The Dark Side of Fairy Tales


I’ll admit it. The title makes this article sound a lot more macabre than it probably will be. But it had a nice ring to it, and since I was asked to chat about what most people don’t know about retellings, I thought it was a nice fit.

But I digress.

So, Fairy Tales. Easy. Right? I mean, if you’re an author who specializes in retellings, your job is halfway done for you. You’ve got characters, a plot, and everything all at your disposal. Change a couple of settings and maybe add a love triangle or two and you’re good to go, right?


See, the thing people don’t realize about retellings is how easy it is to underestimate how much work goes into creating a masterful spin. Because yes, we do have characters and even some helpful plot points provided for us, but you know what else we have? Thousands of die-hard fans of that story scrutinizing every detail of your work to see what you have done to their beloved tale.

That’s a lot of pressure.

Not that we need it. As writers, we naturally agonize over every single word we use, we act out facial expressions and practice speech patterns to make our characters and dialogue seem realistic. Knowing ON TOP of that, that your work is also a representation of a story that could have shaped someone’s childhood? Well, let’s just say it gave me more than a few sleepless nights.

There are so many different elements that go into writing a truly great retelling. Because even though there may be a general ‘guideline’ for us to use, we are still creating a brand new story. Like every other author, we still have to research (Alice with zombie? YES! Now, let’s figure out the logistics of the virology. Peter Pan in space? Great! Now how the heck does space travel work?), create worlds, develop characters, fill-in plot holes, and weave the best words we can to make a strong story, but at the same time find ways to make ours run parallel to our retelling of choice and maintain its integrity.

I was a little girl once. I know exactly which stories shaped my views of the world and what fairy tales meant to me. I know exactly how I would feel if someone destroyed one of favorite books. It is a responsibility I do not take lightly. It is a responsibility that not all authors have.

That is why I think that retellings are underestimated. Because a masterful retelling is magic. And they need to be treated that way.

So for all you retelling writers, I understand. I understand your sleepless nights, and agonizing over the perfect quote placement. And while you make it seem like a walk in the park, I know how much work you put in to keep my favorite stories sacred.


Thank you.