Exploring genre | How to write a fairy tale
Most kids are familiar with the fairy-tale stories of Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rumplestiltskin, and Cinderella. Usually written for children, fairy tales tell about the adventures of imaginary beings in faraway lands.
This activity will help you teach your kids how to write a fairy tale.
What Is a Fairy Tale?
The fairy tale genre needs to include certain basic elements. Otherwise, it may not be a fairy tale at all!
These characteristics mark a story as a fairy tale:
- It usually begins with “Once upon a time,” “Long ago,” or “Once there was a …”
- The story takes place in a distant or make-believe land.
- It features imaginary characters such as dragons, fairies, elves, and giants.
- Things happen in threes and sevens (three bears, three wishes, seven brothers).
- Wishes are often granted.
- A difficult problem is solved at the end of the story.
- Good triumphs over evil.
- The story has a happy ending.
In addition, a fairy tale will often include:
- Royal characters such as kings and princesses
- Talking animals
- Magical elements such as magic beans, fairy dust, enchanted castle
How to Write a Fairy Tale
1. Who is the hero or heroine?
Children naturally want to see the main character succeed against the odds! Help your child pick a likeable character for her story. Usually it is someone humble, innocent, or kind-hearted. As you talk about familiar fairy tales, point out how the “good” character is someone the reader cares about—the hero of the story!
Examples: Aladdin, Snow White, Rapunzel, the Three Little Pigs
2. Who is the villain?
Every fairy tale has a villain, someone who has evil intentions toward the main character. This evil character wants to control or harm the main character, sometimes using magic powers to do so.
Examples: Big bad wolf, evil queen, Cinderella’s stepmother
3. What is the magical element of the story?
Most fairy tales include a magical ingredient. Guide your child to choose a friend, guardian, or magic element that helps the hero and adds enchantment to the story. This is a good place to include those magic numbers of three or seven.
Examples: Fairy godmother, genie in a magic lamp, three gifts
4. Where will the story take place?
The setting can affect the mood of the story. For example, a forest can be filled with friendly critters and patches of sunlight, or it can be dark, gloomy, and scary. Ask your child to choose a setting and decide what the mood will be.
Examples: woods, castle, tower, cottage, garden
5. What lesson will the story teach?
A fairy tale usually teaches a lesson about excellence in conduct or character. Help your child decide on the lesson her fairy tale will teach.
Examples: loyalty, bravery, kindness, integrity, hard work, sacrifice
6. What is the story plot?
Our hero needs to face a challenge. The obstacle might be a destination the character must reach. There may be a person to rescue or a spell to break, or the main character may need to find true love.
Examples: Snow White must stay safe from the evil queen, the giant wants to eat Jack, true love will break the Beast’s spell
7. What is the happy ending?
It isn’t a fairy tale without a happy ending! How is the challenge resolved? What leads to happily ever after? How does the villain get what is coming to him?
Examples: The glass slipper fits Cinderella’s foot, the Beast turns back into a prince, the Ugly Duckling turns into a lovely swan
If you’re just beginning to explore this genre with your child, and she’s not quite ready to write a fairy tale on her own, encourage her to rewrite a favorite story instead. Changing some of the elements in a familiar story is a great way to learn more about how to write a fairy tale!
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If you’re looking for more inspiration, one of my favorite products is Warfare by Duct Tape. Imagine the fun your boys will have writing a heroic fairy tale and then fashioning swords out of duct tape!