Teachers Write! 6/21 – Thursday Quick Write

Welcome to Tuesday Quick-Write!  Got your keyboard or pencil ready? Today, guest author Miriam Forster talks about the magic of the unexpected – and flipping your story!

Miriam Forster learned to read at the age of five, wrote her first story at the age of seven and has been playing with words ever since. Her debut novel, CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS is being published by HarperCollins. In her daily life, Miriam is a wife, a terrible housekeeper and a dealer of caffeine at a coffee shop. In her internal life, she imagines fight scenes, obsesses about anthropology, nature shows and British television, and reads far too many books. Learn more at her website: http://msforster.blogspot.com/

One of the things that sparks a good story is the conjunction of unlikely elements. And one of the best ways to create that spark is to take an essential aspect of your story and flip it.  That’s what today’s prompt is about.

Step One: Pick your favorite fairy tale.

Step Two: Flip all the genders.

(If you’re using these prompts to help a work in progress, try flipping the gender of one of your primary characters instead.)

Step Three: Write a paragraph or two from a flipped character’s perspective. 

This also works with plot, (What if the princess from Sleeping Beauty was cursed to stay awake for a hundred years?) and setting. (What would a Snow White tale look like set in Alaska? What if Rapunzel took place in Australia?) 

Flipping is a great writing exercise because it instantly opens up the story possibilities and gets your brain thinking outside the box.  More importantly, flipping is just plain fun.

Ready…Set…Flip! Be sure to stop back and let us know in the comments what you discover today.

39 Replies on “Teachers Write! 6/21 – Thursday Quick Write

  1. “Call your stableboy.” His hand moves to the gun on his hip, “Kings orders.”

    He wasn’t just a stable, he was his stepson but he wasn’t going to tell the deputy that. “Get Dale,” he says to his two sons standing next to him. They both look at him as to ask which one of us. A few seconds past and he hits Stan, the younger son, across the back of his head. “Get Dale.”

    The deputy is tired. The princess was going to furious if he didn’t find this cowboy.

    The father clears his throat. “This will be a waste of time. Dale could not have been at the rodeo, he had work to do here.”

    The deputy puts the white cowboy boot down. “Kings orders, all males will try on the boot.” The deputy hated the last two days. Men’s feet were not pretty. A smile started to break on his face as Dale walked into the room, he wouldn’t need to try the boot on this boy. Dale was holding the other white boot.

    “It was me, I rode Captain Jack for 12 seconds…”

      1. Thanks for reading, to be honest, not sure where the idea came from. As I read the post, cowboys came to mind.

    1. Very clever! I like how you had the character tell about the fact that “men’s feet are not pretty”. It really made me LOL!
      I could see this becoming a book!

      1. Thanks for reading… I use to sell shoes in college… Didn’t want to get to detailed 🙂

  2. The bear ambled out of the woods and into the clearing. He saw a small house, its door just ajar, the smell of something good coming from within. Hunger grabbed at his insides. He edged closer, alert to sounds that might tell him others were nearby, but he heard nothing. He poked his huge head through the door and gave a warning grunt. Still, no response. He noticed three steaming bowls on the table to his left and marched right over. He stuck his snout into the closest bowl and felt a bolt of searing pain, like nuzzling a nest of mean bees. “Too hot!” he realized. He used his paw to brush a few sticky curds of porridge into his mouth and moved around the table to the next bowl. It wasn’t steaming, so he plunged in. It reminded him of creek algae, cold and slimy. “Too cold,” he scoffed, but still slurped up everything in the bowl. He eyed the wisps from the third bowl and went there next. He blew lightly on it before taking a cautious taste. As he chewed and swallowed, his eyes noticed next to the bowl a honey-filled plastic bear, its nozzle crystaled over. He tilted his head quizzically and registered the cloying taste in his mouth. “Too sweet,” he realized. That didn’t stop him from emptying the bowl and crunching down the bear too. He went back to the first bowl, which had cooled now, and devoured its contents. His stomach, though, still grumbled. He didn’t yet feel just right. He turned his back on the table in disarray and moved towards the kitchen.

    1. Very clever Brian! Nice job of “writing long” or “zooming in” as they say. I particularly liked the part with the honey in the plastic bear.

