Advice on Writing a Fairy Tale Retelling

If you’ve ever written, or tried to write, a fairy tale retelling, you’ll know that it’s not at all the same as writing any other story. Though you have a great deal of creative license, you can’t simply take the story exactly where you want it to go. You must stick to at least a skeleton of the original tale. Your finished story must be recognizable when compared to the original, whether in theme, character, plot line, or some other way.

I know many of you are writers, and almost all of you are fairy tale admirers. So perhaps these tips on writing a fairy tale retelling will help or inspire you in some way. I observed my own method and wrote down the brainstorming process I go through before attempting a retelling.

Retelling Pic

Please do yourself a huge favor and, before anything else, research the original fairy tale. All versions of the original, in fact, because sometimes there are more than one. I love Disney as much as the next person, and if you feel it’s necessary to base your story off the Disney version, by all means go right ahead. But only after you’ve researched the original version(s). And only after you’ve come up with a very unique spin on your own retelling. Sometimes the original version opens up ideas in your mind that you never would suspect otherwise, makes you ask questions you didn’t know you had. For example: Why did Cinderella’s father (still alive, by the way, and not dead like the Disney version tells it) stand idly by and watch all the horrible things Cinderella’s stepmother put her through?

So . . . yeah. I’m aware this is a question that all authors ask about every story they write. Or so I assume. How else can you come up with something original? When writing a retelling, this part is actually simpler than when you write a unique tale. Instead of asking “what if” to questions you have to come up with to begin with, you get to ask “what if” to a theme/plot/climax that has already been written for you. Easy, right? Start by making a list of all the things you personally expect when you think of the particular fairy tale you plan on retelling.

Story: Aladdin. A central object: Magic lamp. What if: The lamp wasn’t magical? What if: The lamp wasn’t a lamp at all, but some other object? What if: The lamp didn’t contain a genie who would grant three wishes, but instead a demon who dispersed three curses? The possibilities are endless.

You need to have strong feelings about where your story takes place. Take a setting you love – or even hate – and drop your story there. What happens? How do these unique settings change elements of your story? Make the location original, detailed, even surprising. Throw it into contrast with the mood of your story, or with what would normally be expected. Write the setting almost as if it were a person, make it come alive, and make your characters engage with it and react to it in sensory ways. This is another principle that works with just about any story; however, with a fairy tale retelling it can add an extra punch simply because the original story is so very well known. That means that a fresh and unexpected setting for such a well-worn tale will have that much more fascination for the readers.

This one is done a lot, although it never seems to lose popularity. There are just so many variations that the possibilities seem endless. I did it myself in A Wish Made of Glass, writing a loose version of the Cinderella fairy tale from the POV of the stepsister. Try it yourself for the story you plan to retell. Choose a different character in the story, or perhaps create a brand new character and plunk her into the middle of the fairy tale. How do the events of the story appear to this person? How is she effected by them? Will she do something that spins the rest of the tale into an exciting new direction?

This is one of my favorites, and I used it in the most recent retelling I wrote (finished only a few days ago!). It’s pretty self-explanatory: Take the fairy tale you’d like to retell and mesh it with another fairy tale . . . or even another story that’s NOT a fairy tale. The Little Mermaid meets Blackbeard. Rapunzel meets Henry VIII. Sleeping Beauty meets Die Hard. This is so creatively attractive to me because of the wild possibilities that open up when weaving two (or more) unlikely stories together. You are forced to push both stories to the limit, bend them into unexpected shapes, watch as the characters meet each other and do unpredictable deeds. How could you NOT come up with a fun and exciting twist?

Take your fairy tale completely out of the fairy tale/fantasy genre. Maybe even take it out of the time period in which it is set. Using your imagination, before writing anything at all, just picture what the events of the given fairy tale would look like in another genre. What would happen to Hansel and Gretel if they wandered into a mysterious, remote factory run by a cyborg witch who, instead of eating them, wanted to use them as guinea pigs for cutting-edge scientific experimentation?

