How to Write Fables or Use Folklore for Story Ideas

They say all stories have been told, you simply need to find a new way to tell them. This adage is especially true when exploring the world of fables. Fables are defined as short tales to teach a moral lesson, often with animals or inanimate objects. Fables, folklore, fairy tales are often lumped together because their roots are deep within in the world of storytelling. Most of us are familiar with the more popular stories handed down generation after generation: The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Tortoise and the Hare, Paul Bunyan, Robin Hood, Three Billy Goats Gruff, or one of my favorites, Beauty and the Beast.

If asked, most people would be able to at least explain the main idea of each story. The Boy Who Cried Wolf is about a kid who raised a false alarm so many times that when he truly did need help; no one was listening any more. Robin Hood is about a man who steals from the rich to give to the poor and Beauty and the Beast is about a spoiled prince who was cursed into a beastly shape until he could get someone to fall in love with him despite his hideous appearance.

Even though some of these stories date back to the 1400’s, they are still viable today. Why is that? It’s simply because the theme of the story is still relevant even in this modern day. Yet there is one problem, have you tried to read one of the original versions to a child recently? The prose is formal. The dialogue is antiquated. Most likely you spent so much time trying to explain the old fashioned language your child lost their way in the story. It is time to enter the world of retellings.

Think about your favorite traditional story and try to imagine how the story would play out in a modern setting. Should the heroine stay a heroine, like in Little Red Riding Hood, or is it time for Red to become a boy? Maybe the old fashioned setting suits your retelling, but you want the Cinderella-like character to solve her own problem instead of relying on a fairy godmother, like in my story The Wishing Well: Another Weaver Tale. Or maybe you’ve decided Goldilocks is in fact a homeless teenager in search of some necessities, like in my upcoming fractured fairy tale, Pillaging.

Whether you choose to do a retelling or a complete over hall of a classic theme, it is important to decide what part of the original story you want to include. Is it the character’s journey, the magical setting or the lesson learned? Do you want to update the anthropomorphic characters with real people? Define what story you want to tell and how you want to tell it.

You can find all sorts of inspiration by mining through the tales told over the ages and with the right treatment, the story will feel fresh to the reader and allow you to deliver a moral lesson to a new generation of children.

Kai Strand
Guest post by Kai Strand. Kai Strand writes fiction for middle grade and young adult readers. Her debut novel, The Weaver, was a finalist in the 2012 EPIC eBook Awards. She is a (very lucky) wife and the mother of four amazing kids. The most common sound in her household is laughter. The second most common is, "Do your dishes!" She and her family hike, geocache, and canoe in beautiful Central Oregon, where they call home.

To find out more about Kai’s books, download companion documents, find links to her published short stories and discover all the places to find Kai both virtually and in person, visit her website: She loves to hear from readers, so feel free to send her an email or visit her facebook page

You can find out more about Kai Strand and her World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

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  1. Thank you so much for hosting me on your site today, Jo. I love talking about fables and fairy tales. If any readers have a question, please leave it for me. I'll stop in periodically to see if I can answer.

    1. You're very welcome Kai. All the best with your books.

  2. Inspiration for a good story can come from anywhere, so why not fables and fairy tales of old? I enjoyed reading this post. Thank you.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, C.S. Thanks for reading.


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