  3. Hi Miriam, thanks for helping out with Teachers Write and for this fun prompt. I checked out your website a couple of days ago and requested an ARC of your book. I also see you’re up in Moscow, Idaho (I’m in Pocatello). What a beautiful environment for writing. Okay, here’s my flipped fairy tale:

    “Mom, I don’t have time to bake cookies for grandma and make it to the game,” Big Red Helmet Head tripped on his shoulder pads and stumbled into the kitchen.

    “I’ll tell you what,” said mom sympathetically, “I’ll finish the baking while you get dressed. Then you can take this box of goodies to grams on the way to the arena.”

    “That’s a game play I can score on, Mom.”

    “So it’s settled,” mom said and Big Red nodded in agreement.

    Before leaving the house, Red head-butted mom, cradled the box of goodies in his arm and darted out the door. Mom gave him a high-five and a shout-out, “Watch for blockades and bad-asses. Go big or go home.”

    Big Red didn’t want to fumble an opportunity to score with both grams and mom in one Hail Mary play. He decided to pick up his teammate Woody to help with the coverage. Woody would be Red’s man in motion.

    On the way Red and Woody strategized. “You can wear my helmet and take the box of goodies up to gram’s apartment. She lives at Shady Acres Retirement Home,” Red explained. “I’ll circle back around and pick you up. That way we won’t have to park and waste time.”

    “Snaps, I like that plan,” Woody nudged Red with his shoulder pad in a side gesture since a friendly rear pat was impossible while riding to gram’s in the 442 Cougar.

    After a brief timeout for a refreshing supersized soda and a fill-up at Maverick, Red and Woody reached gram’s apartment.

    Woody ambled to the door and pressed the button that would signal his arrival. But when gram opened the door, her mouth gaped and she pointed her Taser at Woody in Gram-to-Man coverage.

    “It’s me. Woody. Big Red’s teammate,” Woody moved sideways to avoid gram’s game of laser tag.
    “You gave me a shocker, young man. I’m going to have to call a penalty on you and report you to security for immediate ejection. Now give me those goodies.”

    In his shock at the geezer’s violent nature, Woody fumbled the box, spilling its contents at grandma’s feet. They scrambled to recover, each trying to outmaneuver the other until gram’s shouted triumphantly as she fell on the box. “I got it. Score.”

    Woody shrugged back to the Cougar. He dreaded telling Red about gram’s illegal motion and hoped his friend would understand. After all, gram did have the home field advantage and Woody was a last minute substitute in goodie delivery.

    1. Glenda! That totally cracked me up! I love how you flipped more than just the Red role–you flipped Granny, too. Fractured fairy tales is always one of my favorite things to do with students, and this is such a FUN example. Loved it!

    2. Hehhehehe! This is too funny! I love the “play” on words with the football theme-no pun intended of course! Thanks for sharing-here’s another one I could see as a book…


    Amid the squalling of the storm, the color of the car was difficult to discern. Definitely a Corvette, though. Definitely a car fit for a prince, which is what this young man claimed to be. Oh, but didn’t they all claim to be princes? William, Henry, how many others had made such claims and been shown false? Too many for a young princess to keep faith that one day her prince would come. No, faith these days attached itself to a test, one devised by the father of the princess, a man who had grown weary of the parade of pretenders.

    Our latest would-be prince, like so many before him, was given accommodations for the night in a special room in the castle. This room was bare save for a mattress and a shovel. Around the handle of a shovel was a parchment that read: “My gold is buried beneath this floor. Find it by morning and the gold and my daughter’s hand shall be yours.” There was no gold buried under the floor, of course. But there was a small bit under the mattress. The king surmised that those who only wanted riches would spend all night digging, while those who truly valued his daughter would spend the night on the mattress and, being the sensitive type, would feel something out of place. This way the king would not have to say these men were gold diggers; their actions would say it for them.

    Through much of the night, the scraping of the shovel could be heard, much to the dismay of both the princess and her father. But when they entered the room in the morning, they found the stranger, clad once again in his purple cloak, standing enigmatically amid cheeky lyrics and a strange runic symbol, all of which he had scraped into the dirt floor during the night. In his hand he held a tiny gold nugget, about the size of a pea. The princess cooed, and she and the stranger stepped out into the fresh sunlight as doves heralded their love for all the kingdom to hear. And the king thought to himself: “This is what it sounds like when doves herald.”


