I’ve been using fairy tales to inspire my paranormal short stories and novels for many years. Instead of a straight retelling of the classic tales, I love using them as a stimulus by borrowing elements, capturing the mood, or using them as a backstory, etc., to write contemporary interpretations. Sometimes I even use a formula: classic fairy tale + paranormal element = supernatural fairy tale. I also often add a fun challenge.
Here is a list of my favorite methods that I have used over the years for you to try:
- Have someone list all the words which they associate with a fairy tale and then write a story, using the fairy tale as your muse, but without using any of the words on the list.
- Add another element: I usually use something supernatural, like werewolves, mermaids, vampires, etc.
- Pick a genre (mystery, romance, sci-fi) before you read…
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by Dorlana Vann
Vivian stood beside of the lake. Her bright hair waved like the water as the wind graciously blew in from the south. She inhaled and then looked down at her newly acquired engagement ring. She had said yes, but she knew that wasn’t what she meant. Everyone had been there, watching them, watching her with anticipated excitement.
And since she did love and respect Scott, she didn’t want to humiliate him by saying no.
But it was just too soon. She didn’t want to marry the first guy she loved. She wanted to experience life and to be free to travel. She hated—for him—that she wasn’t ready to settle down.
She stared at the ring, the massive diamond sparkling in the sunlight. A diamond that must have put Scott back a couple month’s salary. A diamond that said, “You belong to me.” She only wanted to belong to herself. “I wish …”
Vivian sighed wearily before everything seemed to happen at once: a gust of wind, her name softly spoken, and her ring vanished from her finger.
“Oh no!” she cried and dropped to the ground frantically searching. She pulled at the grass, ripping it from the dirt, turning in circles, tears wetting her face and plopping on her hands and knees. She didn’t stop until she had examined every piece of earth the ring could have possibly landed on.
She crawled toward the lake. If her engagement ring had dropped in there, it would be gone forever. How could she tell Scott she wasn’t going to marry him and that she had lost the ring? She placed her filthy hands on her face and cried for herself. Soon her wails could be heard for miles, and her tears had washed her hands clean.
“I can get your ring back,” said a masculine voice.
Vivian gasped and scrambled to her feet, heavy breaths flew from her mouth. But no one was there; nothing but a weeping willow swaying in the wind by the lake, green and lush with early summer. She wanted to run; her thoughtful time by the lake had turned strange. But she couldn’t leave without the ring.
“All I ask in return is but one small favor.”
“I’ve lost my mind,” she whispered as she desperately turned this way and that way, looking again for the speaker.
“I am but a lonesome tree, weeping in the mist of time.”
“Who’s behind there?” She ran around the tree, ducking inside its leaves, searching in the shade and up into the branches. When she made it back to where she had started, she said, “This isn’t funny.” She thought maybe she should go and get Scott; they could come back to look for the ring together. Maybe marriage wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.
“All I ask is seven days of your time whenever I request.” At this, one of the trees branches stretched toward her and would have touched her shoulder had she not jumped back.
She stared up at the tree: breathtakingly beautiful, alive, and sad.
“Just say the word, and your ring will be returned to your finger.”
Vivian was positive that her distraught over losing the ring had caused her to hallucinate. Therefore, it wouldn’t hurt to say okay? And if some extraordinary supernatural event was happening to her—maybe she wasn’t aware that trees could talk because they never had anything to say to her before—what would be the harm in saying yes? It was a tree for goodness sakes, and trees were rooted in the ground.
Her confusion and desperation collected as she cried new tears. “If you get my ring back, I’ll do whatever you want.” When she felt a slight tingle, Vivian immediately looked to her hand, and there her ring sat as if it had never been lost. Without another thought about the tree or her promise, she ran home.
A few months later, Vivian sat at a coffee shop sipping her espresso and writing an e-mail to her mother who lived faraway.
Scott hadn’t taken the breakup very well. He had cried and told her he forgave her but would never forget her, nor would he stop pursuing her. He swore that she would eventually be ready to get married.
She felt a presence and glanced over her laptop and across the table.
“Is this seat taken?” the guy asked. His eyes blazed amazing green, and his facial features were symmetrically perfect.