This is one of my favorites. Choose an element of the fairy tale as your centerpiece. Maybe it’s the magical beanstalk in Jack and the Beanstalk. Maybe it’s the thought of a long, enchanted slumber as in Sleeping Beauty. Or maybe it’s a particular favorite character of yours, such as the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. After you’ve chosen your centerpiece, begin building a story AROUND it. Remember to also sprinkle elements of the original story, in whatever detail or capacity you choose, as you build your NEW story. In A Wish Made of Glass, I took the glass slippers themselves and gave them supposed powers: the ability to hold their wearer’s heart within them. I included elements of the original story as well. Stepsisters who must deal with the remarriage and neglect of their parents, a loose version of a “fairy godmother” in the form of the fey folk who live in the forest, etc.

Many times after choosing a centerpiece to base your story around, ideas will begin to flood your imagination about HOW you can use that piece, whatever or whoever it may be, in unique and new ways. Brainstorm, let your imagination fly free for a while before you begin to write, and the story you come up with may surprise you.

I’m curious, have you ever dreamed of writing a fairy tale retelling? Maybe you’ve already written one (or more!). I’d love to hear about the inspiration for your story, or the story you plan to write one day. Tell me in the comments below.

The Vintage Jane Austen Tour

Oh my. First off we have retellings, which I love. Second, we have Jane Austen, whom I adore. How could I say no to being involved in this blog tour?! Take a look at the beautiful covers and intriguing premises of the Vintage Jane Austen books below. I can’t wait to read them myself!


What would it be like to see Elizabeth Bennet in 1930’s clothes? What if Emma Woodhouse was the daughter of a car dealership owner? What if Marianne Dashwood was seeking to become a movie star in the golden age of film? The Vintage Jane Austen series explores the world of Jane Austen, set in 1930’s America. Five authors took on Jane Austen’s five most popular novels and retold them set in the depression era, remaining faithful to the original plots. As an extra bonus to the series, there is a collection of short stories that were inspired by Jane Austen. Which of these books do you most want to read?

Emmeline by Sarah Holman (Emma): The talk of stock market crashes and depression isn’t going to keep Emmeline Wellington down. Born to wealth and privilege, Emmeline wants nothing more than to help her new friend, Catarina, find a husband. Emmeline sets her sights on one of the town’s most eligible bachelors, but nothing seems to go right. Even her friend and neighbor Fredrick Knight seems to question her at every turn.

Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant (Sense and Sensibility): Canton, Ohio, 1935. Ellen and Marion Dashiell’s world crumbles when their father is sent to prison. Forced to relocate to a small town, what is left of their family faces a new reality where survival overshadows dreams. Sensible Ellen, struggling to hold the family together, is parted from the man she’s just learning to love, while headstrong Marion fears she will never be the actress she aspires to be. When a dashing hero enters the scene, things only grow more complicated. But could a third man hold the key to the restoration and happiness of the Dashiell family?

Bellevere House by Sarah Scheele (Mansfield Park): It’s March, 1937 and Faye Powell couldn’t be happier. After moving to live with her uncle, a wealthy banker, she’s fallen into the swing of life with his exuberant children–including Ed. The one she’ll never admit she’s in love with. But she hadn’t reckoned on the swanky Carters getting mixed up in that vow. Ed seems to be falling for charming, sweet Helene Carter. And when Faye’s cousin BeBe trusts her with a secret about Horace Carter, Faye is in over her head. Will she betray the confidence BeBe’s given her? Will she lose Ed to Helene? The days at Bellevere House are crowded with surprises and only time will tell how God plans to unravel Faye and Ed’s hearts.

Perception by Emily Benedict (Persuasion): Upstate New York, 1930. Thirteen years ago, Abbey Evans was persuaded to break off her engagement to a penniless soldier headed to the front lines of the Great War. A daughter of one of America’s wealthiest families could never be allowed to marry so far beneath herself. But Black Tuesday changed everything. With her family’s prominence now little more than a facade, Abbey faces the loss of her childhood home. As if that weren’t enough, the only man she ever loved has returned after making his fortune – and he wants nothing to do with the young woman he courted before the war. With the past forever out of reach, the time has come for Abbey decide her own fate, before it is too late…

Presumption and Partiality by Rebekah Jones (Pride and Prejudice): Coming soon…A retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice… set in 1930s Arizona.

