August 05, 2008

The Joys of Revision, Fairytale Edition

Hat tip to children's author Barbara O'Connor for the funny story:

Some Typical Editorial Concerns, with love to my editor, Erin...and Garrulous Mackenzie!

1) Why is the Mama Bear's porridge too cold when the Papa Bear's porridge is too hot? Didn't they come out of the same cooking pot? Perhaps incorporate a description of the bowls in question, showing that Papa Bear's bowl exposes less surface area so that the porridge is unable to cool. Is there a science lesson to be taught here? (Mama Bear's bowl must be wide and shallow; etc.) Or perhaps Mama Bear's bowl is made of thin porcelain, and Papa Bear's bowl is made of earthenware? Please insert some text explaining this to our readers.

2) What is Goldilocks' motivation for tasting and eating the porridge? Has she perhaps traveled a long distance through the woods? Is she hungry at home? A paragraph or two about what attracts her to the porridge (which may be unknown or unappealing to today's children) may help us "get into her skin".

3) The porridge section of the story seems comparatively static and goes on too long. Try to shorten it, so that we can get on to the more exciting "chair and bedroom" scenes, which deliver more emotional punch to the reader.

4) Is the child's hair color significant? You allude to it in the opening paragraph, and then we don't hear about it any more. We need more mentions of the child's hair and its importance in the story.

5) Is it likely that Papa Bear would notice that the cushions of his chair are wrinkled before all three bears notice that Baby Bear's chair lies in splinters? Reorder for better flow/avoid confusion.

6) Goldilocks' pronouncements of "just right" seem predictable by the time she gets to the bedroom. Perhaps we could have a surprise in this scene--perhaps Mama Bear's bed is the most comfortable! Or, alternatively, Goldilocks could start with the Baby Bear's bed and progress to Papa Bear's bed, carrying out the theme of her insatiable desire to "crib" what belongs to another.

7) Goldilocks' reaction to the bears at the end of the story seems overwrought. Why does she flee from the house? Traditionally bears are considered dangerous, but the bears in this story have many human characteristics. They are vegetarians (as testified to by the porridge) and their house is furnished with chairs, beds, et cetera. In view of this, Goldilocks' flight makes her seem wimpy and old fashioned. Today's children will be more attracted to a spunky, feisty Goldilocks. Please tweak the ending a little!

Illustration from The Project Gutenberg eBook, English Fairy Tales, by Flora Annie Steel, Illustrated by Arthur Rackham


divatobe said...


jama said...

I am writing about the three bears this week and was going to post the same illo! This piece is hysterical . . .

Barbara O'Connor said...

After Fuse gave me the background on the original post, I decided to take it down.

But it IS funny, isn't it?

Sarah Stevenson said...

I love this. LOVE it. It's everything I wish last week's Toon Thursday could have been.

ICQB said...

Hilarious! Thanks so much for posting.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

HOO HA Funny! My oh my thanks for the laugh!

Saints and Spinners said...

Bravo! The conundrum of the porridge is one that has been debated through the ages. I wonder if indeed there were three different pots of porridge, as Papa Bear is gluten free, Mama Bear is the only one who loves cooked raisins in her porridge, and Baby Bear insists on eating only the "peaches 'n' cream" instant microwavable kind.

Holly said...

Oh me...THAT is hilarious.