Vivian could only shake her head, trying not to smile too widely.
“You are not an easy one to find, my dear Vivian.”
“Do I know you?” She closed her laptop.
“You no longer wear the ring.”
“No, it didn’t work out. Are you a friend of Scott’s?”
“I am friends with you.”
“No, I’m pretty sure I would know if you were my friend.”
“We met months ago by the lake. You said you would spend seven days with me if I retrieved the ring.”
“Is this some kind of joke?” But she had told no one about what had happened because she really didn’t believe it herself.
“No joke. You made a promise.”
“I made you that promise?” She put her hand on her face and gently scratched her cheek.
“I am the tree, cursed by the lake many centuries ago.”
“Really? If you’re a tree how is that you sit across from me now?”
“Since you promised to spend time with me, I am temporarily released from the curse of loneliness.”
“So you’re saying that being a tree isn’t the curse.”
“If you go back on your word my roots will go back into the ground, and I will have to endure another century alone. And I doubt if I waited twenty centuries, I would ever find a creature as lovely as you on land, sea, or soaring in the air.”
From that day on, they were inseparable. She spent her mornings listening to him tell of times before her own and spent the evenings wrapped in his arms. She grew to love him from her fingertips to her toes, from the depths of her soul, from there until eternity.
And she also believed him.
On the seventh day, her heart was filled with sadness. Would sitting under his branches be enough for her.
The ceremony was small, just the two of them, and at the place where they had met. As soon as he placed a ring of twine and twigs on her finger, his curse of loneliness vanished.
Two blissful willows swayed in the wind by the lake, green and lush with early summer.
Weeping Lake is one of the short stories from my collection Supernatural Fairy Tales: Fairy tale inspired paranormal short stories. It was inspired by Brothers Grimm’s The Frog Prince from Children’s and Household Tales. Germany: 1812, and the legend of Merlin the Magician.
by Dorlana Vann
When I saw her stretched across the tidy beds,
love’s potent sword struck my heart before I knew
who this lovely stranger was or one word said.
But I remained silent, as I always do.
With one bite, she fell ill on that dreadful day.
In a glass coffin, it hurt to see her lay.
I longed to kiss her ruby lips but froze.
Joy but regret: the prince woke her and betrothed.
Bashful is one of the fairy tale poems in my collection Supernatural Fairy Tales: paranormal short stories. It was inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
by Dorlana Vann
Poverty breeds greed in a weak soul.
I should have stomped the lad like a pest.
Does hunger justify wickedness?
He was just a boy, not a foul troll.
But now sorrow arrived and grief grows.
No one to cook for or to caress.
Poverty breeds greed in a weak soul.
I should have stomped the lad like a pest.
Husband was cruel, a tyrant, and bold.
But we lived far away from the rest.
In the clouds we made our tranquil nest.
Defending his goods, his only goal.
Poverty breeds greed in a weak soul.
Mrs. is one of the poems in my collection, Supernatural Fairy Tales:fairy tale inspired paranormal short stories and poems. It was inspired by Jack and the Beanstalk by Andrew Lang, The Red Fairy Book. London:1895
P.S. I wrote this poem 8 years ago but couldn’t remember the type of poetry. So today, I had to work backwards by putting the rhyming pattern in Google (ABba abAB abbaA) And discovered that this is a rondel .
Love, Laughter, and Fairy Tales,
by Dorlana Vann
Wink was an elf; lavender was his color.
His world was made up of sunshine and magic.
The sky was ginger, and the trees were scarlet.
All the ladies declared he was most charming.
His kind parents urged him to settle down
And to carry on his name and his beauty.
He was set up with a girl with no beauty.
Snow was sweet but lacked significant color.
Wink spent the difficult night with his eyes down.
Wishing Snow would change by way of white magic.
The more she spoke the more she did seem charming.
If only she were pink or lovely scarlet.
Suddenly the sky turned an evil scarlet.
If this was a trick it sure was a beauty.
Wink tried saying something funny and charming.
But he was nervous by this change in color.
Brilliant radiance beamed from this strange magic.
Wink and Snow thought their Heaven was falling down.
