May 30, 2013

Retelling Fairytales

 Bored Villains workshop, I talked with middle grade students about a writer's voice.  Some variation of every story idea already exists, but individual storytellers breathe new life into old narratives.
During a recent

One way to approach the writing of stories is through plot.  A great example? The retelling of fairytales, an idea still popular among contemporary authors. For the workshop, I brought an armload of books based on this idea, but here I'll refer you to lists compiled on other sites:

For short stories, I highly recommend A Wolf at The Door and Swan Sister, two books of retold fairytales.  The short form allows students to explore a variety of stories, getting a sense for the many ways a story can be retold and how much the voice of the author impacts the story itself.

From A Wolf At The Door,  Neil Gaiman's, "Instructions," provides a playful list of directions for navigating the fairytale world.  This is a beautiful example of writing in second person.

We also discussed Garth Nix's "Hansel's Eyes" (written in third person) for a good example of a retelling of Hansel & Gretel with contemporary references.  Video games rather than a candy house?  Why not?

To see the way a strong voice can impact the feel of a fairytale, we looked at the beginning of "Lupe" by Kathe Koja .  This story from Swan Sister is a first-person retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.  Koja's sensory details draw the reader fully into the story and even a short look at her approach is helpful to students.

Keeping all this in mind, I asked my Bored Villains to retell fairytales in 1st person, each group member writing from the perspective of a different character in the story, passing the story baton from one character to the next.  This was our final workshop of the day.  Short on time, we moved from initial discussion to final story in just 45 minutes, including recording of video.

In editing, some of the students' beautiful words were lost, but I tried to keep the final videos close to 90 second each.

Cinderella: A Retelling

by two evil stepsisters, a fairy godmother, a prince, and Cinderella

Litte Red Riding Hood: A Retelling

by Little Red, Little Red's best friend, Little Red's grandmother, a wolf, and a woodsman

Jack and The Beanstalk: A Retelling

by Jack's dad, a swindler, Jack, the giant, and a woodsman

My heartfelt thanks go out to the kids who spent the day with me and to their wonderful teacher for inviting me.  I had a great time with you all.

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Illustraiton credit:  Audrey Beardsley "The Slippers of Cinderella" published in Le courrier Francais, February 10, 1895

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