Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Story design: how would you build a Little Red Riding Hood retelling?

Here on Ilona Andrew’s blog, a great post about story design. They’re using Little Red Riding Hood as an example. The outline of the retelling starts like this:

* * *

Imagine a five year old, one of your relatives, children, siblings, etc. You need to tell the story of Red Riding Hood to him and do it so he or she don’t get bored.

Red Riding Hood was a very nice girl, who lived on the edge of a dark scary forest with her mom and dad in a little cottage. Red Riding Hood liked to wear a red cape her Grandma gave her for her birthday. Her grandmother lived by herself in the woods.

Five year old: Why did Grandma live in the woods by herself?

This is a valid question, so let’s think up of a reason.

Her grandmother was a powerful witch and she had to live in the woods, because that where she gathered the best herbs.

At this point let’s circle back to the first paragraph.

Red Riding Hood is a very nice girl, who lives on the edge of a dark scary forest with her mom and dad in a little cottage. Red Riding Hood likes to wear a red cape her Grandma gave her for her birthday. Her grandmother told Red Riding Hood that if she were ever in trouble, the red cloak would protect her. Red Riding Hood’s Grandmother lives by herself in the woods, because she was a powerful witch and that’s where she gathers herbs to brew her magical potions.

One day, Red Riding Hood’s mother asks Red Riding Hood to deliver a basket of bread rollscookies bottles of imported nightshade to Grandma. Red Riding Hood puts on her cloak and goes to the woods.

In the Red Riding Hood’s village also lives a very nice boy, whose name was Ranulf. Ranulf is a hunter and he is really good at hunting, because Ranulf is a werewolf. He keeps his magic a secret, because people get scared of werewolves and Ranulf doesn’t want to scare anyone. For awhile now, Ranulf has been finding disturbing signs in the woods, animals who were hacked to pieces.

Need to up the stakes here.

Also, two girls had disappeared from the village. They went into the woods and didn’t come back. Some people said it was some deadly beast who tore them apart. Someone like a big scary wolf.

Back to the front paragraph.

Red Riding Hood is a very nice girl, who lives on the edge of a dark scary forest with her mom and dad in a little cottage. The forest is a dangerous place. Two girls from their village had gone into the woods and never came back, but Red Riding Hood isn’t scared of the woods. She loves wandering under the big old trees and goes there often, which is why her grandmother, a powerful witch who made the woods her home, gave her a red cloak for her birthday and told her that it would protect her in time of danger.

One day, Red Riding Hood’s mother asks Red Riding Hood to deliver some bottles of imported nightshade to Grandma. Red Riding Hood puts on her cloak and goes to the woods.

In the Red Riding Hood’s village also lives a very nice boy, whose name was Ranulf. Ranulf is a hunter and he is really good at hunting, because Ranulf is a werewolf. He keeps his magic a secret, because people get scared of werewolves and Ranulf didn’t want to scare anyone. Even so, people don’t like Ranulf. There was just something odd about him that makes them worry. So Ranulf keeps mostly to himself and doesn’t talk to smart and funny girls like Red Riding Hood.

For awhile now, Ranulf has been finding disturbing signs in the woods, animals who were hacked to pieces. Then, the girls disappeared. Ranulf knows that something terrible is in the woods, and when he sees Red Riding Hood leave by herself, he decides to follow her. But because he isn’t well liked, he turns into a wolf, so he can follow her undetected.

Red Riding Hood notices the big bad scary wolf and tries to lose him….

Then the post goes on from there, until Ilona Andrews starts writing the real story as a full narrative with all the details. Of course we only get a tidbit of this fleshed-out story, because this is an example of story creation, not a real novel that they’re really going to write.

The post is really snazzy — fun to read and also potentially helpful. If you’ve got a few minutes, you should definitely check it out.

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