Wink woke with no idea of what went down.
He didn’t smell the sweet fragrance of scarlet
Flowers. And didn’t see his world of magic.
And the girl, Snow, was gone along with beauty.
There were trees and grass, but not the same color.
Nothing about this new strange place was charming.
People laughed, but not because Wink was charming.
He was different and strange, and they looked down
at him. Wink was a very bizarre color.
His face was no longer purple but scarlet.
This made him think just what he thought of beauty.
He longed for his homeland that was so magic.
As if by way of magnificent magic,
That which he thought before as only charming
Was now what he would define as real beauty.
Snow, as white as pure splendor, was walking down
the road. But would her expression be scarlet?
After all, she did fit this new land’s color.
Her words were soft magic, “Dear Wink. Why so down?
“I’m no longer charming.” His eyes burned scarlet.
She said, “Beauty is not defined by color.”
Wink is one of the poems in my collection, Supernatural Fairy Tales: fairy tale inspired paranormal short stories and poems. It was inspired by the short story Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving from The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. England:1819 and Beauty and the Beast (French: La Belle et la Bete) by Jeanne Marie Le Prince de Beaumont. France: 1756
P.S. The sestina is my favorite type of poem to write. They have 6 stanzas, repeating 6 words at the end of each line in a certain order. And it ends with a 3 line envoi, using one of the words inside and one at the end. They are so much fun and a great writing challenge.
by Dorlana Vann
Cinders on your face and hands, so you said.
Instead of supper you were sent to bed.
No one to play with—No huge castle walls.
Dined on the cold floor like one of the dogs.
Every day, I must hear your sad stories.
Really Mother, they are getting boring.
“Eleanor,” you start, “you are so very blessed.
Living the sweet life of a spoiled princess.”
Let me live it and make my own mistakes.
And you’ll see mirth is not an evil trait.
Dear Mom is one of the poems from my collection, Supernatural Fairy Tales. It was inspired by Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper by Charles Perrault containing Stories or Tales from Times Past, with Morals, with the added title in the frontispiece, Tales of Mother Goose. France: 1697
by Dorlana Vann
“All black doesn’t suit you,” Dominick said. “I think you should choose softer more delicate colors.”
“Delicate?” I said. “Seriously, do I look delicate?”
He grinned like he had me all figured out.
“Tuh … You are such an idiot.” When I spun to leave his presence, he grabbed hold of my arm. I didn’t turn around, but I didn’t pull away either.
“I want you to come to my Halloween party.” He placed a piece of paper in my hand. Finally, after I didn’t answer, he let me go.
I walked down the hall, not looking back until I was about to turn the corner. The bastard was still there, stationary, as the student body seemed to move around him at an accelerated speed. Our eyes remained locked, until a wall replaced my view.
“You should stay away from him,” Amanda, my stepsister/cousin/shadow from hell said. My mom died a year ago, and my aunt— her only sister— moved right in. Two months later, she became my stepmom. My dad died three months after the wedding. I guess he realized that just because Aunt Molly looked exactly like my mom, she couldn’t replace her. I still hate him for it.
“Who?” I asked after I realized I hadn’t out-walked her yet.
“You know who. I saw you talking to him, again.” She cleared her throat and lowered her voice. “I’ve been hearing a lot of stuff about him. Mom would freak.”
“Everything from he’s creepy to he’s fresh out of juvie for murder.”
“Oh, please, this school is so stupid. It’s like no one has ever seen an emo kid before. Besides, he just invited me to some lame Halloween party tonight. He’s not that bad.”
“Mom will never let you go.”
“Grow up,” I said as I turned and went inside my classroom. But at that moment I knew I had no choice but to go, or more like, it gave me an excuse to. I didn’t want to socialize with anyone, but Dominick made it difficult for me to stay mad at the world.
Amanda stood next to Molly, my aunt/step mom/guardian from hell, with a look of, You’re in trouble now—combined with a dash of—Maybe I shouldn’t have told on you. I had to remember that Amanda was used to being a finger-pointer; she had been since I could remember. I also knew that she wasn’t like the other girls her age. For some reason, she seemed to be maturing at the rate of 2:1. When we had lived apart, I could handle her. But now that her tattling neared constant, she really got on my nerves.
