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How To Write a Fairy Tale

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, January 24, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0229
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This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Materials for this program
  1. Handout 1
  2. Handout 2

Everyone thinks they know what a fairy tale is. There are castles, a prince or two, maybe a curse to break or a talking cat to befriend. But what is a fairy tale, really? What are the necessary pieces that make a story recognizable as a fairy tale? And how might you write one of your own?

Writing a fairy tale is not as easy a task as you might imagine. Some argue that to make a fairy tale, your story has to follow certain rules. Some say that what happens in a story, the specific plot points, and stock characters make a fairy tale. Others still argue that none of those things really matter at all —what matters is the particular work that fairy tales do in the world. Maybe J.R.R. Tolkien had it right when he spoke of fairy tales as simply stories that have “a peculiar mood and power,” stories that capture the feel of Faerie.

Join folklorists and writers Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman as they explore how to go about writing a fairy tale of your own. Do you have to follow the rules? What kinds of questions should you ask? What practical steps do you need to follow?

Explore the plot elements that define these stories, the characters who move through them, and ways to create a fairy-tale atmosphere or a twist on a traditional tale. Using folkloristics, fairy-tale studies, and narrative theory, Cleto and Warman reveal the structures and rules that underpin the fairy tale—and show you how to re-create and break them in your own writing. And don’t worry: There will be plenty of writing prompts to help get you started on fairy tales of your own.

Cleto and Warman are former instructors of folklore and literature at Ohio State University and co-founders of the Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic.

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