  5. There is a bit of truth to this tale, based on “The Elves and the Shoemaker.”

    The Gnomes and the Tired Teacher

    Once upon a time there lived a hard-working, dedicated teacher. She lived in an enormous old house with a big, overgrown yard, and she was constantly trying to be the best mother and wife to her family and the best teacher she could be, all the while knowing that her home, an important historic landmark right in the middle of town, was an eyesore to passersby.

    Every night, this teacher would come home, laden with papers and books, help with dinner (she was lucky enough to have a husband who cooked!), try to do some housework, play with her kids, and provide the kind of feedback she knew her students needed on their work each day. She was, in short, exhausted, and she didn’t feel like she was a good mother, wife, or teacher, much less homeowner!

    One night, after paying bills and worrying over the budget, this teacher went to bed, too spent to study any papers. She left them on the coffee table, ready to be tackled over breakfast the following morning. She said her prayers and went peacefully to sleep, for she was a good woman, loving and kind, and she knew in her heart, even though she didn’t always feel it, that she was doing the best that she could.

    In the morning, much to her surprise, this teacher found all her papers graded and positive, specific, helpful feedback left on each one. “What on earth happened here?” she asked her husband, an English and Communications Major, thinking that he had stayed up all night, marking her papers.

    “I have no idea, honey. I certainly didn’t do it. But, I’m glad someone did! Perhaps you can get some much needed relaxation now. Leave your papers out tonight, and see what happens!”

    That night, and for several more, this teacher left her papers on the coffee table. Each morning, they were perfectly scored. “These are exactly the comments I would have written!” she exclaimed. “Why, I am actually getting ahead on the housework and can even weed the garden tonight!”

    Finally, this teacher and her husband could bear the curiosity no more. After all, they were good, kind, generous people, and they couldn’t take the gift of help without giving in return. So, they hid behind the couch and waited. About midnight, they were amazed to see the gnomes from their garden silently troop in, divide the stack of papers, pick up the pens left lying on the table, and quickly conquer the workload. This teacher and her husband felt ashamed; they had let their garden gnomes become faded and chipped in the sun, neglecting their care as they tried to cope with other tasks.

    “Honey, we must help them. What can we do?” this teacher asked her husband.

    “Let’s go buy some paint!” He replied.

    The next night, this teacher and her husband again hid and waited. About midnight, the gnomes trooped in, divided the stack of papers, and conquered the workload. Then, with silent glee, they dipped themselves in paint buckets and brushed the details on happily, as this teacher and her husband looked on. They pranced out joyfully, back to their garden homes.

    This teacher and her husband never saw the gnomes at the coffee table again, but in the morning, over coffee, they gazed out at their garden. In it, four beautifully clad garden gnomes stood at attention and brightened the yard with their glistening coats. From then on, while the work was always there, this teacher did it with a little spring in her step and a smile on her face, always looking to the gnomes for encouragement when she felt a little down. This teacher and her family lived happily ever after.


    1. What teacher hasn’t dreamed of the grading gnomes? (Or the interim report fairies…I used to long for their arrival.) This would be a really fun model to share with students!

    1. The process of “regenderizing” was fun…I was a little anxious though because I am always aware that have to take care in stereotyping…that’s what I noticed was a thinking point when we’re writing stories through the eyes of different characters…as an author, how do you avoid stereotyping characters’ genders?

    2. I loved the playful voice in your poem, Amy – and I think Miriam’s prompt did such a great job reminding us all that creativity and play go hand in hand.

  6. Bree’s Decision is another novel that I am working on.


    Bree Simpson is a passionate teacher who just started to further her education in graduate school. She starts seeing the dapper Ahmad Jackson who is more suave than she expects because she finds out weeks into the relationship that she is carrying his child. Ahmad isn’t trying to be a daddy and Bree feels abandoned. She has to rely on her relationship with God, which hasn’t been steady, family, friends, and especially her male best friend, Andre Wilson. Andre has always been in love with Bree, but knows that she only sees him as a brother. As the pregnancy progresses, Bree finds herself in a predicament of falling for Andre. Once she decides to pursue a relationship with him, Ahmad comes back into the picture wanting to have a happy family. What is a soon to be momma to do?


