A Question (I don't know what to title this)

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    First things first: hi everyone! I’ve been away from SE for a bit because of school and work, but school is over for now and work is winding down as Christmas creeps closer (eeep!) so I thought I’d pop in and say hello!

    And now for the actual question. Or maybe it isn’t a question, just…an introduction? To my new WIP. But also a question, because I’ve never written one of these before…

    By “these” I mean a fairy tale retelling. Of Aladdin, specifically. I haven’t started writing it yet, because worldbuilding and character creating takes time, but I’m more concerned with the plot. See, I have character roles assigned to each of my characters–One of my MCs is Aladdin, his sisters Zillah and Suri kind of share the role ofย  Jasmine, and my villain is Jafar–but as for the actual plot…my MCs must find their sister, who was separated from them when they were kids, in order to keep control of their powers. In order to do that, though, they have to navigate a band of vicious thieves, a kingdom who hates their existence, and a servant girl who is nothing like she seems.

    My MC, Kova, also accidentally becomes a palace guard and has to hide his rapidly-growing-stronger powers. Silly kiddo.

    So yeah. I have characters who resemble the ones from Aladdin, but a plot that really doesn’t. There’s no fancy scene where Kova finds a girl and takes her on a magic carpet ride, and there’s no genie. But should there be? You guys tell me.

    If you have any other questions about my WIP or need any more info, just lemme know! Thanks!

    Tags: @kate (duh) @sarah-inkdragon @i-david @karthmin @seekjustice Feel free to tag others!

    INTP. Writer of fantasy and sci-fi. Wannabe artist. Anime geek. Merakian.

    Sarah Inkdragon


    *cracks knuckles*

    Hm… I’m gonna tag some people I think might be interested in this…or helpful or who just want to pop in and say hi. XD @wordsmith @allison-grace @sarah-narnathron @anyone-else who wants to come join us. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    So….. Honestly, I’d love to see a take on the Aladdin story that doesn’t really hold any of the original elements that are often used like a Deus Ex Machina(*cough* the genie *cough*) to get characters out of trouble, but still is Aladdin. If you know what I mean… like you can definitely tell it’s Aladdin, but at the same time it’s not? (I’m just being confusing now XD)

    Anyhow, I think if you can pull off a unique Aladdin story like that, I definitely want to read it. (Also–*hugs Kova* Just because–the poor child needs hugs. Many hugs.) Aladdin is one of my favorite stories(and Disney movies) of all time, and I’d love to see a unique take on it without something like a genie or the same Arabic/magical elements directly in place. It makes for a more unique plot, in my opinion. XD

    "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

    - C. S. Lewis

    Ariel Ashira

    @elizabeth Ooh, your idea is really cool!ย  I like the idea of leaving the gene and carpet parts out.ย  Sounds unique!

    "No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how hard you fall, you are never out of the fight."

    Chelsea R.H.


    I am very passionate about retellings so allow me to swamp you with my opinions.

    First of all, I wouldn’t recommend retelling a Disney movie, but since your plot is so different, you can probably get away with it. Secondly, in regards to the Aladdin elements, have you ever read the original story? Or, speaking of that, have you ever read any of the other Arabian nights stories? There’s 1001 of them, so ย if you looked through them, I’m sure you could find elements from those to use. You could even make it more a retelling of A Thousand And One Nights, rather than exclusively Aladdin.

    I haven’t got much time, and I need to go now, but I’m happy to discuss it any time.

    Ceud mile failte

    Sarah Narnathron

    @elizabeth First off: I love the idea of an Aladdin retelling. I’ve never read one, but now I want to. And go you, trying new story types!

    Like SeekJustice said, I definitely recommend reading the original version of the story instead of just going off the Disney version. (People can tell when you just go off the Disney version; trust me.)

    As for your question โ€” do you need more Aladdin elements? โ€” I’d say yes, personally. To me, you need three elements for a really good fairy tale retelling:
    -Some inclusion of the most iconic elements of the fairy tale.
    -A similar (though not identical) plotline that, again, includes some version of the most iconic scenes of the original.
    -A recognition of the heart of the original fairy tale โ€” what the original fairy tale was really about and what it was trying to say.

