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The Beginning, The Middle, and the Twist

Further thoughts on the Tales Retold challenge. How well did we meet the brief? A bit of self-critique, and an invitation for you to do the same.

By L.C. SchäferPublished 21 days ago Updated 21 days ago 4 min read
The Beginning, The Middle, and the Twist
Photo by Ed Stone on Unsplash

With the winners of the recent "Tales Retold" challenge being announced in the next few days, I wanted to stick a pen to paper, metaphorically, with a few more thoughts. I've already banged on a bit about this here.

The first thing that has struck me when I've been reading submissions to this challenge, is the quality of writing. There is some extremely stiff competition there, and although I think I'm a fair writer, I don't expect to place.

The second thing that struck me is that some of the submissions are straight re-tellings. Lots of them are gorgeously written, evocative, haunting... but let's just have another look at the prompt:

The Prompt

Retell a classic fairy tale with a twist.

(Emphasis mine.) I think a simple re-telling is easier. It requires less imagination, skill and flair. It leaves all your creative muscle free for poetic language and imagery. In some way, it's a less bold choice. We already know that version of the story works; that's why it has survived so long.

This has had me musing over the last few days - how close does it have to be to be considered a re-telling, and how far must it diverge to be considered to have its own twist?

My questions to you:

For those who took part: Which tale did you choose and (most important) what twist did you give it? How well do you feel you met the brief?

For everyone: Is there a an old faerie tale you'd like to see turned upside down and inside out? I'm taking requests, and will give a tip if I take your suggestion.

My twists

It seems unfair to ask those questions of you, and not give my own efforts the same scrutiny, so here we go...

East of the Sun and Text of the Moon

The twist: I brought it into the modern world, and told it entirely by text messages exchanges between characters.

The brief: I think I nailed the brief, to be honest... but how well I actually told the story.... let's not go there 😂

Run, Run As Fast As You Can

The twist: In the original Gingerbread Man, the childless couple who bake him into existence are minor characters (I don't remember their names being included). The sentient biscuit is benign and cheerful (if a bit annoying). I went the other way on both counts. It would be a fib to say, "I wanted to explore (exploit?) the pain of these characters", because I didn't want to do that. It wasn't what I set out to do. But that is the direction it went in. Sometimes, the characters lead the dance.

The brief: Ummm... I think so? I think this might be my best effort for this challenge.

The Sugar Shack - I'm actually really fond of this old thing (the one thing I loathe about it is the first line). If you haven't read it already, I'd really appreciate you going over and reading it before I tell you the twist, so I'm embedding the link to help you avoid the spoiler:

Spoiler incoming:









The twist: In my version, the witch is not wicked, and Hansel and Gretel are not human. They're hideous little monsters, who appear like adorable human children right up until it's time to feed. The witch was just trying to do us a favour, OK?

The brief: I think I hit it square in the hideous, toothy, black-eyed face. I think this is another good submission from me. (I'm only comparing me to me, here.)

The REAL Story of the Three Little Pigs

The twist: I tried to give this a bit of humour, and modernise it a bit. (I say, "modernise" - I brought it all the way into the 90's.) The pigs actually have characters, if a bit two-dimensional (not to blow my own trumpet), and the wolf isn't "big" and "bad", he's just hungry.

The brief: I am not sure, it's still very close to being a straight re-telling. Your thoughts welcome.

The Scientist's Daughter

The twist: What if "the little mermaid" got pregnant, and that's why she comes on land? I made pretty much all the characters opposite to the original (and the original original) by cocking around* with their motivations. I invented completely new characters for the story, and told it from a new perspective. The "scientist" is the doctor hired to attend the mermaid, and his daughter narrates the story from her own viewpoint.

The brief: I do love this story, it's one of my "babies". I could almost say I was on fire when I wrote it, except I would have been too soggy with seawater. But if I'm very honest, I'm not sure how well it answers the prompt. Whether it is too far from the original will come down to personal opinion, I think.

The one that didn't make it:

A Mother Speaks:

I didn't enter this story - I'd already submitted The Scientist's Daughter, and this one as well felt like too much. (They are both branches of the same retelling.) It was also quite dark. I wasn't sure how well it stood as a stand alone story.

The twist: If she did have a baby, what then? What would he be like? Who would care for him?

The brief: I think this one is too far from the original tale to be considered any kind of re-telling. I think I made the right call not submitting it.



* "cocking around" - a technical term


Thank you for reading! This one went on longer than I wanted, so if you got this far, please include a song lyric in your comment. It'll be funny because the anyone who skips straight to the comments won't have any idea why, and that tickles me.

Edited for formatting.


About the Creator

L.C. Schäfer

Flexing the writing muscle.

Never so naked as I am on a page. Subscribe for "nudes".

I'm also Twitter if you'd like to connect elsewhere.

I value feedback, and reciprocate reads and comments.

Also writing under the name S.E. Holz

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Comments (14)

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  • JBaz3 days ago

    In truth I was letting this one pass by, not that I didn't like it but that nothing really came to me. THEN with around 4 hours to go a story cam and I wrote and I wrote then submitted, one minute before the contest closed, apparently to late as it was informed it was declined. I then just submitted it as a story. Also I believe I missed it as I did a modern version and called it Lil Red. Yours was brilliant and I enjoyed that very much.