    AHMAD — When Bree told me that we was no longer having sex, that just gave me an out. Brother can’t fathom having a child on the way then having a woman who probably expects me to marry her eventually. I am in the prime of my life. I just landed a new job that is helping me build bank. Did I mention that I am too fine to be tied down to some chick and a baby? I’m not a family man, and I just not ready. A brother is freaking out over here. Yeah, I love Bree. Okay, maybe not love her. I really do care about her. She is a good woman, but a baby complicates things. After talking to my homeboy, she could have been sleeping with someone else so the baby probably ain’t even mine? No baby spit up on the custom made suits for me. Free as a bird. Between you and me … I seriously doubt Bree would ever step out on me. We were always together. Even with my new job, we made time for each other. But another part of me wants to believe I am not going to be a daddy soon. A brother simply isn’t ready.

    1. It sounds like flipping this one gave you a sense for what your main character’s love interest (or former love interest?) is thinking – and I think that can be really helpful as a way to step back and think about characterization.

  7. I get the feeling I’m not going to have time to finish this today, so here is my beginning of my flipped Hansel and Gretel. I was inspired by Amy Rudd’s poem to try mine in verse, also.

    Hansel and Gretel lived in the wood
    Everyone knew they were up to no good
    They liked to eat witches: baked, stewed or raw
    Didn’t much care if they were breaking the law.
    Little Witch lived in a citified house
    Had a mean mom who was really a louse
    Mom said to Witch, “It’s time that you go,
    You eat like a hog, so pack up and blow!”

    1. This reminds me of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. I hope you will post your finished draft.
      Thanks for sharing.

    2. This is really fun! Am I making this up, or is there a play or musical or something where Hansel and Gretel are awful children taunting an old lady who just wants to be left alone?

    3. I love that Hansel and Gretel are “up to no good!” I don’t know whether Kate is right and there already is a story where Hansel and Gretel are the antagonists, but it sure is a great idea! Keep writing on this!!

  8. Miriam- Thank you for the twisted prompt. Still drafting but anticipate that brains will win the day in this version vs. the brawn of the traditional take. What an interesting means to take a new look at a familiar tale! Thank you for the prompt!


    The Three Nanny Goats Bluff

    Long ago there was a lovely valley near the long fjord in Norway. The valley was fed by the melting water of the snow pack high on the mountain. The snow melted ever so slowly until the days grew long and the midnight sun approached. The faster the snow melted, the faster the valley burst with green goodness.

    Now on the mountain lived three nanny goats. They had spent the winter longing for the luscious grass of the valley as they nibbled the stubble of bushes dug from the snow. The path to the valley was narrow and long, but they were sure-footed and hungry.

    The bridge was their only problem. Under the bridge where the mountain stream flowed lived a troll. While most trolls like nothing more than a tasty goat, this troll was different. Though she liked a pot of goat stew or roast leg of goat, what she loved more than anything was to look at herself and admire her beauty.

  9. And here is my quick write:

    I really want some ma’s cooking. It has been so long since I tasted a sweet cake with cinnamon. Maybe I will venture out of the forest today and go see that house at the edge of the maple trees. That red house always looks so inviting. Wonder what I could take with me on my first visit? Flowers? Coffee? Flameless candles?
    “Dad, I am going to go visit the Blue family!”
    “Okay, son. Be careful; I have heard that there is a mean girl that likes to play in the woods People say she is scary. You better not stop anywhere on your way. And, don’t forget to come straight home afterwards.”
    “I promise!”

    (Picture that you can see on my blog)

    I can almost see the house behind those trees. Oh, but wait! I see some wild flowers along the edge of the oak trees. Maybe I should pick a few for the lady… After all, I have heard about the lady’s coffee cake. It has even won ribbons at the village fair–at least that is what the newspaper reported.
    “What do you think you are doing?”
    “Excuse me?”
    “Oh, hi! I am-
    “I know who you are! You are not welcome here. This is Blue land! We don’t want your kind in here!”
    “Hello Ms. Blue! I have heard that your father has taken ill and-
    “I already told you once, get off our land, OR I WILL KICK YOU OUT!”

    Wow! Dad really was right when he mentioned the mean girl. She really does talk loud; she even looks blue in the face. I don’t think I will be getting any coffee cake today.

    “Little Blue??? Who are you talking to?”
    “Nobody Mom!”
    “I know what I heard! Let me see who you are talking with!”
    “It is White Wolf, Mrs. Blue.”
    “Well, come a little closer child. I want to look at you a little closer.”


  10. This has been fun to try. I only regret I have no more time to write now to continue my story. I’m debating whether to keep this gingerbread girl sweet or to give her a bit of sass, too. I’ll have to think about it, but would love input.