Second Impressions: Jane Austen’s stories have inspired writers for generations…in this collection they inspire fiction across the genres!

From the English Regency to the American 1950s, in Houston or a space freighter, fairytale land or a retirement center…Austen’s timeless characters come to life again.


Visit these blogs during this week to find interviews, book reviews, and much more!

November 5

        Review of Emmeline – Once Upon the Ordinary

Review of Bellevere House – Kaylee’s Kind Of Writes

Series Spotlight – A Real Writer’s Life

Interview with Kelsey Bryant – Resting Life

Series Spotlight – Kelsey’s Notebook

November 6

Interview with Sarah Holman – J. Grace Pennington

Review of Emmeline – Kaylee’s Kind Of Writes

Mini-Reviews and interview with Sarah Scheele – Deborah O’Carroll

Interview with Rebekah Jones – Livy Lynn Blog

Review Suit and Suitability – Resting Life

November 7

Interview with Kelsey Bryant – J. Grace Pennington

Review of Perception – Kaylee’s Kind Of Writes

Review and Interview of Perception – Purely by Faith Reviews

Review of Second Impressions – The Page Dreamer

Series Spotlight – Finding the True Fairytale

November 8

Interview and Review Suit and Suitability – Once Upon the Ordinary

Review of Suit and Suitability – Kaylee’s Kind Of Writes

Review of Perception – A Brighter Destiny

November 9

Series Spotlight – God’s Peculiar Treasure

        Review of Second Impressions and Suit and Suitability – Ordinary Girl, Extraordinary Father

Interview with Rebekah Jones – Kaylee’s Kind Of Writes

Series Spotlight – Christian Bookshelf Reviews

November 10

Review of Suit and Suitability – With a Joyful Noise

Series Spotlight – Liv K. Fisher

Review of Second Impressions- Kaylee’s Kind Of Writes

Review of Perception – She Hearts Fiction

Interview with Sarah Holman – Rebekah Ashleigh

November 11

Series Spotlight – Reveries Reviews

Review of Suit and Suitability – Faith Blum

Interview with Sarah Holman – Kaylee’s Kind Of Writes

Interview with Hannah Scheele – Peculiar on Purpose

Review of Bellevere House – Seasons of Humility

As part of this special blogging event, we are giving away a $25 Amazon gift Card.

Click the link below and enter to win:



Stories and More Stories

So many writerly things happening lately. After being on a bit of a (if unasked-for) hiatus for a year, these past several months my imagination has felt the need to make up for lost time. After about a month of simply trying to get the skeletons of all my ideas down on paper, I finally had to take a step back and decide which one to pursue first. As you may remember from a previous post, I chose to focus on a chapter book for children (ages 7-12) and I am happy to announce today that my revisions for this story are finished at last.

You know what that means! I will be asking 2 or 3 beta readers to look over the story and offer feedback, criticism, and advice. Never having written anything in this age category before, I’ll admit I’m a little nervous of the results. But it was a story I felt I had to tell, so though it may need even more revisions, I am ready to share it with at least a few others at this point, and with everyone a short way down the road.

I wished to put off writing a full-length novel for the time being, simply because I have so many other things going on in my life that I know I don’t have the time to devote to it. Despite this, a story idea for a trilogy (YA fantasy of course!) has been stubbornly clamoring at the back of my mind for a long time now and I had to give in finally and at least write the outline for the first book . . . which led to writing the outline for the second and third books . . . which led to writing character sketches and fleshing out some scenes that I had in my mind . . . which . . . well, you get the point. This trilogy is daunting to me, and will probably not be written in full until some time in the future, but it is most certainly not an idea that is fading. The opposite, in fact. When characters start talking to you in the middle of every-day tasks on a daily basis, and when scenes play out so vividly in your head that you rush to the nearest scrap of paper to get them down, you know there’s no escaping the story.

In the meantime, to fill my time between outlining trilogies and revising a children’s book, I have also been working on some fantasy short stories which I would love to publish as a collection one day. So many of these ideas are so exciting to me, yet aren’t full enough for a novel. Answer? Put it in a short story! I’m so thrilled about some of these stories, I can’t wait to get all my ideas explored and written.

