Fairy Tale Structure

8 Point Story Spine

1. Once upon a time . . .

A “special” opening. An extensive list of culturally divergent openings and closings will be available in a later post.

Set the time and place of the section in the opening sentences. Many times the MC (Main Character), his occupation, the time, the place and the story problem are all stated in one sentence.

2. Every day . . . 

Status Quo, the things the MC does every day and the mood is established.

3. One day . . . 

The Inciting Event: Is the MC Cursed? Broken Promise? If someone makes a promise in the beginning, you can bet it will be broken later. Be sure to create a dramatic showing of the incident.

4. Because of the inciting incident, the MC suffers the first  consequence . . . 

#1… Consequences of event are made evident, even if the MC has no fault in the event. However, the MC must physically take action in the event in some way. Maybe all he or she does is open the door, but they play a part in unleashing the “storm” (i.e., the inciting incident).

5. Because of  the first consequence, the MC suffers from the second consequence . . .

#2.  Things get worse. As one lie leads to another lie, so must the storm gather strength.

6. Because of the cascading effects of the second consequence, the MC suffers the third and most devastating consequence.

#3.  Dark Night. We would call this “dark night of the soul” in adult literature, and so it is in fairy tales, but it may be a physical dark night the MC must fight. Children will appreciate the visualization of the “all is lost” feeling it evokes.

7. Until Finally, the MC faces the Baddie directly… 

The Climax. Major Battle. The MC can’t take it anymore and rises from the proverbial ashes—both physically and mentally.

8. And ever since then…

Resolution: Baddies must get their just rewards.

Goodies complete their internal transformation and celebrate. Wedding. Party. Celebration in some form is a must for the “happy ending” expected in the “Disney” structure of fairy tales.

Many fairy tales in their original form end badly for the MC, but they still get justice–even if it costs their life. In the world of Disney, endings are always happy and are fair game for revisionist literary history.

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