Applying Common Elements of Fairy Tales into Our Writing!

Hi, I’m Ms Nellie from Lil’ but Mighty English and today, let’s look at how we can make our stories more interesting by analysing the story arc of fairy tales that we have read before.

I’m sure you’re familiar with characters in popular fairy tales such as:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  • Cinderella
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • The Three Little Pigs and many more

What I would like to do today is to analyse some of the common elements in these fairy tales and see how we can apply them in our writing. Let’s go!

Common Element #1 – The Kind-Hearted Protagonist

Notice that in some of these fairy tales, the main character tends to be a kind-hearted character who is often the victim of jealousy or envy. For example, Snow White is a kind and beautiful girl whose vain stepmother wants to get rid of in order to be ‘the fairest of them all’. Snow White’s evil stepmother goes all out to eradicate Snow White by giving her a poisonous apple that will send her into a state of Sleeping Death so that she remains ‘the fairest of them all’.

Similarly, Cinderella’s father married a materialistic and wicked woman who would collaborate with her equally wicked daughters to make Cinderella’s life a living hell. Poor Cindy has to work hard all day to keep the house clean and cook the meals so that her stepmother and stepsisters have it easy in life. She was regularly bullied by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters who want her out of sight by confining her to the house so that she doesn’t stand a chance of marrying the Prince.

How can we apply this concept in our writing?

When we brainstorm for a plot, we often have to rack our brains as to what our main character should be like. Should he or she be a kind-hearted person who is bullied or despised? Or should he or she be a compassionate soul who witnesses a dishonest act and feels compelled to do something about it?

Remember that while we do not necessarily have to portray our protagonist as pitiful victims of envy or jealousy, we should bring in elements of characterisation to make our protagonist more realistic.

For instance, can your main character be a kind-hearted schoolboy who witnesses the school bully pick on his smaller-sized classmate? Or could your main character be a compassionate soul who reaches out to help an elderly woman who has fallen down the stairs and fractured her ankle?

Ask yourself what is the common element we can use here? Then, frame your main character as someone kind and compassionate to fit the story arc of your composition.

Conversely, we also have fairy tale characters who exhibit bravery in the face of danger, For instance, Belle of Beauty and the Beast is a lion-hearted girl who would risk her life to save her father who is imprisoned in the Beast’s cellar.

When trying to pick ideas from fairy tales, you can also develop the main character such that he or she undergoes a change in character. Going back to the earlier example of the kind-hearted schoolboy who witnesses the school bully in action, we could have this schoolboy who is usually timid turn into someone who displays courage after witnessing the act of bullying.

Common Element #2 – Overcoming the Odds

In Cinderella, a fairy godmother who takes pity on Cinderella, swoops in to her rescue with an amazing wardrobe of drool-worthy evening gowns and magically transforming mice into horses, lizards into footmen and even the nondescript pumpkin into a golden carriage. This impressive wardrobe makeover and glittery packaging transforms the usually grimy and dishevelled looking Cinderella into a princess who then catches the Prince’s attention at the ball, the first step in her escape from a life of slavery.

In The Three Little Pigs, the Third Little Pig knew the earlier mistakes his swine siblings had made – building a house of straw and a house of sticks because they were just too lazy to walk a long distance to the brickworks. It was of course a lesson he had learnt that the Big Bad Wolf (BBW for short) would easily have the lung capacity to “huff and puff and blow their houses down”. Learning from their failures, the Third Little Pig chose to overcome the odds by building a sturdy house of bricks.

How can we apply this concept in our writing?

So what can we apply from the above common element? We know for sure that our story arc must contain an obstacle and the method of overcoming this obstacle.

In modern day settings, the problem need not be a mountainous pile of dirty laundry to be washed or a poorly constructed house. Instead, it could be something like a fear of heights or stage fright or a fear of confronting a bully who is physically stronger.

For instance, can your main character be one who suffers from stage fright and yet was chosen to represent the class in a story-telling competition on stage? If so, how did he or she overcome this fear? Can the fairy godmother character in your story be the character’s parent whose wise words of advice inspired the protagonist and helped him or her overcome the fear and achieve success in the end?

Conversely, it could also be the main character recognising the mistakes made by others and gathers his or her own courage to face the challenges head on, just like what the Third Little Pig did when facing the BBW. Take for instance, your main character could be someone who remains calm and takes charge when a crisis occurs and thus overcomes the crisis and achieves success in the end. In this case, the BBW and his threat to “huff and puff to blow the house down” is symbolic of the crisis in your story.

Common Element #3 – The Consequences for the Characters

In all fairy tales, the ending always contains the consequences for the characters. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Cinderella, the evil stepmothers and stepsisters either get the punishment they deserve or the forgiveness of the protagonist. The main character then lives ‘happily ever after’ with her prince.

In Beauty and the Beast, the beast transforms back into the handsome prince once Belle had confessed her love for him and they live ‘happily ever after’. Well, as for the Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf climbed up the chimney and falls to his gruesome death in a boiling pot filled with water.

How can we apply this concept in our writing?

When we plan our composition, we must look at the solution and consequences in order to wrap up our story satisfactorily. Ask yourself what happened after the problem and how is it resolved? What are the consequences for the characters in your story?

Remember that while we do not necessarily have to include gruesome deaths to punish the villain in our stories, it would only be logical for the wrong doer to suffer some negative consequences while the hero or heroine deserves praise and reward.

For instance, did the school bully get suspended from school as punishment for his errant ways? Did the protagonist who confronted the bully and reported his misdeed get praised and rewarded?

The consequence must be logical and demonstrate that ‘evil shall be punished while the good shall be rewarded’.

Now that you know how to apply these common elements in your writing, do try it out and have fun writing.

Till I see you next time, adios!


P5 and P6 English Creative Writing Tuition

Components covered:

Paper 1

– Composition Writing (with 20 Composition Topics covered)
– Situational Writing

Group 48 17 1
Ms. Nellie

As an educator, Ms Nellie believes that every child is unique and learns differently. As such, every classroom experience becomes an opportunity for reflection and spurs the teacher to find different ways to reach out to the child and establish a strong teacher-student relationship which helps to nurture the child holistically. During her free time, Ms Nellie also enjoys reading, watching movies and plays because there’s nothing like a piece of writing coming to life with moving pictures and sounds. A big fan of Dystopian novels and plays, she can always be seen at bookstores with her nose buried in her favourite books.

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