How To Write A Retelling

When I’m experiencing writer’s block, I find one of the best ways to kick-start a new story is to do a retelling. I’m provided with the basic premise to start with and a few characters to build off of. As the retelling progresses, my story will move farther and farther away from the original, allowing for greater creative license. Here’s how I go about starting a retelling.

  1. Read up. My favorite resource for retelling ideas is BulfinchI own his Greek and Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable and Medieval Mythology: The Age of Chivalry. Both volumes provide a concise but thorough overview of the mythology of each era. I also have a hefty copy of Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales. Reading the original versions of familiar stories may lead to some revelations.
  2. Look for points that make you curious. What’s the origin of a piece of magic in a story? Why is this character involved? Might any characters have unexpected motivations? Anything that seems under-explained or simply ignored in the original will provide a great basis for a retelling. Start thinking about possible explanations.
  3. Write based on your theories. Go into the background of the story, or write about what happened afterwards.Talk about a usually neglected character. Try to explain what the original story leaves out. Before you know it, your story will be going in an entirely different direction from the original, and then you can take your ideas and run with them.
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5 responses to “How To Write A Retelling

  1. I love reading a retelling. It’s enjoyable to discover what unique direction different writers will take an idea. My WIP, “The Enduring” isn’t a retelling, but there is a connection to the tale of “Snow-White and Rose-Red,” which is a story I loved as a girl.
    Oh, and you mentioned Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales? I just put that particular book on my birthday wish list. You could say I’m becoming a collector of collections! 🙂

  2. Hi Allegra!
    Great post that I’ll share with my writing buddy who is doing a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I’ve often wanted to do one from the prince’s pov in Cinderella.

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