With my newly-written and revised children’s chapter book has also come my desire to add a few illustrations within the book itself. I won’t decide on this for certain until I’ve spoken with my agent and some others who have had experience to see if this is a feasible option. But it has led me lately to scouring book store aisles and Pinterest boards for samples of artwork that I admire.


Illustrations have such an impact on our feelings for a story. I’d love to know what some of your own favorite illustrations or artists are!

Also, what have you been up to this end-of-summer?

AMA’s and Other News


Kate ForsythSome of you may already be members of the Fairy-Tale Forum, a Facebook page that fellow author Shonna Slayton and I started a few months ago. If you are, you will know that we have frequent AMA (Ask Me Anything) posts from invited guests. We have had talented artists, authors, crafters, bloggers, podcasters, and more visiting our page, and it is always SUCH a blast.

If you’re not a member of our page, please come visit! Check out the past AMA guest Thirteenth Princessposts, along with all the other intriguing and even fascinating things our other members post on a daily basis.

I’m excited to say that I recently booked Diane Zahler for an AMA on June 26th, and we will have author Kate Forsyth visiting sometime in July. You won’t want to miss your opportunity to ask these wonderful authors anything you like about their work, life, or fairy-tales in general! See this past AMA post from when Gail Carson Levin was our guest.


I recently had a historical flash fiction story published in Splickety Magazine, featuring one of my favorite historical figures, Eleanor of Aquitaine. You can purchase the paper or digital version of the magazine here. This issue features some pretty great authors, such as Gillian Bronte Adams and Julie Berry.Splickety June

Short stories have abounded recently, it seems. Other than the above flash fiction story, I have written two other stories as well (titled, at least for now: The Demon in the Hills and The Fox Prince). Throughout the past months I have written down several ideas for other short stories as well, and hope to publish all of them together in a book sometime in the future.

Edits on my middle-grade novel are . . . slow. But still happening when I get a spare half-hour here and there. Once edits are done and the manuscript is sent to my beta readers, I will want to find a good illustrator to come up with a few small images for this story. I just don’t think it would be complete without that!


This summer has been flying by already, writing, working, spending time traveling and seeing friends, enjoying every moment I spend with my 10-year-old son.

How has your summer been treating you? What books are you reading? What plans do you have?



Fairy Tale Giveaway


For those of you who haven’t heard, author Shonna Slayton and I have started a shiny new group on Facebook called Fairy-Tale Forum. If you’re not part of it yet, please come on over and join! We have lots of fun stuff planned, and hope to see some fun fairy-tale-ish things from the rest of you as well!Beauty-and-the-Beast-fairy-tale

This week we have been having an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with editor and fairy-tale blogger Tahlia Kirk (Timeless Tales Magazine, anyone?!). She is so talented, I can’t even tell you. Please head over to our group and ask her whatever you’d like . . . she’s very responsive and so very fun to chat with!


Also, beginning today, we have an awesome giveaway in honor of the upcoming Beauty and the Beast movie. Here’s what we’re giving away! I’m so thrilled!

Beauty and the Beast pinterest

Any thoughts on Beauty and the Beast in general? Where does it fall in your lineup of favorite fairy tales? Who are your favorite characters? What do you love (or not love!) about it? Will you be going to see the new movie?


A New Chapter

Friends . . . It has been a while since I’ve blogged! I’ve missed you. We have some catching up to do!


First things first: A Wish Made of Glass has been made into an audio book!! If any of you follow my Facebook page, you will have seen my occasional posts on the exciting progress of the audiobook – what a fun process! I auditioned several narrators, and was absolutely thrilled with Keely, the lady I ended up choosing. Keely’s voice is mesmerizing and whimsical and just perfect for my little tale. I couldn’t be happier with her lovely rendition of it, and I think you’ll love it too.

I have several FREE audio books to give away, too (of course! You knew I would!). In order to receive one, you only have to do two little things for me: Write a review of it to post on Amazon, and share either your review or the link to the audio book on as many of your social media as you’re comfortable doing so. See . . . not so bad!

