How to Write a Fairy Tale: Writing Magical Stories

Whether you’re interested in participating in our writing competition or just want to try to tell your own story, we’ve got you covered with a handy guide as to how to write a fairy tale.

Are you ready to write a fairy tale, fable or folk tale? These stories for children and adults have been popular for centuries, and we’re proud to share so many here on! Whether you’re interested in participating in our writing competitions or just want to try to tell your own story, we’ve got you covered with a handy guide as to how to write a fairy tale.

What is a Fairy Tale?

A fairy tale is a short story that typically has elements of fantasy, such as dragons, fairies, ogres, elves, and gnomes. Most fairy tales have magic as well, with wishes, curses, spells, or charms featured in the story. The word “fairy tale” is used for all kinds of stories, not just those with fairies, and comes from Madame D’Aulnoy term conte de fées. You may think you can use folk tale and fairy tale to mean the same thing, but a fairy tale is actually a folk narrative. Folk tales will be more about real people and everyday things while fairy tales are more whimsical.

Fairy tales began first in an oral form, told from person to person, and sometimes acted out in a dramatic fashion. Researchers believe that fairy tales date back more than 2,000 years, and yet, we still love these types of stories today. Passing tales down orally from generation to generation continued throughout cultures, and eventually, the tales were transcribed for posterity in books by authors like the Grimm Brothers.

"Oh grandmother, what big ears you have got, she said." Illustration by Arthur Rackham. Published in Grimm's Fairy Tales by Wilhem and Jacob (1909), Constable & Company. This story is important to know when you wonder how to write a fairy tale

“Oh grandmother, what big ears you have got, she said.” Illustration by Arthur Packham, published in Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Wilhem and Jacob (1909), Constable & Company.

The Brothers Grimm were collectors of fairy tales, and were enthusiastic about folklore. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm would invite storytellers to their home, and record the tales; their work was eventually published as Kinder- und Hausmärchen, or Children’s and Household Tales — today it’s more commonly referred to as Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Hans Christian Andersen is another fairy tale author and his stories include The Little Mermaid and The Fir Tree. Editor Andrew Lang collected fairy tales from around the world for his Color Fairy Books, but he only scratched the surface of the fairy tale world.

As there are so many fairy tales and folk tales from around the world, scholars have devised systems to classify the stories. The Aarne-Thompson-Uther classification system classifies fairy tales by motif, with options like Supernatural Wife, The Clever Fox, Stories About a Fool, etc. The ATU system helps group together variants under one common motif. 

You’ll also find fables at Fairytalez! These are short stories that teach a lesson or mural, and feature inanimate objects (pots) or animals. The most famous fable author is Aesop, and his name is attached to hundreds of fables.

Common Traits of Fairy Tales

When you write a fairy tale, you may want to include common traits of these stories. Reading through popular fairy tales like Hansel and Grethel, Cinderella or Snow White, you will often see the same themes or patterns. These traits can include…

  • The story has a fantasy setting with magical elements
  • May include the words “Once Upon a Time” and “happily ever after”
  • Things, people, places, happening in groups of threes or sevens
  • A character has a problem, and receives a solution (often through magic)
  • The hero may go on a journey or quest
  • The fairy tale has good characters vs. evil characters
  • The evil characters are punished for their misdeeds
  • A poor peasant, woodcutter, etc, is rewarded for their actions
  • The “good” characters receive a happy ending
  • Everyday objects such as bags, beans, or sticks are magical
  • Animals will assist the hero in their journey, and may have the ability to talk

Tips and Advice on How to Write a Fairy Tale

Stuck on how to write a fairy tale? Don’t worry, everyone gets writer’s block, and you can get out of by following some of these tips.

  • Think of “What if?” questions then answer the question with a story — use your imagination, asking queries like “What if my cat could talk?” — build a story about what would happen next
  • Look at our list of common fairy tale traits, then see how you can use these in your story
  • Pick a setting, a character, a problem, and a magic object, then try to create a story around them
  • Read the work of fairy tale authors you like, such as the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen, then try to write your own version of one of their stories
  • Discover a new fairy tale. We have stories from all over the world, with German folklore, plus stories for regions such as Brazil, Canada, Japan, and South Africa — and use it for inspiration 
  • Don’t overthink your story, but instead, have fun writing it

If you want to submit your own story, sign up for an account on Fairytalez so you can start publishing your tales and enter our upcoming writing competitions.


12 Responses to How to Write a Fairy Tale: Writing Magical Stories

  1. Willows Fairyland January 24, 2018 at 8:29 am #

    well written, i got confused every time that how could we create our own fairy stories according to our thoughts or experiences. I know its all about our imagination, but i find it difficult to write for something you dont have ever seen and its just your own creativity, the other land, the other world, magic etc, but yeah it is fun, to read to write.

  2. Terri March 14, 2018 at 4:33 pm #

    What are the rules about using common fairy tail names like Cinderella and Snow White? Are they public domain or does someone own them?

    • Fairy Tales March 15, 2018 at 3:12 pm #

      Snow White is in the public domain, the name for Disney’s dwarfs are not. The name is used in multiple retellings — check Amazon for examples — but the characters are not the Disney Snow White. Same goes for Cinderella — the Disney names of the stepsisters, etc, are their copyright.

      • Hannah mcenaney November 6, 2019 at 11:36 pm #

        Thank you I love writing f fairytale and I’m in a competition to write a book 500 words and I’m going to bring fairytale together

  3. Ochoche June 8, 2018 at 11:35 am #

    Does this mean, anyone can use the names: Snow White and/or Cinderella?

    • Fairy Tales July 10, 2018 at 3:51 pm #

      The names Snow White and Cinderella date back far beyond Disney and are used often.

  4. Fathnan July 9, 2019 at 3:51 pm #

    Good tips

  5. TDL Rasmar January 26, 2020 at 4:14 pm #

    Can a fairy tale be written in the first person?

  6. maple March 24, 2020 at 6:58 pm #

    I need a story quest for someone trying to get their dog named lucky back from a bad witch, what should the girl do to get her dog back?

  7. Marina Petri December 29, 2020 at 6:32 pm #

    Ι do write fairy tales I think that is a magical word. I like to read the old classic fairy tales especially unknown ones I found the new generation one’s magic to and modern time interests. My fairy tales attached to old myths and legends whom I do put them in the background of my story …I really want to write a fairy tale for adults… it’s very useful what you are writing as tools on how to write a fairy tale ist similar to a movie script …THANK YOU FROM GREECE

  8. Jhumur Datta September 21, 2021 at 12:27 pm #

    Retelling fairy tales especially the lesser known ones are allowed right? probably a silly question but wanted to know copyright laws and stuff if I retell and publish fairy tales from different parts of the world , of course whilst giving credit to the original and the country it came from.

    • Fairy Talez October 21, 2021 at 9:28 pm #

      You can retell fairy tales, but check your local copyright laws!

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