Friday, March 27, 2009

First Pages: PB / Be a Princess in Just 5 Steps

When Sadie announced that she was going to be a princess, her brother Josh laughed so hard he snorted.
"You can't be a princess," he said. "You're too little, Baby Sadie."
Sadie stuck out her tongue at Josh and ran to her room.
Safe inside, she opened her newest library treasure: Be a Princess in Just Five Steps!
Does it seem like your story just started when she got to the book? What was the plot reasoning behind the first little scene with her brother?
So you really, truly want to be an honest-to-goodness princess? You've got the right book! Just follow these five steps.
Intriguing. Maybe cute.
WARNING: Don't peek ahead! You must follow all five steps in order if you really, truly want to be an honest-to-goodness princess.
"I'm really, truly ready," Sadie said, carefully turning the page.
Sadie's speech feels like a throw-away line. Seems like you could have something here instead that will tell us more about the character or further the plot in some way.
Step #1: Every princess must live in a castle so she can always find her way home.
Sadie imagined digging a moat around her room. Then she pictured her parents getting mad. So she borrowed a few couch cushions to create her castle.
She pushed and squished and tied them together. On the tippy top of the tower, she taped a paper flag that read "Sadie's Castle."
Cute idea, and very true to children. But I'm not getting how this scene/step builds on the emotional core of the story, and I'm starting to worry that there isn't really going to be an emotional core. I'd read on, but simply being about princesses is not enough. What will make this princess story stand out from the many others already published or in the pipeline?


Sarah Laurenson said...

Not my choice of genre, so my interest level isn't a good critique point. The writing seems good.

I kept tripping over this:
Sadie stuck out her tongue at Josh
I would probably order the sentence a bit differently:
Sadie stuck her tongue out at Josh
No idea if we're talking right/wrong or regional preferences.

Step 1 seems really short. Not sure if there's more to this Princess book than what you've written, but if all five steps are this short, then the book sounds more like a pamphlet. But that's my POV. A child might not care.

Chris Eldin said...

Perhaps if your beginning scene gives the reader insight into *why* Sadie wants to be a princess, it would also help establish an emotional connection...
I like this idea though!

I liked the scene about the moat, but did not like her picturing her parents mad. I think she wants to reach her goal, and perhaps the only thing stopping her from having a moat would be the hose locked up in the garage. Her parents getting mad, well, not a big deal to a kid on a mission. She'll endure a time-out to get to be an honest-to-goodness princess.

Anonymous said...

The "warning" about not turning the page seems like the "There's a Monster at the End of This Book." with Grover?

With Grover, you didn't want to skip ahead and be "scared" of a monster, but had the surprise of finding out it was only him, and you didn't have to be scared (if I'm remembering correctly). So I'm curious as to why the "Warning?" Does it mean more at the end?

shell said...

I do love the title.

Michelle said...

This is mine. Thanks for the comments and feedback.

Now that you've said it, EA, I, too, now fear that there isn't an emotional core. Ack!

There are 5 steps - the last being that a princess doesn't need all the fancy stuff like a castle, a tiara, etc. - she just should try to be a kind person. (Which she ultimately does by being nice to her brother and ignoring his teasing.) But now as I'm typing that it sounds a little didactic. A lot didactic.

Back to revising. Thanks for posting and commenting, EA! You're the best!

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that the exchange with the brother was to set up the idea that Sadie knows she can be a princess even though her brother thinks she's too little? Defying the scorn of an older sibling is a theme that will be hard to do in a way that's fresh. Also, I'm not really feeling this scene.

"You're too little" doesn't ring true as his reason that she couldn't be a princess, since kids know that a princess is a princess from the day she's born. More likely he'd mock her for not understanding that you can't just decide to become a princess.

I agree five steps seems like not enough to fill a book. If there's room in this story for a magical element, maybe the five steps could come from a mysterious letter that arrives addressed to Sadie? Or maybe she could somehow find a letter or leaflet -- maybe it could fall out of a library book.

Unlike Sadie, I can't imagine digging a moat around a room. Would that involve digging around the edge of the floor? A moat around the house I could understand.

Yat-Yee said...

I like it that in the end, a princess is someone who's kind. Don't know how you'd make it less didactic, but I like the idea. :) Maybe because I am likely to be the only woman who doesn't like princess books and intentionally drives her daughter towards interests other than those having to do with being a princess or a fairy.

Buffra said...

I agree with Anonymous (above) that the "too little" seems like a silly reason that one couldn't be a princess. I also think that bit with her brother either needs taken out or enhanced so that it gives more of an insight into WHY it's there in the first place.

The idea is cute and I like picturing her trying to follow each step. But EA is right, too, that there has to be more to it than that for someone to *care* about her achieving her goal.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I wonder if you might be able to give it more of an emotiional core by making the next door neighbor a slightly older girl who considers herself a princess, but is nasty to Sadie?

150 said...

I think I'd like the idea better if all five steps were moat/tiara type requirements, and Sadie got to the last impossible step and realized she was only going to get to be a princess by acting like one: kind, generous, thoughtful, and so on. And I'd like to see that lesson addressed as she tried every one of the moat/tiara requirements. Let her figure it out herself.

The title reminded me of "Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days," which, iirc, is awesome.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 150's comment. Empower Sadie to figure out what makes a true princess. Show her struggle with acting like one.

I also agree with previous commenters about Josh's reason for picking on her.

I think you could turn this into something once you strike the emotional core.

~Lindsey S