My Favorite-Folktale Formula

So I’ve been looking for a shorthand/formula for m-o-n-t-h-s now, and finally sat down and created one out of the tales I constantly return to.  And it works!  Made it very clear which elements do and don’t belong in *this* novel.

I started by analyzing favorite Beauty and the Beast and Iron John variants, then compiled a structure/format that also fit other tales

  • The Ebony Horse
  • East of the Sun, West of the Moon
  • The Lindorm King (of course)
  • The Lady and the Lion
  • “A Flowering Tree” (basically a pre-marital counseling session wrapped in a folktale. I might be able to write this novel in my 50s)

This covers pretty much all the complex tales I am drawn to, showing relationship development (usually in a nutshell), and allowing both the man and the woman to think and affect their “destinies.”

  1. Opening state.  Usually there are some inherent qualities of the MC
    1. Birth; e.g. royalty, other significant parentage (optional)
    2. Attitude; which attitude depends on the needs of the story
  2. Other intrudes
    1. Does M.C. notice?
    2. How does M.C.respond? Acceptance (in this model), but how?
      1. reluctantly?
      2. with fear?
      3. innocence/naivety?
  3. Physical separation from the known
    1. Frequently this includes an emotional connection with a former stranger
    2. If the emotional connection is skipped/missed there are deeper regrets and pain in the next step
  4. Physical separation from the new known
    1. Opportunity for character discovery- self and/or others
    2. Journey to return
      1. Sometimes a series of tasks/helpers to process
      2. often anguish of seeing things changed while gone
  5. The closing FIND, usually with a final twist that is victory beyond mere achievement.

I like how this formula isn’t as complex as Campbell’s Journey of the Hero, and provided me with a structure to look at individual story lines for each major character.

I’ve not much liked how many steps there were to keep up with in the Hero’s journey, and how some authors feel it’s so central/clever that they’ll over-work a story to fit it.

And it always seemed a waste of time to “reject the call.”

To show you how I apply the formula, here’s an example using The Ebony Horse, since I already have a version of it on my blog:

A prince (1) flies away on the magic horse (2)-(3), meets and absconds with a princess (3.1) and brings her home for a happily-ever-after.  The bad-guy tricks the foolish princess and steals her off (4), the prince disguises himself to search for her (4.2.1) and the princess, after changing hands once more, concocts a ruse of her own (4.1) to protect herself from the sultan who would force her to marry him. The rescue involves more than escape, it also includes a clever outwitting (5).

~ ~ ~

Next job for my novel is to read-through and see if the transitions between these bits are solid.

And to decide whether my THADs are effective enough. I have a lot of talking scenes. And, I’ve been told, not enough world-building visuals.

4 thoughts on “My Favorite-Folktale Formula

  1. Pingback: Story Beyond the Chase | Untangling Tales

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