“Stella … Pumpkin,” Molly said. “Can we talk?”
My skin crawled at the word pumpkin—my dad used to call me that. I exhaled and dropped my book bag where I stood and then walked over to the couch and plopped. At least it had become a little easier to look at Molly. Her and my mom could have been twins. She even stood the same way my mom did when she became upset: one hand on her hip and the other one fidgeting with her face. I guess I could see how my dad, who loved my mom to no end, could get pulled in so easily.
“I heard about the party,” she said.
“Big surprise there.” I glared at Amanda.
Amanda examined her pink fingernails.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea. Amanda tells me that this guy, Dominick, is bad news. After everything that has happened this year, I think maybe it would be best not to associate yourself with the type of people that might lead you into adolescent …”
I tuned her out at that point. Six months, and I would be out of there. She could have the house. She could have everything. Everything that had been important to me had already been taken away.
“Go to hell,” I said after she had finished her spiel, and then I went to my room.
I didn’t answer the knock at my door because I figured it was just Molly checking to see if I had climbed out my window yet. The door handle moved. Crap. I had forgotten to lock it.
She poked her head in. “Can I talk to you for a moment?”
“Go away,” I said through the muffle of my pillow.
I felt the bed move when she sat down. Didn’t she get it? Didn’t she get that the very sight of her made me want to throw up – made me want to die.
Molly sighed and then said, “I used to be so jealous of her. I had straggly hair and this enormous mole on the tip of my nose.”
I really didn’t want to look at her, but she left me no choice. I didn’t remember any mole.
“I had it removed. That’s why I removed Amber’s, so she wouldn’t have to go through what I went through. But still, she seems to be going through a lot of the same awkwardness. You remind me so much of your mom. She was a beautiful teenager, a cheerleader … and the school’s vice president, and the captain of the debate team. Me? Just her strange older sister, in love with the star football player. Your father.”
“Look, this isn’t helping,” I said and got off the bed she contaminated.
She exhaled. “They didn’t even know each other at the time. Me and your dad were seniors and in a lot of the same classes. He was nice to me, and I fell hard. I was so confused because it wasn’t anything like the fairy tales I had read. I physically hurt for him. I wanted to tell him how I felt, but I couldn’t. I know he wouldn’t have laughed at me, but I was afraid I would look in his eyes and see pity. I couldn’t bear the thought of him not talking to me, either. Complete agony.”
I heard the sorrow in her voice and the tears at the edge of each word. But I felt nothing but disgust. Still, something kept me listening …
“When I graduated, I was finally able to put him out of my mind. Out of sight out of mind, until that next year. Your mom brought home her new boyfriend that she had met in college.”
“Oh, wait,” I mumbled. “Let me guess. My dad?”
“Yes. I never told either one of them. Never told a soul … until just now. “
“Well, you didn’t waste any time going after him.”
“It wasn’t ugly. That’s what I want you to know. That’s why I’m telling you this. I don’t want you to hate me, or your father. I wanted you to know that I had loved him for a very long time.”
Molly’s undying love confession didn’t keep me in the house. Surprisingly, she didn’t take my keys but just assumed that I would be a good little girl and stay put like I was told.
I stood at the end of the sidewalk looking up at the house that sat on a hill. The moon shone down giving it an old school horror movie castle appearance. I laughed but reread the invite Dominick had given me to confirm the address.
As I walked up the steps, a couple of girls dressed in skimpy fairy costumes passed by me. “Invitation only? How lame,” the one girl said.
I nervously approached, a little worried because I wore regular clothes. The invitation did say Costume Ball. Costume Ball. I thought maybe I should have picked a different party to go to; one of those where the kids had given out flyers saying B.Y.O.B.
The vampire at the door didn’t check my invitation; he just nodded as I walked by. When I stepped into the foyer, the faint sound of orchestra music teased my senses, but I should have known better than to expect silly Halloween songs and sounds.
