Fairy tales are probably the oldest stories you can read, and everyone knows at least one of them. Many of them were immortalized by Disney, and parents worldwide still put their kids to bed with them.
There are reasons for such success, and as a writer, you should pay attention to them. What can they teach you?
“Once upon a time…” is the beginning of the great majority of fairy tales. It is strong and involved in magic. It makes you immediately prepared to listen to a magical adventure. It’s catchy! And that’s what you need in a story!
A strong beginning teases the reader and sets the tone for the story he is about to read. On the other hand, a bad beginning can be as drastic as your reader putting the book down immediately.
Characters don’t need to be exhaustively described.
The Prince is charming, and the Witch is evil, but do you get a really good description of them? No, and you don’t need it. Their qualities are enough to keep you dreaming and imagining. The emotional and psychological description is stronger than the physical one.
I do not mean to tell you not to describe your character. Simply don’t dump a lot of physical characteristics at once on your reader. Use the story progress to focus on those. And remember – show rather than tell!
Characters in fairy tales have clear motivations, and the reader knows them from the beginning. There are also clear consequences and motives for their actions.
Motivation and action – that’s what your story needs. An emotionally rich character is not enough, especially if your audience can’t understand them. You must set clear motivations and reasons for them to act the way they do. The audience wants actions and clear decisions based on happenings and personality.
Characters in fairy tales also evolve. The happenings have direct (and obvious) consequences on who they are, and they change due to them. Therefore, your characters also must develop. It is essential that the reader can see and understand their path.
The Dark Side
Fairy tale characters are not perfect, and these stories are not afraid of addressing their dark side – jealousy, envy, and rage. And they taught us that there are people like that! We all can, at some point, feel all those “not-so-good things” – it helps to relate with the characters.
When building your characters, keep that in mind. What are their insecurities and fears? How do they actually see other characters? What do they do when no one is looking? What do they hate? Even the sweet, innocent princess can have a dark side.
Fairy tales usually focus on big themes, and there are moral lessons to take from them. Many focus on observations on the nature of humanity. Now, you don’t want to moralize your audience. Think of it differently. What do you want to tell with that story? What do you want your readers to think about after reading it? You need to know precisely what you want to transmit to your readers.
I mainly focused on the characters in this text, but the settings are also unique, aren’t they? Beautiful castles and palaces, or magical woods and little cottages that make us dream.
A unique setting can give a special atmosphere to your story and surprise the readers. When creating a story, take some time to decide where it takes place.
Fairy tales are a road map
Fairy tales are the most known type of story, and everyone reads them at some point. The reason for their success is hidden in the details. Studying these details can help you find some guidelines to improve your story, running towards success.