Friday, April 15, 2011

In the beginning, before the first draft

An idea is born!
(How Philippa got her start)

Idea part 1:

I had an outreach program I was asked to do for Valentines Day. A storytime visit to a school.

I don't do Valentines Day books.
I did not find a single story worthy of being told in a program.
If anyone has one to recommend, I'm all ears, just don't recommend some sappy little lovey dovey thing, blech.

I admit it, my requirements are fairly strict: It has to be short enough to tell, if it's a book it needs to be large enough to share the illustrations, and it's got to be really really good. Bonus points if it's funny. We're talking a third grade class here, it better be funny.

I searched. I dug. I despaired. There was nothing that was lighting that spark of ... 'I can't WAIT to tell this one!'

I finally settled on a Cut and Tell story from the book Handmade Tales: Stories to Make and Take (OPL link) by Dianne de Las Casas: The Royal Paper Puzzle. A story about a princess who, upon her father's command to get married, devised a paper-cutting riddle as a test to winnow out her suitors. Intriguing, the puzzle part. I think I can work with this. But, as Valentine's day approached, I wasn't entirely happy. I felt a little blah about it all.

A storyteller cannot be 'blah' about a story. I knew I was in trouble.

As I played around with the story, I thought that maybe a prop would help, a princess puppet or something. Then--it happened. I was looking for my princess puppet when I found my troll puppet. Hmmm. Light-bulb (said in my most Gru-like voice).

The troll, a Folkmanis puppet, was very definitely a boy. It needed a makeover. I gave him a makeover.


Now, I had my hook, my spice, my pizzaz! Princess Penelope was a princess of uncommon beauty. Yessirree baby! She is most certainly uncommon now!

Valentine's Day came and went. The program was done. That was that. Move on to the next program I was scheduled for. (which by the way was FABULOUSLY fun - it was Pirates for St. Patricks - this part will come into play later, watch and see . . . )
  
Read more . . .

 
Idea part 2:

I have been carrying around an email for months that my sister forwarded to me, a list of paraprosdokian phrases(don't worry, I had to look it up too.)

My favorite paraprosdokian phrase? "I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming like the passengers in his car." I know, not kid-friendly, but I admit it, I can be a bit twisted. The dark side of being a children's librarian!

Back on topic - - I knew I wanted to write something that played off this idea, eventually.

Then it hit - the coming together of Idea 1 and Idea 2:

How about a picture book that is a little bit like Just Another Ordinary Day by Rod Clement, where the illustrations tell a completely different story than the words. I love that kind of book! And here was that line I had used for Valentine's Day - "Penelope was a princess of uncommon beauty", belied by the fact that, at that moment, I would bring out Penelope--the troll! Light-bulb.

It's coming together:

I started playing with other ideas swirling in my brain. I'm not big on the idea that she has to get married. What if she were empowered like Tatterhood? How do I empower her?

What if I had page turns like Walton's Once There Was a Bull...frog? Paraprosdokian style. The words are the set up, the illustrations are the gotcha part of the paraprosdokian phrases!

What can I do to make her accountable for her actions? Not a wild child like Shannon's No, David or Falconer's Olivia - but still as loveable as those awesome characters.

How do I implement what I know of script and text analysis in here?
    She needs to be a rule-breaker somehow, what does she do that is off-beat?
    I need a strong system character, who is controlling her world?
    Who is telling the story (Point of View)?
    Is she a hero? How does she come out on top? Does she come out on top?
    Who are my primary noise and chaos creators?
    Is there a safe character?
    How many roles does my main character hold?
        (does she flavor the story,does she tell it, she is the main character, is she the chaos creator, is she also the hero, what initiates the action...)

Is she an alien, troll, hobgoblin/gobling or ogre? Maybe, like Balian's Humbug Witch, there is a reveal at the end . . .

