How to Write a Fairy Tale in 6 Steps
How many fairy tales can you list out? 5, 10, maybe 30? Throughout the ages, storytellers from around the world have created hundreds of fairy tales. No one knows the exact number of fairy tales out there. We just know the popular ones, like Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. You might even be surprised to learn that most fairy tales have their origin back in the 16th century. In fact, the first story of Cinderella was even told in 7 BC and was about a slave girl who marries the king of Egypt.
Even today fairy tales are a huge part of our lives. They teach us important morals, such as accepting others who are different or not talking to strangers and provide motivational tales of beating adversity and hardship. One of the most famous fairy tale writers out there is Hans Christian Andersen. Anderson has written no fewer than 3,381 works, including The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling and The Emperor News Clothes. To celebrate Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday on April 2nd, we have created this tutorial on how to write a fairy tale in 5 steps. Now you can be the next fairy tale extraordinaire by writing your own fairy tales.
How to write a fairy tale in 6 steps
Step 1: Decide on your fairy tale moral
A moral is an important lesson your reader learns when they finish reading a story. For example, the moral of Cinderella is to show kindness to everyone, no matter how they treat you. It is her kindness that wins the Prince over and helps her to live happily ever after. Other great examples of morals can be found in reading Aesop’s fables, just check out this post on top 12 life lessons from Aesop’s Fables.
Step 2: Create your hero
Some common traits of your hero or heroine could be kind, humble, innocent and kind-hearted. They must be someone that your reader could relate to and feel something for. Therefore it is a good idea to make your main character a normal, everyday person who could change throughout the story. Think about Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk or Snow White.
Step 3: Create your villain
A fairy tale without a villain would be pretty boring. Create an evil character to test your heroes’ abilities and cause them some pain. The villain in fairy tales is normally the source of conflict. For example, they might stop your hero from achieving their goals or hurt them in some way. Some common villains include the Big Bad Wolf, Cinderella’s stepmother or the evil queen.
Step 4: Think about the magical element
Magic is the best part of any fairy tale. It is the magical element that guides your hero and helps them get their happy ending. Think about the fairy godmother’s role in Cinderella or the Genie in Aladdin. When creating your magical element, use the “What if” technique. What if the teapot could talk? What if the cat had magical powers? This is a useful technique to help you think outside the box and create some really magical elements for your fairy tale. And remember any everyday object can have magical powers in a fairy tale.
Step 5: Describe the setting
Different settings can create different moods in your fairy tale. For example, a nice little cottage in a forest is the perfect place to create a cosy, warm feeling. While a gloomy castle might set the scene of a dark, gothic fairy tale. Other examples of common settings in fairy tales include an enchanted forest or a royal palace. When choosing your setting you can also choose the time period of your fairy tale. Common fairy tales were set in the 18th or 19th century, but what if your fairy tale was set in the future?
Step 6: Write a happy ending
The most important part of your fairy tale is a happy ending. All fairy tales end in happy endings, so what is yours? Think about how the conflict in the fairy tale is resolved or how does the villain get defeated? For example in Cinderella, the glass slippers fits her foot or in The Ugly Duckling, the duck turns into a beautiful swan.
How do you start a fairy tale?
The most common way to start a fairy tale is with, “Once upon a time…”. You may also start a fairy tale with the lines, “Long, long ago…” or “There once was a…”. If you want to make your fairy tale sound more modern, you could begin with a question. For example, “Have you ever heard of the legend of the golden sword?” – This is especially great for when you are re-telling a famous fairy tale.
What are the 5 elements of a fairy tale?
Every fairy tale has 5 elements that make them a fairy tale, these include:
- Hero/Heroine & Villain: Good versus evil is the common theme in fairy tales. Traditionally, this involves a kind-hearted hero against an evil character. Heroes in fairy tales don’t always need to be purely kind, they can have a dark side making your story more interesting to read.
- Magic: A fairytale with no magic, is no fairy tale at all! Think curses, magical spells and enchanted items. Magic can be the root of evil, and it can be the only saviour in a tough situation for your hero or heroine.
- Conflict & Resolution: Every story needs some sort of conflict. A challenge your hero must solve. The bigger the conflict the better. The key to good conflict in a fairy tale is to make the conflict feel impossible to solve. Until the last key moment, where your hero comes out on top.
- Moral/Lesson: The reason why fairy tales are so popular is because of the life lessons they can offer to readers. The most common lesson learned from most fairy tales is that being kind can beat any evil in the world, and no matter who you are, dreams do come true!
- A Happy Ending: The majority of fairy tales end with a traditional, “Happily ever after” ending. The hero overcomes their challenge and celebrates their win – The end. The princess marries her prince, the poor boy never feels poor again and the Queen never feels alone again. More modern fairytales are moving away from happy endings to ending on a cliffhanger or with a sad ending.
For general stories, you might be interested in this post on the five elements of stories explained with examples.
What is the structure of a fairy tale?
A basic fairy tale structure starts with an opening paragraph to describe the setting and the hero. This leads to the problem or conflict the hero is facing. Where the hero will have to either go on a journey or become stronger in order to overcome this challenge. Finally, the challenge is solved and everyone lives happily ever after.
Bonus tips on writing fairy tales
Still struggling to write a fairy tale? Here are some bonus tips to help you get writing.
- When lost for inspiration, try reading fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen and Brother Grimm and then try re-telling these fairy tales in your own way.
- Keep it simple, use language that all age groups can understand and read and avoid using complicated and long sentences.
- Include words like, “Once upon a time” and “Happily ever after”.
- Things happen in threes or sevens – It’s a common fairy tale tradition. This could relate to characters, events or places. For example the seven dwarfs in snow white or the three little pigs.
- Send your hero on a quest or journey and show the changes to them relating to their behaviour and personality on the way.
- Common fairy tales follow the Good vs. Evil story plot.
- Villains or evil characters are punished for their acts and the hero is rewarded in some way.
- The challenge or obstacle your heroes faces must be impossible to overcome without the help of a magical character or some special abilities. For example, only true love could break the beast’s curse in Beauty and The Beast.
Need more help with writing a fairy tale? We recommend the book, Lessons from Grimm by Shona Slayton (Amazon Affiliate link), which you can purchase from Amazon. It is a must-have for all fairy tale writers and authors. This book offers a basic formula for writing your own fairy tale, along with practical tips to help you.
Another recommended book for fairy tale writing is, How to Write a Fractured Fairy Tale (Amazon Affiliate link). This illustrated guide is great for kids who want to write their own fairy tales. It provides guidance on outlining your story’s plot, character development, editing your fairy tale and even comes with a range of fun activities.
Write your own fairy tale now
Now you know the essential steps to write a fairy tale it’s time for you to get writing! Best of all, you can even use our online story creator to write and publish your own stories!