
Child protagonist vs. Adult Antagonist
Using these elements combined with the common structure, you can write your own fairy tale. But here are some additional prompts to jump start the process or shake things up a bit.
Writing Prompt #1: Mix It Up
To create something new and different, play around with a rigid structure like a fairy tale. I find that if you just change the anticipated order of events around, even a little bit, it has a significant impact on the flow of the story. It’s challenging but the final work should be interesting, and entertaining to read.
Writing Prompt #2: Villain’s Perspective
Done in movies like Mirror Mirror, but write your fairy tale again. This time from the antagonist’s perspective. There is an old saying that goes “Every villain is the hero in their mind.” So writing the story from their perspective will help you create a rounded, interesting and perhaps even sympathetic antagonist when you’re ready to revise your piece.
Writing Prompt #3: The Shape of Your Story
I read an interesting article a few years ago, plotting out some of the most well-known types of stories and graphing them based on the characters level of happiness at the time. There were some fascinating results. So this prompt is inspired by that. Take a piece of writing you’ve done, and graph the mood of the main character like you would a math problem. The X-axis being time, and the Y-axis being the character. If the character is happy, good or in a beneficial situation the graph goes up. If the character is unhappy, bad or in a detrimental situation, then the graph goes down. In the end, take a look at the shape. Does it have hills and valleys? A sharp increase or decrease? Visualizing might prove useful for future revision.
Meet the blogger:
CODY ROGERS is a fiction writer, gamer, anime fan and an overall “nerd” personified. He graduated with an AFA in creative writing from Normandale Community College and obtained his BFA from Hamline University. His dream is to team up with an artist and write graphic novels.