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Writing and Healing Idea #22: Once Upon a Time

Posted on Jan 25, 2007 by

There are perhaps a million ways to enter or re-enter the writing of fiction.  Here is one: Begin with “Once upon a time.”

This particular idea springs from one in Dee Metzger’s 1992 book, Writing for Your Life.  The book contains a wide range of exercises.  One of my favorite of these is an exercise entitled “Entering the Tale”.  In this exercise, one is instructed to simply choose a fairy tale—any one at all—and then shift the point of view so that one is writing it in the first person from the protagonist’s point of view.  You write from the main character’s point of view as if the story is happening to you right now.

For instance, if you were to choose to write—or rewrite—the tale of Cinderella, you might begin: Once upon a time, when I was a girl, and after my mother had died, my father decided to marry a woman who was not only cruel but who had two cruel daughters. . .

Or, you could write in the present tense, in a more immediate style: My father has decided to marry again.  I am devastated. . .

You have a number of options here.  You can include as many of the original details of the story as you like.  You can also alter the details as needed.  The fairy tale is at the core of your story—it’s the seed of your story—but you can take this seed, and shift perspective, and carry it wherever you like.

Simply begin at the beginning—Once upon a time——–