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