A grand carpeted staircase rose a few feet in front of me, and the gaudy antique-looking chandelier that hung from the lofty ceiling probably cost more than my car. I stood for a second wondering in which direction to go, finally deciding to follow the newly arriving guests.
We walked through a room with table after table of food and drinks and then down a dimly lit corridor with old paintings. The classical music grew louder as we approached a doubled-doored entry.
As the doors swung open, the music whisked my hair back as it flowed out of the room on a breeze. Then the music abruptly stopped with a screech. Everything stopped, except for my heart that I hadn’t noticed, until then, had gained beats per minute.
There must have been two hundred people in that room, all looking at me through their masks. The men wore long black masks that seemed to be glued to their faces, while the women held their colorful, feather adorned ones on long sticks against their eyes.
The women wore elegant floor-length gowns, and the men were in black tuxedos; just like the guy at the door who I had assumed had dressed as a vampire.
I had obviously walked into the wrong party. I wanted to apologize for interrupting, however, my embarrassment made me speechless. I turned to make a quick exit but stumbled over my gown.
The long white dress sat low on my shoulders, tightened unmercifully around my waist and then ballroomed out to the floor. I squeezed my eyes together, hoping that when I opened them again, my delusions wouldn’t soon include the ghosts of my parents.
My eyes opened when a sudden gust of wind just about lifted me off the floor. I became completely nauseated by the change of scenery. Straight back chairs filled the room and were divided by a center aisle. The guests were now all sitting down, but still faced me, silent, and with their masks still pressed against their faces.
When I felt something tug at my dress, I turned around, and there were three little girls holding the train of my dress like it was a wedding dress.
Obviously, I was having a nightmare.
“Stella.” The echo seemed to travel from the back of the room and then reverberate loudly when it reached my ears. This sent a new sensation up my spine and around my neck that made me quiver. Ready to scream, I held my breath as I turned to face whatever came next.
Dominick stood right in front of me, but he didn’t look the same as he did in school. He wore formal attire like the rest of the crowd. And instead of his normal long straight hair that almost completely covered his eyes, he had it slicked back, which made him look a lot older. Oh yeah, and a lot hotter. So gorgeous I almost relaxed at his smile.
He said, “I knew you would come.”
“What’s going on?” I said through my teeth.
“Don’t be afraid.” He held out his hand.
I stared at him for a few seconds until finally forcing my eyes away so I could look around and remember. “If this is your idea of a joke …” Some joke though—the dress, all the people. “… it’s not funny.”
“I know this is strange but let me explain and then you will see how this is meant to be. Since your birth, your mother’s birth, her mother’s birth on up five generations, this has been your destiny. We are betrothed. We must wed and then consummate our marriage before midnight so that my son will carry on my name. My time has come to an end. After midnight, I will be dead. But before I leave, I must pass on my powers. You are the only one in the world who has the right combination of genes for this to succeed.”
“Right …” Well, my brooding finally attracted someone completely insane. And then thankfully, I noticed Mike Cole from 6th period. “Oh, you guys can’t trick me so easily.” I walked over to him and snatched the mask off his face. I gasped and took a step back. Not him. This guy’s face was cruelly cratered and monstrous. “I’m sorry.” I backed away and bumped into Dominick with a gasped.
“Don’t be afraid. Soon, you will be mistress of all of this. And all of them, your loyal servants.”
“That’s a generous offer, really, but I’ve got to go. People know I’m here. Wait, was that a knock at the door?”
The band started up again. I recognized the song: The freaking Wedding March. I don’t think so. I turned so abruptly that I knocked down one of the train-holding little girls, and I was so upset, I didn’t care. I tried to run. But even though I held up the dress the best I could, I stumbled and lost a shoe—high-freaking-heels that I didn’t put on when I left my house.
I was almost to the doors when I heard death curdling screams. I spun around. Like an old cowboy movie, Molly and Amber were at the back of the room with nooses tied around their necks. The tips of their toes were on stools, their mouths gagged, and their hands bound behind their backs.
I charged back down the aisle, but before I reached them, several men jumped up from their seats to hold me back.
My situation had become a little clearer, even though it made no sense at all.
“Do I have your attention now?” Dominick said.
