Grimm’s Fairy Tales – a goldmine of story lines for writers

The influence of Grimm’s fairy tales is everywhere in modern culture. In the much loved and franchised Disney films and on children’s book shelves in various adaptions and re-writes.

When the stories were originally published in 1812, they were criticised for being unsuitable for children. This is not surprising as they contained sexual references and gruesome violence.[1]

Next time you are stuck for a plot or story idea you could use these stories to start you off.

So what makes the tales work as stories, two hundred years later?

What struck me about the tales is that they tell only the bare bones of the story, move swiftly, travelling light, only telling the events which are necessary to move the story to its ending. Maybe this is why they are relevant to all and have stood the test of time so well.

How are they useful to writers?
It is because it is left to the storyteller to embellish the tale, to make it more relevant to the audience, and to the imagination of the listener to make it personal to them. The tales provide very little social context. The characters are flat, conventional stock characters, largely unencumbered by personality or past experience. They are rich or poor, kind, good or wicked. The tales are more concerned by what they do and what happens to them,so it is up to the writer (narrator)to provide the back stories and psych analysis.
This provides the perfect plot template for writers who are able to adapt the story to please their audience, turning it into a child’s fairy tale, a touching romance, or a dark and gruesome horror story. There is scope here for a tense thriller or a cautionary tale.[1]

The characters have little or no outside life and their motives are usually clear and obvious, loyalty, anger, greed and are identified by their appearance, occupation or social position
Again the narrator is able to provide the details to suit the story. So by using the template the writer can take inspiration from these stories, safe in the knowledge that the basic plot has stood the test of time.

[1]This technique is used by the well known fantasy/science fiction writer, Stephen King (King, 2009) to keep his action packed stories moving and to manage his huge cast of players.
“In the Writing I am working on right now, I’ve been able to play off two –“Little Red Riding Hood” and “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” in my mind, two of the scariest fairy tales ever written”
Dissecting Stephen King: From the Gothic to Literary …

[2]Children’s and Household Tales (German: Kinder- und Hausmärchen) is a collection of German fairy tales first published in 1812 by the Grimm brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm. This edition was translated by Lucy Crane and illustrated by Walter Crane.


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