    If you don’t have those three things, I’d say your story is probably more “inspired by” than “retelling of” โ€” which, honestly, is fine. If you want to create characters and setting based on those of Aladdin, but then send them on an entirely different adventure, go ahead. But if you do that and tell readers that it’s a retelling of Aladdin, they’ll most likely be confused.

    However โ€” and this is the important part โ€” while you do need to include the iconic elements and scenes of the original, you don’t need to make them word-for-word the same as the original. You can absolutely transform them into something else as long as the reader picks up on the connection. I’m going to use Cinderella and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder as an example of how this works out. (There will be spoilers in this description, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum.)

    What are the iconic elements and scenes of Cinderella? Elements would probably include the glass slipper, the ball, the pumpkin carriage, the wicked stepmother and stepsisters, and possibly the fairy godmother. Scenes would be Cinderella fleeing from the ball and the prince finding her based on her shoe, and possibly also the godmother’s transformation of Cinderella and the stepmother’s refusal to let Cinderella go to the ball. (Am I listing these out of order? Very much.)

    Now, let’s look at how these elements and scenes appear in Cinder. I’ll try to go slightly more in order of how they appear in the story this time.
    -The wicked stepmother and stepsisters: Very obviously here in a literal sense (though only one stepsister is actually wicked).
    -The ball: Again, obviously here in a literal sense, but in this case, Cinder is invited directly because she meets the prince sooner.
    -The fairy godmother: Dr. Erland plays the role of the fairy godmother, but not in an obvious way. Notably, the transformation scene doesn’t show up when you’d expect it to.
    -The stepmother’s refusal: Again, appears literally, as far as I can remember.
    -The glass slipper: Appears, but in a very different form. This time, it’s Cinder’s mechanical foot, and it’s present through the whole story, not just at the ball.
    -The pumpkin carriage: Again, it appears from the beginning. Cinder finds an orange car that she decides to repair, and this becomes the pumpkin carriage at the climax.
    -Fleeing & losing the slipper: Cinder is still fleeing from the ball โ€” but not because it’s midnight. She does lose her shoe/foot, and it is picked up by the prince, but (spoiler) Cinder doesn’t get clean away.
    -Transformation scene: This one occurs at the very end, not right before the ball, when (spoiler) Dr. Erland gives Cinder a new foot and hand that allow her to finally escape.

    So, all of the elements are there, but many of them take different forms from the original, and they frequently appear out of order from the original story. In addition, one of those elements (the prince finding Cinder based on her foot) is missing altogether. However, we’re ok with it because we recognize that it really wouldn’t fit the story and so many of the other elements, including the main plot structure, are there.

    Most importantly, at their core, Cinderella and Cinder are about the same thing: escape from abuse and suffering into into bigger, better, more important things. In the original, those bigger, better, more important things are life as a princess (and, we assume, eventually a queen). In the new, Cinder isn’t a princess yet, but she is saving the world. In both cases, she’s free of her former situation and the story’s heart is present.

    And, ultimately, having the story’s heart is the key. Once you figure out what that is and you know it’s in your story too, you can decide what scenes and elements to include, which ones to merely reference, and which ones to drop entirely. And once you reach a certain level of familiarity with fairy tales, you really don’t have to think too hard about whether or not you have the heart of the story. You’ll know. But if you’re uncertain about how well your story fits with the original, checking the heart is a good place to begin.

    Anyway. Thus concludes Sarah’s mini-lecture on how to write a good fairy tale retelling. Hopefully that was helpful and actually answered your questions. Best of luck with your writing, and let me know if you have any other questions!

    Welcome to the masquerade.

    Chelsea R.H.


    Good job summing that up!

    Ceud mile failte

    Cassandra Hamm

    @sarah-narnathron I loved what you said! Also, the Lunar Chronicles are one of my absolute favorite series of all time, so I loved the analysis of that. I didn’t realize until now that Dr. Erland was the “fairy godmother”! Anyway. Nice input. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I don’t really have anything to add. They all said it very nicely. ๐Ÿ™‚ but I agree that you probably need a few more elements of the original story, and I liked the idea of taking from the other Arabian nights stories, as @seekjustice mentioned. Good luck as you figure out your story! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I crush readers' souls like grapes.

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