If you’d like to be considered for receiving a free code for the audio book, email me at and let me know why you’re interested, and what social media you’d plan on sharing the book through (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.). Preference will be given to those who also have blogs they plan to share on. If you’ve already read A Wish Made of Glass – no worries! You still qualify for receiving a free copy!


Life has thrown some huge changes at me this past year or so. Some good and some bad, including two big moves, a change in schools for my almost-10-year-old son, and a brand new job for me. Needless to say, amidst all these changes, my writing has had to sit on the back burner. That doesn’t mean that everything that has been happening to me hasn’t been grist for the mill . . . when life gets complicated and sad and stressful and unexpectedly joyful, that’s where the real stories come from! So, story ideas abound, and you’ll often find me scribbling away on the back of a receipt or church bulletin, to capture the next idea or snippet of an idea before it floats away.

About 3 or 4 months ago, when my son was having a hard night, I lay in bed with him and told him a bedtime story (something I haven’t done in ages!). That story, which was for his own courage and comfort, sparked something in me, and I couldn’t let it go. A few weeks after telling it to him, I began writing it. And just a couple weeks ago, I finished the rough draft of what is now a 14,000-word children’s book. Yes, it’s different from what I’m used to writing. But still fantasy, still full of fun and whimsy and even some heartbreak. I’m so excited to be able to do my preliminary revisions and then gather a few beta readers to help me on the next step to publishing this story.

Tell me what this near year has been like for you so far . . .?

Are Fairy Tales a Waste of Time?

This is a guest post by Brent King.

As a Christian urban fantasy author I have been confronted, as have many of my writing partners, by those who doubt that fantasy, or fairy stories, have any anchor in the real world. Worse yet, some have argued that they take their reader far out of this world into an imaginary place that has no connection to reality.

Is this true? Are fairy stories a mindless waste of time? Do they lure our minds away from reality into an anchorless world of fantasy?

What Fairy Tales Do

It’s true, when we experience a good fairy tale it allows us to open up a place inside of us where we can actually believe its enchantments. It is thrilling to go adventuring with Kyran and Posy, or on a quest with Frodo, but does it snow-white-933491really have anything to do with our world?

The answer is a resounding “yes.” Fairy tales:

  • give us a lens to see the world in a startling new way.
  • help us to see our lives not only as they are, but as they could be (or perhaps should be).
  • touch us in their most signature way by how we experience their endings: that sudden, unexpected joy that washes over us in the miraculous grace of what Tolkien called the “eucatastrophe.”

But How Can This Be?

Fairy stories are only successful to the extent that they reflect our world. Who would be moved by a story to which they could not relate? The only reason why the fairy world attracts us is because it is fashioned after the truth of our world.

Indeed the fairy world is our world, a world of wonder we can experience in the real—right now. There is awe, wonder, and amazement in our world. There is beauty and redemption beyond all our evil and brokenness. The problem is that our eyes are often too compromised, shaken, pacified, unfocused, jaded, or injured to see it.

take-532097Where Fairy Tales Shine

This is where fantasy shines. In a world where the simple virtues of God have become routine and expected, a fairy tale catches us off-guard and we are surprised by the truth. It breaks through what CS Lewis referred to as our “stained-glass and Sunday school associations,” and the result is pure delight. This was JRR Tolkien’s point in his lecture on fairy tales:

“The peculiar quality of the ”joy” in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth.”

Teaching by Delighting

A good story both delights and teaches, and that is the power of a great fairy tale. It teaches by delighting. This anchors the fairy tale deep in the real world, powerfully connecting it to our lives in ways that are essential to society.

Are Fairy Tales A Waste of Time?

Are fairy tales a waste of time? Only if teaching truth is a waste of time. There is realm of awe and wonder in our world, scenes of beauty and redemption, yet many of us would miss them without a good story, indeed, without a grounding fairy tale.