    The Gingerbread Girl

    One cool fall evening a poor old man and woman peered down into their flour barrel. Winter was coming, and there was so little flour left
    “I will make some gingerbread, that will warm our insides, and we will fashion one into a boy for you to eat and a girl for me to eat. “ She busied herself adding just enough flour, a pinch of cinnamon, another of nutmeg, eggs, butter, and water and all of her other ingredients until the gingerbread was ready to form.
    “Let me make my gingerbread boy,” said the old man. I will use these raisins for eyes, a piece of licorice for his mouth, and buttons all down his front.”
    “That is very fine,” said the old woman, and I will use icing to give my girl golden curls, and also give her eyes, a mouth and decorate her dress with icing flowers..” There, they are all ready to go into the oven.
    The old woman popped the gingerbread girl and boy into the oven and waited for them to be ready. The room filled with the delicious aroma of the gingerbread, so wonderful was the smell that the old woman and man could almost taste the gingerbread in their mouths already. Finally, it was time to check the gingerbread. The old woman opened the door to the oven and pulled out the tray with the two gingerbread children cooked to perfection.
    “Bring them here to the table so we can eat them now!” said the old man, but the old woman knew better. She knew that they would be much too hot and would burn their tongues, so she set them in the window to cool. This was when the gingerbread boy made his escape that we all have heard much about. And, no matter how the story is told, what animals enter into the picture, we all know the tragic end that comes to the sassy gingerbread boy. He is gobbled up by the clever fox as they cross the river.
    Having witnessed this, the old woman and old man return to their cabin, disappointed over having lost their dinner. When they arrived they were surprised to see the gingerbread girl standing in the door looking out for them.
    “I am so sorry my brother ran away,” she said. “As we were baking he told me that he was going to and asked me to run with him, but I knew that would not be right so I could not. You may eat me now. But please, before you do let me make you a delicious treat to repay you for my brother’s rudeness.
    The old woman looked to the old man. Both were so shocked to have seen the gingerbread boy come to life, that they were doubly surprised to see this gingerbread girl busying herself in the kitchen.
    The gingerbread girl added just enough flour, a pinch of cinnamon, another of nutmeg, eggs, butter, and water and all of the same ingredients that the little old woman used, but mixed in were some special secret ingredients told to her by her great great gingerbread grandma. Instead of forming the gingerbread into a boy and a girl, though, the gingerbread girl laid the dough out into rectangular strips, cutting each into thirds. She popped the pan into the oven and began cleaning up the mess that comes about whenever a good cook bakes.
    Before long the room filled not just with a delicious aroma, but a heavenly aroma – cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, nuts, ginger, mingling together into a mouth-watering aroma. The gingerbread girl pulled the pan from the oven and set them on the table. “These are hermits,” she explained. They use many of the same ingredients you used to make me and my brother, but there are other ingredients, too which I hope you will enjoy. They are very warm, though, so please be careful!”
    Having gotten over their shock, the old man and old woman each took a hermit, blowing on it briefly to cool it down. They both bit into their hermits and were instantly overtaken by the splendor of the taste. The hermits melted in their mouths and filled their hungry bellies with warmth and goodness.
    “My! These are so wonderful, child!” said the little old woman. “Never in all my years have I tasted anything so delightful!”
    “I am very pleased that you have enjoyed my hermits. It was the least that I could do to repay you for my horrid brother’s behavior.”
    The old woman looked to the old man. What should they do? Surely they could not keep these hermits to themselves, they must share these with their king!

  11. I have kind of been thinking about flipping the main character in my “””””work in progress””””. My character, Sam, is a girl whose dad is a truck driver. Growing up my father was a truck driver and in the summer I would do a little traveling with him.

    One of the worst parts of trucking was having to wait to go to the bathroom. In trucking, time is money, and stopping to go to the bathroom for a 10 year old ever 45 minutes, does not bode well for the bottom line. I would either have wait for hours to go to the bathroom or I would have to use the jug. Yes, there was a jug. My father had a gigantic jug where you could go #1 without having to leave the truck. He had it so that in the middle of the night he could go to the bathroom. He encouraged me to use it while we were driving. I would go to the back and close the curtain. It was awful. So awful.

    I kind of think it would be fun to include the jug in my WIP, but I’m not sure it is worth changing the gender of my main character to inlcude it (it was fun to think about).

    1. Oh, but that’s definitely the kind of detail that makes a middle-grade feel true, Colby.