- Swapping Genre (Space opera? Horror? Western? Postapocalyptic? Anything goes! Although if you want to write your story in the traditional historical/fantasy setting, I will also love it!)
- Retellings that make the villain more sympathetic, or the hero/ine less so.
- Epilogue-type stories. What happens after the happily ever after?
The Juniper Tree
I’d love a story that focuses on explaining the stepmother’s actions (because come on, no one’s first reaction to an annoying stepchild is to make him into a soup and feed him to his father). This retelling emphasizes the “evil force” that came over her…is she possessed by the devil, or a demon? Or you could twist the original story and have the boy be some sort of evil creature, with the stepmother doing what needs to be done to defeat him. (The only thing I wouldn’t like as an explanation is “she was crazy/psychotic/etc all along!”)
Alternatively, I would love a sequel to the fairy tale exploring what happens after the boy comes back from the dead. I love stories about people coming back (to life) wrong, whether that means traumatized by their death, with ghostlike properties, a dramatic personality shift, or anything else you can think of.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon
I’ve always been interested in why the prince was engaged to the princess in the first place. Is his stepmother punishing him? Is the marriage’s goal some sort of political gain? (If so, is there any fallout when he marries the story’s protagonist instead?) What becomes of the long-nosed princess after the end of the story? I would love a subverted retelling that makes the princess a sympathetic character, or a fic where she’s unrepentantly nasty/a villain.
Willie of Winsbury
The line that caught my attention when I first listened to this song was the king’s reaction to seeing Willie: “For wert thou a woman, as thou art a man/My bedfellow thou shouldst be”. That’s certainly an interesting thing to say to your future son-in-law. Does the king have a secret lust for Willie? Does he ever act on those feelings? How does his daughter feel about her dad’s raging crush on her husband?
Alternatively, how did the king end up imprisoned in Spain? What has his daughter been doing (besides sleeping with Willie) while he's gone?
The Twa Sisters
I first heard a version of this ballad as a young child (Loreena McKennit’s The Bonny Swans, in case you’re curious), and I’ve loved it ever since. The part that fascinates me the most is the magical bone-harp. What on earth convinces the minstrel to make a harp of the dead body he finds lying around? How aware is the younger sister when she’s been made into an instrument? I would love a fic focusing on the communication between the younger sister(‘s spirit) and the harpist.
The dynamic between the two sisters is also incredibly interesting. How does the older sister feel about having killed the other? What happens once the truth about the death is revealed?
The Lady Lovibond
I was so happy to see this story nominated, because ghost ships are some of my favorite things, and I’d never read this particular story until I went through the nominations for this exchange!
My favorite thing about stories like this is the idea of all these souls trapped between our world and the next, reenacting their doom over and over again…How aware are the ghosts of what’s happened to them? (One of the linked accounts mentions hearing noises of celebration. Are the ghosts completely unaware that they’re about to reenact their deaths, or are they aware on some level of what’s going on but trapped into celebrating anyway?) Does the first mate regret his actions after death, or does his spirit just end up hating the captain more?