Once upon a time…
I’ll admit it: my favorite stories are stories with magic in them. Witches, wizards, magic rings, super powers, telepathy, extra-sensory perception, all of that stuff, be it medieval, modern, futuristic, or none of the above. For me, fantasy stories are the ultimate what-if scenarios. What if djinni were real? Or what if people could fly? How would that change our relationships to one another? How would the world be different?
The origin of my passion, probably, can be traced back to Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books. We had a half-dozen of them when I was a kid, not quite the full rainbow collection, but enough to hook me for life on tales of elves and maidens, princesses and frogs, giants and beggar boys. And I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for a happy ending.
…which brings me to this month’s micro prompt!
Last month we asked you for an original story in an old genre – the fable. This month, we want you to retell an old story – a fairy tale – in a new way. To be specific: retell your favorite fairy tale in exactly 49 words.
What do we mean by “retell”?
First off, we don’t mean “summarize.” Summarizing is a useful skill, but it’s not the same as storytelling. We’re asking you to take an existing story and make it your own by putting a unique spin on it. On the other hand, we’re not asking you to make up your own story. We’re looking for recognizable elements of existing fairytales in your micro.
Here are a few approaches you might consider:
- Use a contemporary (or quasi-contemporary, or futuristic) setting. For example, how would The Three Apples play out if it took place in the age of film noir? In modern New York, London, Shanghai or Delhi?
- Set your fairy tale in an unexpected locale. Maybe Rapunzel is locked in the Burj Khalifa, or Sleeping Beauty is napping on the stove in a Russian village.
- Tell your story from a different character’s perspective. Gregory McGuire did this spectacularly with Cinderella in his novel Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.
- Change the ending. Maybe Little Red-Cap and the Hunter befriend the wolf instead of killing him. Or maybe the heroes didn’t live happily ever after after all.
What counts as a fairy tale?
“Fairy tale” as a genre is notoriously difficult to define. I mean, we all think we know one when we see one, right? If I were asking you to write an original fairy tale, I’d have a much more detailed list of elements, but since we only need you to recognize a fairy tale, I’ll keep it simple:
For the purposes of this microprose challenge, we are defining “fairy tale” as a short story without a single identifiable author (although it may have been collected by a single historian, e.g., Grimm), which involves completing a quest or solving a problem with the help of magical elements and/or beings, e.g. fairies (duh), gods, witches, dragons, elves, flying carpets, magic potions, enchanted items, etc. Other elements that feature heavily in fairy tales: magic numbers (3, 7, 9); interplay between poverty and richness (the poor shepherd and the princess, etc); simple character archetypes (the prince, the witch, the ogre, the djinn).
Note that a fairytale is basically a folk tale with magical characters; it is not intended to explain how the world works – that is, creation myths are not generally considered fairy tales, nor are fables. If the purpose of the original story is to tell you why the shadows on the moon look like a rabbit, it’s a myth, not a fairytale. If your hero has to bring each of the moon’s five daughters a quest item to learn one of the directions to the place their true love is hidden in a tree? Fairytale.
Fairy tale sources and resources
Not sure what story to retell? Below are a few fairy tale compilation sites to get you started. Of course, you’re not limited to Western-style tales (I just couldn’t find a site with more than a couple translated stories, or the translations were old enough to be… problematic). My advice, though, is to pick a story you love and are familiar with. If the Seven Brothers is your thing, go for it!
- Hans Christian Andersen
- Brothers Grimm
- Charles Perrault’s Mother Goose Tales
- Afanasyev’s Russian Fairy Tales
For bonus points*, hyperlink a word or phrase in your story to the original fairy tale. One artful way to do that is the first time a word in the title of the original story shows up, use that. The main character (of the original story)’s name is a good place to put that link, too.
* Just kidding – we don’t actually award bonus points. But if your reader’s not familiar with the original story, it’ll be fun for them to compare and contrast it.
This is the badge you need:
Below is the YeahWrite badge you need for this month’s microprose challenge. Under the badge is a few lines of code. See that? Copy it and then paste it into the “text” or HTML view of your post editor. If you don’t copy it exactly, the image will not appear correctly in your post, and you will receive an error message when you submit the post to Inlinkz. If you have any questions regarding adding this code to your post or website, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Need a hand?
Microprose sounds easy. After all, how hard can it really be to write a story with fewer than 100 words incorporating a prompt or two? But it turns out it’s our hardest challenge to really get right. Whether you’re a seasoned micropro or a brand new microwriter, it’s worth taking a minute to glance through the tips and tricks our editors have put together, like this quick refresher on what makes a micro great, or this one on how to incorporate mandatory prompts into adjudicated challenges. Make sure you make it to the vote this week: check your wordcount (we count those footnotes!) and prompts!
How to submit and fully participate in the Microprose Challenge
Basic YeahWrite guidelines: must be in response to the prompt found in the introductory post; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; a retelling of a fairy tale in exactly 49 words. You may enter only one microstory per weekly challenge.
How to submit and fully participate in the challenge:
- Please grab the code beneath the microprose badge in the body of this week’s post and paste it into the HTML view of your entry;
- Follow the Inlinkz instructions after clicking “add your link” to upload your entry to this week’s challenge grid;
- Your entry should appear immediately on the grid if you don’t receive an error message;
- Please make the rounds to read all the entries in this week’s challenge; and
- Consider turning off moderated comments and CAPTCHA on your own blog.
Submissions for this week’s challenges will close on Wednesday at 10pm ET. Voting will then open immediately thereafter and close on Thursday at 10pm ET. The winners, as always, will be celebrated on Friday.
Thank you for sharing with us your hard work! Good luck in the challenge…
About the author:
After a long stint as a Russian scholar and composer, Christine rediscovered her passion for writing in 2006. She joined the YeahWrite team in 2014 as the microstory editor. A lover of beautiful stories in small packages, her primary focus has been microfiction; she also writes flash fiction, short stories, and the occasional personal essay, much of which has been posted to her blog, Trudging Through Fog. Christine was a 2015 BlogHer Voices of the Year award recipient and Community Keynote speaker. Her short fiction has been published by MidnightSun Publishing, and she is currently editing her first full-length novel.