How to Write a Fairy Tale in 8 Steps (With Examples)
In this step-by-step guide, we will show you how to write a fairy tale in 8 easy steps with examples. From Cinderella to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, these classic fairy tales have been told and retold by storytellers for hundreds of years. But what makes them so special? In today’s post, we’ll give you the tools to write your own fairy tale.
- What is a fairy Tale?
- History of Fairy Tales
- How To Write a Fairy Tale in 8 Steps
- Fairy Tale Writing Ideas
- Common Questions
- Bonus tips on writing fairy tales
- Write your own fairy tale now
What is a fairy Tale?
Fairy tales are stories that usually involve fairies, elves, witches, and other magical beings. These stories often feature heroes who overcome adversity and achieve their dreams. They are also called folktales and were originally told by word of mouth to entertain people.
The main character is often an orphan or someone who is facing great adversity, such as having no place to live or no food to eat. The character faces this adversity and then finds a way to overcome it. In the process, he/she usually overcomes greed, learns something new, and grows as a person. For example, Cinderella was forced to do all of her chores for her evil stepmother and stepsisters. But in the end, she overcomes her adversity and lives happily ever after with her true love.
This is what makes fairy tales so popular and relatable to people all over the world. We have all gone through hardships in our lives. A fairy tale is a story that shows us that we can come out of these situations much better than we were before.
History of Fairy Tales
How many fairy tales can you list? 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 8 steps. Now you can be the next fairy tale extraordinaire by writing your own fairy tales.
How To Write a Fairy Tale in 8 Steps
Now it’s your turn to write your own fairy tale. Don’t worry, it’s really easy when you follow these steps.
1. Decide on your fairy tale moral
A moral is an important lesson your reader learns when they finish reading a story. In this step, you will want to make a list of morals or life lessons that you can base your fairytale around.
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.
Another great example is Beauty and the Beast. The moral of this story is that you cannot judge people by their appearances. A beast may be kind at heart, but still appear to be ugly. In other words, what you see is not always what you get. Other great examples of morals can be found in reading Aesop’s fables, just check out this post on the top 12 life lessons from Aesop’s Fables.
2. Create your hero
In the next step, you should write down a character description for your hero. This character description should include personality traits, likes and dislikes, as well as a physical description.
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.
For example, you could have the character be a gentle giant who enjoys painting or playing music. Your character does not necessarily have to be human! You can create a sea creature or even an object as the hero of your fairy tale.
3. Create your villain
Now it’s time to write a character description for the main villain in your fairytale. 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 and is likely to stop your hero from achieving their goals. Some common villains include the Big Bad Wolf, Cinderella’s stepmother or the evil queen.
For example, if you were writing a fairy tale about a brave knight and his quest for love, then your villain might be an evil dragon that is intent on destroying all that is good and pure.
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 a 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.
For example, think of a fork that has magical powers. The fork can be used as a magic wand to help you find lost objects.
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?
6. Write the opening paragraph
In fairy tales, the opening sentence normally begins with ‘Once upon a time…’ or ‘There once was a…’ and then goes on to describe the main character and the setting in great detail. You should also ideally mention the adversity the main character is facing at this point.
For example in Cinderella, the opening sentence could be:
‘Cinderella’s father had died when she was very young leaving her an orphan. Her stepmother hated her and treated her like a slave. She had to work day and night making dresses for the family while her stepmother wore beautiful gowns and ate rich food. Cinderella felt so sad that she often wept herself to sleep.’
Here we get a brief description of Cinderella, along with information on the pain she is feeling or her adversity.
7. Write the middle section
The middle of a fairy tale is where the biggest conflict happens. It is also the longest part of most fairy tales. In this section of the story, the main character has to face their greatest challenge and overcome it. They need to either find something or do something that will help them in the battle they are fighting. It is also the part of the story that usually has the most action and emotion in it.