Brent KingBrent King is a freelance writer of Christian urban fantasy from Lake Oswego, Oregon. He also works as a massage therapist and health consultant. He has two sons, 20 and 23, who live in British Columbia, Canada.
Brent’s first book, The Grip of Grace: God’s Hand in The Lord of the Rings, was published in January, 2014. His debut novel, The Fiercest Fight, was published in November 2015.
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Literary Losers – Interview with a Villain

You may remember the review I wrote on Nathan Lumbatis’ spectacular new book, Daniel and the Sun Sword. Well, today I feel very privileged to be featuring a video interview between Nathan and the antagonist of his exciting story. You’ll really want to see this . . . it made me smile 🙂


Thirteen-year-old Daniel is about to be adopted. But when he learns his new family wants him as a slave, he runs away with the help of his new daniel and the sun swordneighbors, the naïve and cowardly Ben, and Raylin, a mysterious girl with a shady past.

He begins to second-guess his decision when the cave they hide in transports them to the ruins of Machu Picchu, where they find themselves embroiled in a battle between ancient gods of Life and Death. To top things off, the God of Life draws Daniel into the fray by adopting him as his son and setting him on a quest to complete a broken, mystical sword, a task that will pit him against the god of the underworld.

Now, Daniel and his friends have just one weekend to find the shards before a hoard of supernatural enemies catch up. But that’s not all they face. A trap has been set that even Daniel wouldn’t expect, and he just took the bait.

Will the power of his Heavenly Father be enough to save them?







The Fiercest Fight: Character Interview

I’m thrilled to announce the release of an awesome new book that you Christian fantasy lovers will not want to miss.  Adventure, danger, romance, dark creatures, life and death, and a strong and true message…you’ll find that and much more in The Fiercest Fight.  Also…that cover is simply amazing – I dare you to disagree with me!

Without further ado, here’s a fun and tantalizing character interview between the author, Brent King, and the protagonist of The Fiercest Fight, Tristan.

Character Interview with Tristan

Hey! This is the first post in a blog tour to celebrate the release my debut fantasy novel, The Fiercest Fight. I can’t think of a better way to start than with an interview of my protagonist, Tristan.

*leans back in his chair and runs his fingers through his hair*
But I’m going to ask the first question: Why did you give me your red hair? You must have known how my schoolmates would tease me.

Yeah, I did. But all you have to know is how to smile and say, “I know. Isn’t it cool?” It’s a small price to pay for such a distinguishing feature.

*shifts in his seat*
Easy for you to say! The guys were relentless.

So is that what you hate worst about life?The Fiercest Fight Cover

Well, not exactly.
*removes sunglasses, shifts glowing eyes*
It used to be, but unfortunately, life got more complex. My issues now make my red hair trouble seem juvenile.

*squints into Tristan’s eyes* It sounds like you’ve grown up a bit then.

I had to.

Was it scary?

*slips sunglasses back on and nods*
You would be scared too if you had to face…uh…do you believe in monsters?

*twirls a pencil in between fingers*
I’m not sure…

You would if you were me.

I would?

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to someone?

I thought I was asking the questions.
*eyes twinkle*

*lifts up hand and stares at it, flexing his fingers*
Well, to answer my own question then, I’ve hurt people pretty bad. I wish the beast had never come to me. He’s a fearsome—


You wouldn’t understand. It’s too…unbelievable. Even Pastor Mike had a hard time at first.

Are you talking about a wildcat or a wolf?

*rises and shakes his head*
Much worse than that! This creature would make you believe in God…or at least search for Him.

I do believe in God. Do you?

He offered me life or death. It wasn’t easy, but I chose death.

*rises and shakes Tristan’s hand*
That’s a bit cryptic, but I wanted it that way.

Thanks a lot!

*calls after Tristan as he exits*
You’re welcome, and thanks for the chance to ask a few questions.

Well, there you have it: a few words with my protagonist. If you have any further questions for him, don’t hesitate to leave them below. I’ll make sure he answers them.




Brent KingBrent King is a freelance writer of Christian fantasy and historical fiction from Lake Oswego, Oregon. Brent is a musician, a waterman, and has two sons, 20 and 23, who live in British Columbia, Canada. Brent’s first book, The Grip of Grace: God’s Hand in The Lord of the Rings, was published in January, 2014.