Revenge of the Kicked Mushroom
I know a couple authors. And when it comes to editorial suggestions regarding manuscript changes, no matter how necessary they may sometimes be, authors are not huge fans. Some writers dislike these suggestions more than others. Today’s example (who shall remain firmly anonymous) commented to me that getting editorial changes causes them to "disintegrate like a kicked mushroom". In response to a particularly jarring recent episode, said author sent me this example of how one might go about editing Goldilocks and the Three Bears in this day and age. It amused me so much that I’m presenting it for you here. For those of you who write, you may suffer a slight case of deja vu.
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 travelled 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!
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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