Medieval to Modern – Writing Fairy Tales In The Modern World: Sharon Ashwood

Cinderella in the restaurant kitchen? Big Bad Wolf in black leather? Many, many romance readers adore fairy tales and there’s nothing more delicious than a reworking of a favorite old story into a modern setting. These books are just as much fun to write as they are to read, but doing a good job takes some thought and a light hand.

To pull off a modernized story, it’s more than just a wardrobe change and adding smart phones. As with any other book, an author needs to create a fresh, emotional adventure that will make the reader feel as if they’ve never heard that fairy tale before. That means bringing a unique perspective to the story as well as all the tools of a writer’s craft. A romantic tale, wherever it’s set, is a story about two lovers and they must have all the desire, courage and humanity the writer can give them. As a writer, we need to make our version sparkle. This will lift what we do from a retelling to a reinvention.

There are also many choices to make. Any story that’s been around long enough will exist in many versions and it pays to look for the more unusual fare. When I began the Camelot Reborn series I was well aware that most readers knew about King Arthur and his knights and expected to see certain things—Excalibur, magic, Merlin, chivalry, and the trappings of a medieval court. But should I aim for historical accuracy? A story with lots of magic and dragons? The old Celtic versions of the tales? How about the French ones? It’s up to the author to choose among the source material and find what best supports their story idea. In my case, I did some mixing and matching to build a world in which Camelot could in fact exist both in a fairy tale world as well as the present day.

And whatever characters appear in the book—Sleeping Beauty or the Huntsman or Sir Gawain—they need to be individual, fascinating people and not just ciphers. Most importantly, they should surprise us, at least a little. After all, we know how the fairy tale goes already, so the writer should shake things up enough that we doubt whether the story will remain on script.

This makes particular sense in a time travel tale. My knights, after all, encounter modern women. Is a twenty-first century female going to behave like a medieval maid?  In some ways yes and in others—definitely not!  That’s going to leave our heroes scrambling—and that’s where the fun begins!

Author Bio

Sharon Ashwood is a novelist, desk jockey and enthusiast for the weird and spooky. She has an English literature degree but works as a finance geek. Interests include growing her to-be-read pile and playing with the toy graveyard on her desk. As a vegetarian, she freely admits the whole vampire/ werewolf lifestyle would never work out, so she writes her adventures instead.

Sharon is the winner of the RITA® Award for Paranormal Romance. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and is owned by the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness.

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