I took one of those double-takes when I looked at him. His hair, that had been dark brown, had turned completely white. I couldn’t take my eyes off him because it seemed like I was watching really good movie special effects as his hair began to move up his head, slowly revealing skin. His ears and nose were bigger than I remembered, and wrinkles formed around his mouth and eyes. “What are you?”
“My name is Dominick Hamsphere. I am a 200-year-old warlock. My time in this realm ends at midnight, but I must plant an heir to carry on my name and to inherit the family wealth and power.”
Did he say 200 years old? “Gaa-ros.” I had been seriously attracted to him. “You have the wrong girl. I don’t know anything about any of this.”
He smiled, showing black rotting teeth.
My stomach churned.
“I have been following your line for five generations. I would have preferred to have met you last year, so I could have spent more time getting to know you. Unfortunately, I lost track of your grandmother when she moved to the states. I found you just in time.” He held out his hand, his fingernails beginning to curl with length. “I’m offering you marriage before the honeymoon because I am a gentleman. However, I do have a deadline.”
“You’re crazy! I’m not marrying you.”
He turned his head toward Molly and Amber. “Which one has to die before we get started?”
Hot tears streamed down my face as I looked up at them.
Amber sobbed, and Molly’s eyes were wide with horror. At that moment, I knew Molly feared for me too, not just for Amber. My mind became clearer than it had been in months. I knew what I wanted. I knew what was important. Annoying, yes, and everything that had happened over the past year didn’t automatically erase. But they were family. The only family I had left.
“Just let them go first,” I whispered. “Then I’ll do what you want.”
With a wave of his hand and a warm wind, they were gone. Now all I had to do was figure out how to get out of there way before midnight.
“I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
I didn’t want to move my attention away from the masked guy who had married us. But I knew I had to. Slowly, I turned my head.
Dominick’s appearance scared the tears right out of my eyes. I couldn’t hold back the whimper. I could see his cheek bones through his thinning skin. He was completely bald, except for one tiny section on the right side of his head. Where his lips had been before, only huge ugly teeth. I squeezed my eyes together as tight as I could so not even light would influence my vision. With a grimace, I puckered.
I felt something graze my mouth and then the atmosphere sounds distorted. I knew my surroundings were different, even before I opened my eyes.
I stood in a cold bedroom wearing the clothes I had arrived in, blue-jeans and a black t-shirt. I didn’t see Dominick, so I ran to the door. Of course, it had been locked from the outside.
Then I heard him say, “Stella,” with his teenaged voice. I turned my head slowly, and there he stood, dressed as he did at school, looking at me through his intensely dark eyes.
“I don’t want you to be frightened,” he said. “I’ve saved my last bit of energy, so I would be beautiful in your eyes. This is what you like, right?” He glided over to me. His skin looked silky white smooth. “I couldn’t ask for a more perfect bride. You look just like your mother, and her mother before that. It is amazing to see how your beauty has progressed through the years. I was a little taken back the first time I saw you, and a little concerned that you had removed the mark that represents your heritage. I can understand the temptation, but you would have looked beautiful with a hundred moles on your face.”
“Moles?” And when did he meet my mom? I began to laugh. I felt drunk with terror and the ridiculousness of the night “Do you think Molly’s my mom?”
Dominick looked at me with a curious smile that slowly became a curious frown.
“Hmmm …” I mocked. “Boy, did you screw up. Molly’s my aunt, not my mom. They had the moles. You thought I was Amanda!” I threw my hand over my mouth, wishing I could take my words back.
Suddenly, the window crashed inward, and a furious wind swept through the room. Dominick’s appearance changed in an instant, and he stood before me more hideous and post-grave like than he did before. The realization that he had redirected his powers to summon Amanda seared from the top of my head down into my stomach. I couldn’t let that happen.
I charged the old witch before he knew what hit him. His frailness lent no resistance as we rushed the window and fell two stories. I felt him crush beneath me.
So much for Midnight.
Midnight is one of the short stories from my collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales. It was inspired by Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper by Charles Perrault containing Stories or Tales from Times Past, with Morals, with the added title in the frontispiece, Tales of Mother Goose. France: 1697