Exploring genre | Teach your homeschool child to write a fairy tale

by | Sep 15, 2014 | Teaching Homeschool Writing

Most kids are familiar with the fairytale stories of Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rumpelstiltskin, 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 kids, and they’re not quite ready to write a fairy tale on their own, encourage them 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!

Teach kids how to write a fairy tale by including a sympathetic character, evil villain, magical elements, faraway places, and plot twists.

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!

Warfare by Duct Tape

Photo: Carl Offterdinger, courtesy of Creative Commons


  1. Patricia brown

    i like the way you described and set examples for how to write. It helped me, and I’m am a teen and I have never wrote or attempted to write a book, and now I’m interested in writing a book

  2. nadia vally

    Love the way you told us how to write a fairytale

  3. mimi

    The happy ending part is Disney’s definition of a fairytale. Growing up in Europe, I was much exposed to the dark truth of historical fairytales such as those by the Grimm brothers, and others. Unhappy endings were not unusual. I remember feeling sad every time when the little mermaid (not Disney’s April, but the original gal) was turned to sea foam because the prince rejected her; he married someone else …. Fairytales were historically used to teach people lessons, not simply to entertain them.

    • Kim Kautzer

      Thanks for weighing in, Mimi. Though you’re right, of course, about the historical not-always-happy fairy tale ending, my target audience is young writers. That’s why I encourage happy endings!

      • Chloe

        I am a young writer(15 years old), and some people like happy endings but its fun to make it snazzy and change the ending. If you want to be a really good writer then make it your own don’t follow every tip. Such as making the ending happy. Don’t write for the audience write for yourself. It makes it have more meaning and character. The only exception is little kids, then its writing for them.

        • Kim Kautzer

          Absolutely! Tips are just suggestions. This is lesson is aimed at younger writers than you (elementary age), but any writer is free to take ideas and run with them. You’re right that it’s fun to change things up, but young children often do best when starting from a “safer” model like this one.

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad you’re an out-of-the-box thinker and writer, Chloe. Keep it up!

  4. Snorkle

    Thank you! I’m using this with my second graders this week.

    • Kim Kautzer

      How fun, Snorkle! I hope they love, love, love writing fairy tales!

  5. Belle


  6. Michelle

    I am a ten years old writer and my teacher has asked me to write a fractured fairy tale to submit in a competition. Thanks for the tips!

    • Kim Kautzer

      I hope the tips help you write a fantastic fractured fairy tale, Michelle. I’m sure you will do a wonderful job.

    • Kim Kautzer

      Kenroy, of course boys can write fairy tales! As a matter of fact, most fairy tales throughout history have been written by men. As someone commented below, “if you look throughout history it was mostly men that wrote fairytales actually… Hans Christian Anderson, George MacDonald, The Grimm Brothers, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum just to name a few.”

  7. Aslan

    Why do you say “your child” then proceed to continuously say “she” and “her”? Guys write fairy tales too.

    • Kim Kautzer

      Of course guys write fairy tales, Aslan! 🙂 If you look again, you’ll see that most of the article is actually gender neutral. The second-to-the-last paragraph uses feminine pronouns. The last paragraph regarding Warfare by Duct Tape uses masculine pronouns.

    • Rachel

      Yes, if you look throughout history it was mostly men that wrote fairytales actually… Hans Christian Anderson, George MacDonald, The Grimm Brothers, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum just to name a few and that’s why most of the Evil characters are female. I think it’s great to encourage young girls and women to write them actually 🙂

      Actually do you know any female fairytale writers?? I can’t think of any 🙁

      • Kim Kautzer

        That’s a great observation, Rachel. Sadly, I came up empty! I did find a few modern female authors of fairy tales, but I don’t think I’d be able to recommend their books for kids—at least not without a closer look.

        • Rachel

          Modern Day we can actually probably count JK Rowling, no?? 🙂

          • Kim Kautzer

            Her books don’t really fit the fairy tale model. They’re more in the realm of fantasy or even mystery fiction. But we can pretend! 🙂

      • Charles

        Madame d’Aulnoy!

        • Kim Kautzer

          Really informative and helpful, Charles. Thanks so much!

  8. Willows Fairyland

    It looks so easy to read the instructions that how we can attempt to write a story, but I found that when it comes to writing, it is so difficult to organize all the topics like starting, the cliffhangers, the climax all should be engaged to each other.

    • Kim Kautzer

      There’s always more that can be written about this topic! My goal was simply to provide an overview to help get you started. Perhaps you could take my suggestion to rewrite a favorite story instead. If you change up some of the elements in a familiar story, you can still come up with your own fairy tale while practicing with the things you want to get better at–such as adding surprises, story climax, etc. I wish you the best!

  9. Pamyla jagger

    Wow Kim, thanks! I just finished writing a fairy tale (just for fun) and I didn’t read this blog till after I wrote it. As it turns out I did pretty much everything on your list! That’s a real shocker to me. By the way, journalism was ‘not’ my major in college.

    • Kim Kautzer

      I’m so glad you enjoyed your foray into the world of fairy tale writing, Pamyla. It sounds like you’re a natural!

  10. Kenroy McLean

    Hi Ms Kim Kautzer just one question can boys write fairytales.I ask because during the tips it’s just she ,she,she and her .So can a he write fairytales too?.

  11. olivertheteacher

    Thanks for this blog. I used with my (English speaking) Indonesian Grade 5 students this week. Looking forward to doing a cross-cultural comparison with Indonesian fairy tales

    • Kim Kautzer

      I love that, Ollie! It sounds like an interesting project, which I’m sure they’ll enjoy very much.

  12. Deborah L Petersen

    I want to write a fairy tale based on my own love story if I could get any resources tips anything to help I would be very grateful I want this to be a gift for my true love

    • Kim Kautzer

      Deborah: Your idea sounds lovely. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. Have you tried Google?



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