10 Tips For Retelling A Classic Tale

10 Tips For Retelling A Classic Tale


Are you looking for a new way to tell an old story? In this post, we share 10 tips for retelling a classic tale.

There are no new plots under the sun, and one of the easiest ways to tell a good story is by taking a classic story and reworking it into something new.

It’s a good exercise for writers because it will teach you the basics of plotting. It will also help you understand the characters you need to tell a good story.

10 Tips For Retelling A Classic Tale

1. Read The Original Tale

This is really important. Don’t rely on your memory – especially if you read it years ago. You may also be confused because there are often many remakes of the original tale. Read the original and make notes.

2. Make A List Of Characters

This is important. Your new characters will be based on those in the original tale. Take time to list the characters and their roles in the stories. For example, Cinderella is a protagonist and her Stepmother is an antagonist. Rename the characters for your story.

3. Make A List Of Settings

Where does the original tale take place? How many different settings are included? You will need to adjust these for your version. Note the descriptions, including all the senses that are described. Think about how you can make these new in your story. Choose and name the new settings, making use of our worldbuilding checklist. (If you’re looking for specific help with setting, buy our Setting Up The Setting Workbook.)

4. Make A List Of Major Plot Points

List the five most important things that happen in the story. These are detailed in a post by Mia Botha and include:

  1. ‘The Inciting Moment – Gives you the story goal.
  2. Surprise One – Things get worse and the goal changes. Or the goal stays the same, but the odds are increased.
  3. Surprise Two –It can’t get much worse than this. The goal changes or stays the same, but the odds increase again.
  4. Surprise Three – Did I just say that things can’t get worse? This is the Dark Night of the Soul.
  5. The End – Wraps it all up in a satisfying manner.’

Read the original post to see how this works for the Minions movie.

You can include more points, but make sure you have these five points down and understood.

5. Make A List Of Scenes & Sequels

If you really want to get this right, make a list of all the scenes and sequels in the story. If you do this, it will be very easy to write your new story. You will know exactly what must happen when you write your version of the story.

6. Identify The Theme

A theme is the central idea in the story. It sums up what the story shows us about the human condition. We should be able to summarise it in a simple statement. (Suggested reading: 10 Powerful Recurring Themes In Children’s Stories) Your story will share the same theme as the original story.

7. Decide On A Motif

Does the classic tale use motifs? A motif is a recurring object, sound, phrase, action, or an idea in a story. Highlight anything that recurs in the original and decide how you will repurpose this in the new story.

8. Come Up With The Retelling Twist

So you have the skeleton of your story planned. Think about what you can do to make the story different. Perhaps you can change the sex of the main characters? Perhaps you could set the story on a spaceship? Perhaps you could change genres? Have fun with this. Make a list of What Ifs and choose the one you like the most. Choose a new title for your book.

9. Plot The New Story

Use our plotting formula to plot your new story. You will find it here: What Is A Plot? Fill in the 10 points to make sure you have a good solid structure.

10. Write The Book

Make a writing timetable. Decide on a daily word count. Look at your lists of scenes and sequels. Start writing your book. Keep going until you write ‘The End’.

The Last Word

I hope this list of 10 tips for retelling a classic tale helps you write your story.

TOP TIP: Use our Character Creation Kit to help you create great characters for your stories. If you want help writing a novel, please buy The Novel Writing Exercises Workbook.

 by Amanda Patterson
© Amanda Patterson

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TOP TIP: Use our Character Creation Kit to help you create great characters for your stories. If you want more exercises, please buy The Novel Writing Exercises Workbook.