Thursday, April 26, 2012
“Once upon a time…” are the familiar words we usually associate with favorite stories from our childhood. But fairy tales aren’t just for children’s or young adults. All age groups enjoy a great book based on timeless stories we all know and love. And the bonus is we’re not plagiarizing when we lift the story and craft it into our own creation. The classical tale provides the basic plot structure, but each of us gets to write something creative and unique. Fairy tales are perfect for romantic fiction and are an inseparable part of the genre.
They appeal to us for lots of reasons. We remember them fondly, and they reflect the ethics and morality of our society. Also, having the plot and maybe even the theme outlined can make the daunting task of developing a story much easier. Writing a book from scratch is hard enough without having to ‘reinvent the wheel’ every time we start a story. Our job is to personalize the fairy tale and make it into an original story, one that only we could write. We’re free to make our work a novel for kids or adults, historical or contemporary. The possibilities are endless.
We love to see good triumph over evil and we love the guaranteed happily-ever-after ending. Who doesn’t love to see the downtrodden heroine win the love of the handsome prince?
Choose a fairy tale to base your book on. The well known ones are always wonderful—“Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” or “Snow White.” But you also might consider less known ones such as those found in books by the Brothers Grimm, the Arabian Knights or Hans Christian Anderson.
Do you want to keep the setting true to the original story or do you want to change it? You can do a science fiction type setting if you want, or create a new Middle Earth. Let your imagination run free and see what you come up with.
You can use the basic plot framework, but change the characters all around. For example, switch the hero with the villain and see what happens. Twist the genders like in the story “Cinderfella.” Stories that once involved a lovely girl and her mean, ugly step-sisters can be changed into a novel about a corporate executive and her nasty, jealous office staff. How about a scarred detective and a beautiful widow? That could come from “Beauty and the Beast.”
Here’s a list of several popular fairy tales you might change into a romance. The Frog King, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Mermaid, Little Red Riding Hood, Nightingale, Princess and the Pea, Puss in Boots, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Six Swans, Snow White and Rose Red, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Three Little Pigs and the Ugly Duckling.
Three of the favorites are “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Sleeping Beauty.” For detailed information of the romance structure of these stories check out “Story Structure Architect” by Victoria Lynn Schmidt.
This is from the “Beauty and the Beast” structure. The hero falls in love with the heroine and is left at her mercy. Except where she’s concerned, he’s usually a very powerful man. He needs her to love him back to make his life complete and save him from his less than perfect life.
We meet the heroine. Her life is stable, and can be either good or bad. An obstacle or chance meeting brings the hero and heroine together. He’s often a loner and not too polished. The hero falls in love with her right away, and not because of her beauty.
A task or situation forces them together. She’s hesitant and unsure about their relationship. He does something so fantastic, protective or thoughtful (heroic!) that she falls in love with him. But obstacles keep them from expressing their love.
The hero finds himself in trouble, but the heroine saves him with her love. And they live happily ever after.
It’s a simple structure, but think how many great stories can be developed from this. Can you think of any romance novels that come directly from fairy tales? Usually they’re easy recognize and often the titles reflect the name of the original story.
If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Love by the Book, please leave your e-mail address.