  • I loved your version of the Gingerbread Man and I'm so happy it won! My own story, A Forest of Thorns, was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty with the twist of things being rather darker. I focused on the Disney version of the story, since I find the original ending with the prince to be, shall we say, unpleasant. Instead, I shifted the timeline around slightly and had King Hubert not fully taken by the magic leading to his mind being corrupted, almost as though he lives in a waking dream. Philip's journey into the lost kingdom is made darker by the implication that the Witch Queen's minions are leaking into surrounding kingdoms and causing havoc and suffering among the small folk. Finally, I give Philip a company of companions many of whom meet a grisly fate on the quest. I'm not surprised this did not win as I don't think it met the brief well enough, it was too close to the 'original,' but I'm nonetheless proud of the effort put forward :) I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, but as always you ask fascinating questions and I love reading through your thoughts!

  • First of all, thank you, thank you, thank you for using that quote from that movie for this article! It's my favorite part of the Goosebumps movie and, with Halloween less than seven weeks away, it's great timing. I also did a Vocal article on that quote as writing advice back before the Writers community was a thing, so I might be a bit biased in its use (here's the link if you want to check it out: https://vocal.media/journal/writers-on-writing-jack-black-as-r-l-stine). I think the problem(s) with my entry was that I chose to enter a story that I wrote a while ago and shortened to fit the word count requirement. It was actually a part of a much bigger world based on fairy tales with twists to them, this one being the Pied Piper with a little bit of Rumpelstiltskin to it, so it might not have worked so well outside of the context of the series (which is a never ending project for me).

  • Hannah Moore14 days ago

    Ah, I see you DO like a brief fulfilled. Me too. I see lots of stories which might be great, but they don't seem to meet the brief. I did rumplestiltskin and rip can winkle. The former was silly, the latter just crap.

  • Gerard DiLeo19 days ago

    I submitted two. One on Hansel and Gretel (Hansel and Gretel and Hansel and Gretel) and the other on Cinderella under psychoanalysis due to her lack of self-esteem. The twist on Hansel and Gretel was twinning everything, from the witches to the very rhetoric. The twist on Cinderella was her opening up about those in her neighborhood, e.g., Snow White, dwarves, kindly woodsmen, Jack, etc.

  • Dana Crandell20 days ago

    I didn't submit to this challenge. It sounded like fun and I had some ideas, but I've been dealing with challenges of my own and haven't created anything for a while. I have enjoyed reading some of the entries, including yours and I hope I've remembered to leave comments. How about a spin on "The Ugly Duckling"?

  • Song lyric: I once believed love would be black and white, but it's golden I can't answer your first question because I didn't write anything for this challenge. As for your second question, I'd suggest you write a twisted retelling of Aladdin? I've not seen anyone write that.

  • Kenny Penn21 days ago

    I read quite a few that I really enjoyed, I thought it was a cool challenge

  • Laura Lann21 days ago

    Honestly, challenges like this are ones I don't enjoy writing as much, if at all. So I surprised myself when I squeaked out something. I did however really enjoy reading the entries of others on here. Some of yours in particular were such a treat

  • Sid Aaron Hirji21 days ago

    My favorite stories have the classic intro, body and twist. If you got time read the book/watch the movie Primal Fear

  • Leslie Writes21 days ago

    This challenge passed me by. I had planned to write a twisted version of "The Shoemaker and the Elves" and how the old couple begins gets wildly out of hand exploiting the elves' labor - sort of a jab at late stage capitalism and amazon prime, I just couldn't make it happen in time. Is that something you'd be interested in writing? You can have it. I know you would do a brilliant job. I enjoyed The Scientist's Daughter, but I still need to read your other entries. <3

  • I chose the little mermaid, in my version Ariel slowly went insane and tracked Eric down and despite the fact that Eric was already married to someone else, Ariel threw the wife out of the house and forced Eric to marry her. Great article, well written!

  • Paul Stewart21 days ago

    Get your rocks off, get your rocks off honey! I tackled Hansel and Gretel too but made it so the witch/woman was good but, just poor, hungry and lonely. I feel this met the brief because in various versions Hansel and Gretel kill her. I also like the fact that I tied it in with The Great Famine that happened around the same sorta time the story was being passed around. I also tackled Goldilocks and I made the twist...kinda dark. Yeah, I've long had issues with the Three Bears story. Goldilocks is a little madam and the bears were never really scary enough IMHO...it may have been a time period thing. But I upped the ante in both regards - so that the bears were scary and Goldilocks was shown to be the little troublemaker she always has been. In terms of fairy tale reworkings, you should try The Little Match Girl. :(

  • This wasn’t the challenge for me! I struggled to come up with anything new… that wasn’t some rip off from 150 episodes of Once Upon a Time 🙈 and after reading a couple of entries, I knew I wouldn’t be able to surpass them! I think those who were inspired by this prompt did amazing jobs!

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