For example in Cinderella, when Cinderella’s stepmother destroys the dress that Cinderella plans on wearing to the ball, she must find another way to achieve her goal. At this point, the fairy godmother appears to Cinderella to offer a helping hand. The fairy godmother transforms Cinderella into a beautiful woman so that she can attend the ball.
This scene contains lots of conflict and drama. There is also a sense of urgency because Cinderella needs to get dressed fast if she wants to be able to attend the ball.
8. 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 the villain gets defeated. For example in Cinderella, the glass slippers fit her foot, or in The Ugly Duckling, the duck turns into a beautiful swan. Overall the reader is left with a sense of warmth and optimism that the hero has overcome adversity and that good always wins in the end.
Fairy Tale Writing Ideas
To get you started on writing your very own fairy tale below is a list of some writing prompts:
- A young boy discovers a magic lamp in his backyard that brings him to a mysterious world of fairies, witches, and monsters.
- A little girl finds a magic ring that transports her to a strange new world. The ring belongs to a friendly wizard who has been captured by an evil magician.
- A young man travels into the forest to seek the help of a wise old wizard. He learns that the wizard is actually a powerful sorcerer who has been trapped in a spell for centuries.
- An old man’s life is changed forever when he is visited by a fairy godmother who gives him three wishes. The first wish is for him to be rich; the second is to win the heart of a beautiful princess; the third is to be reunited with his long-lost son.
- A young girl finds a book of spells that allows her to transform into any animal she chooses.
- A young boy becomes the victim of a cruel trick played upon him by two evil brothers. He is turned into a pig and is forced to work on their pig farm.
- A young girl with a unique talent is chosen to go on an adventure to find a powerful artefact that will help her family save their farm.
- A young man travels to a magical land where he meets a wise old wizard who helps him defeat a wicked king and restore peace to his kingdom.
- A young boy discovers a magical stone that allows him to travel through time. He travels back in time to visit his grandparents and see what life was like when they were children.
- A young boy befriends a talking cat who teaches him how to use magic to defeat the evil forces trying to take over his kingdom.
For more fairy tale inspiration, see our post on 110+ fairy tale writing prompts with a generator.
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 a 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 conflicts 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.
How long should a fairy tale be?
There is no exact amount of words for how long a fairy tale should be. It depends on your target audience and the plot of the fairy tale.
Some classic fairy tales, such as “The Three Little Pigs” or even “Red Riding Hood” are just a few paragraphs long. While modern adaptions of fairy tales like Cinderella or even Beauty and the Beast are much longer spanning around 50 pages. There are also fairy tale chapter books, such as The Enchanted Forest Chronicles series by Patricia C. Wrede which includes four chapter books in the series.
In general, a fairy tale should be of an appropriate length to effectively convey its themes and messages, without becoming tedious or losing the reader’s attention. Moreover, the length may vary depending on the age range of the target audience. Younger children tend to prefer shorter stories, whereas older children and adults can typically handle longer and more intricate tales.
What are some fairy tale writing techniques?
Writing a good fairy-tale means using the right technique. Below are some writing techniques that many authors use to create magical fairy tales:
- Vivid Imagery: Fairy tales often use vivid and descriptive language to create rich and detailed imagery. This can help to transport the reader to the fantastical world of the story.
- Simple Language: Fairy tales are typically written in simple and straightforward language, making them accessible to a wide range of readers. This also allows the author to focus on the story and its themes, rather than complex language or sentence structure.
- Symbolism: Fairy tales often use symbolism to convey deeper meaning and add layers to the story. For example, a character might represent a particular virtue or vice, or an object might symbolize a particular theme or idea.
- Repetition: Many fairy tales use repetition, such as repeating phrases or events, to create a sense of rhythm and structure in the story. This can help to make the story more memorable and engaging for readers.
- Foreshadowing: Fairy tales often use foreshadowing, such as hinting at events that will occur later in the story, to create tension and build suspense. This can help to keep readers engaged and invested in the story.
- Transformation: Many fairy tales involve characters undergoing transformations, either physically or emotionally. These transformations can help to convey important themes and messages, such as the power of love or the importance of inner beauty.
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!