Think of rewriting Grimms’ Fairy Tales like going to the gym and working out. It gets all your writer muscles working and revved up. Here’s how I do it.
1. Find the Fairy Tale
Picking a story you already know is cheating. Don’t do it.
Instead, I suggest using this Random Number Generator. In the “max” box on the right, type the number 210, and then press the “generate” button. Make note of the result.
Now, go to this list of 210 Grimm Fairy Tales. Use the result from the Random Number Generator to find the story you will be rewriting today.
2. Lay Out the Beats and Find the Heart
As you read through your fairy tale, write down the beats of the story. By “beat,” I mean the things that happen. Write one simple sentence for each beat. Don’t get complicated; a straightforward sentence will do.
Once you’ve finished writing the beats, read through all of them, then answer the question, “What is this story about?”
Keep the beats and the heart of the story. Forget everything else.
3. Re-imagine the Story in a Modern Setting
Now take the heart of the story and the beats of the story, and imagine that story happening down the street from your house. How would it play out? What would the story look like? What types of characters do you need to make the story work?
Bonus: Do It with One Scene
If you are really looking for a challenge, after you decide how to tell the story in a contemporary setting, figure out how to tell it in just one scene.
4. Rewrite Your Story
See, you don’t need those stupid Muses and their obnoxious assistant. You are now ready to write a fantastic story without them. The final step is to sit down and write your new story.
My Example: The Poor Boy in His Grave
I try to do this at least once a week. If you need an example, here’s one I did a few weeks ago:
First, the magic Random Number Generator gave me #185: The Poor Boy in His Grave.
Next, I read the story, wrote out the beats, and found the heart: Poor kid loses parents. Poor kid is raised by people who don’t like him. Poor kid “messes up” and gets beaten. Poor kid sneaks food while hoping to die. Poor kids lies down in grave. Abusive caretakers’ house catches on fire.
Heart of the story: Poor abused kid gets revenge in the end by laying in his grave.
Then I re-imagined the story in my city. I realized I needed a poor kid, some nasty caretakers, a grave, and a house fire.
Taking the bonus challenge, I thought, “What if the kid doesn’t die? What if he is being questioned by the police about the house fire?” I realized I could tell the whole story through an investigation.
Finally, I wrote the story.
And just like that—writer’s block defeated.
Kick the Muses’ snotty personal assistant in the teeth with your own Grimms’ Fairy Tale rewrite.
Take fifteen minutes to pick a story and reimagine it, following the steps above. Share your practice in the comments below.
Make sure you keep the title of your story the same as the original Grimm Tale so we can see which one you repurposed. And if you share, be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!
by Jeff Elkins
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