Click below to see the official first first drafts.
...keep in mind, this is the first stage, the putting of ideas down on paper, drafting the beginnings of an outline:

First: The original notes for my Valentine's Day program:

Princess Penelope was a princess of UNCOMMON beauty.
She had eyes like rubies, a tooth like ivory and practically perfect spiky hair that framed her bewhiskered face.
Princess Penelope was of the marrying age. It was time to find a husband.
Now no ORDINARY man would do. Princess Penelope needed to find a perfect match.
Brawny strength would not be enough. Penelope wanted a husband with a brain.
Being rather smart herself, Princess Penelope devised a clever puzzle as a test.
And the proclamation went out: Hear ye! Hear ye! Anyone who can solve Princess Penelope’s Paper Puzzle shall win her hand in marriage.
All the eligible bachelors in the kingdom  and beyond lined for a chance to win Penelope’s hand.
Men, Wizards, Ogres, Trolls, Dragons and even one flying monkey.
When everyone was gathered in the courtyard Princess Penelope said, “If you wish to win my heart you must prove your skill and mind’s might. If you can solve my puzzle I will surely know that you are worthy to be my prince.
Here is the task:
Take this small square of paper and cut it so that I may walk through it. NO PIECE OF PAPER MAY BE WASTED.
Some of those gathered threw up their hands and laughed, “No one will marry the princess, for that is an impossible task.”
Some that were gathered through, “Oh, that is so easy! I can do that!” Those that thought they could solve the puzzle stood in line.
For hours Princess Penelope watched as they all cut, and cut, and cut. No one made the cut.
One day
Two days
Three!
Word of the impossible puzzle spread. Noble gnomes, grand dragons and hairy ogres came from far and wide.
One conceited wizard rode into court on a tall horse. “Princess Penelope!” He exclaimed. “I am a cut above the rest!” Let me show these fools how to do it”
Princess Penelope smiled and said, “Of course. All you have to do is cut this…. She handed him the paper and some scissors and he began to cut, and cut, and cut
“I have it!” he cried out at long last. But when he held up his paper, the entire courtyard laughed. It was a disaster. The wizard lowered his head in shame and rode away.
Next a putrid ogre galloped into the courtyard growling to all, “Princess Penelope! These others just don’t cut it, Let me show you how it’s done!”
Princess Penelope smiled and said, “Of course. All you have to do is cut this…. She handed him the paper and some scissors and he began to cut, and cut, and cut
It’s done!” He ground out. But when the ogre held up his paper, again the courtyard laughed. His creation was a disaster, just like all the others. The ogre stormed out grumbling and gesticulating, very grumpy.
All this time, quietly in a corner a ragamuffin, a poor--and horribly hairy--troll named Patrick had been watching carefully as each of the others had tried and failed to solve Princess Penelope’s Paper Puzzle.
Now, at last, he stepped forward, bowed to Princess Penelope and offered, “With your kind permission, Princess Penelope, I would like to try.”
Oh how the courtyard laughed at this bedraggled poor penniless Patrick. If a grand wizard, a ginormous ogre along with all the best in the land could not solve the puzzle, who did this Patrick think he was to be able to solve the royal puzzle.
‘Please, may I have a chance?” Patrick asked politely.
Penelope smiled, the proclamation does say ANYONE” and she handed him a square of paper and a pair of scissors along with the instructions: All you have to do is cut this….
Patrick nodded and went to work.
He snipped and snipped and just a few short cuts… Patrick was finished.
“I’m done Princess.”
Then he opened his paper.

YOU DID IT!” Princess Penelope exclaimed. Not a single piece wasted! You cut the paper so that I can walk through it!” And she did just that, planting a kiss on Patrick’s cheek.
Patrick blushed and smiled.
Soon it came to pass that Patrick and Penelope were married.
Now since they both had a passion for paper, they and their kingdom prospered greatly when they opened up a plethora of novelty stores, which they aptly named: Pat and Penny’s Paper Puzzles.
It was positively perfect.

 . . . note that although the structure of the above storytelling is 'hung' on the frame of the Handmade Tale's version, it still has my (ahem) -take- on it. it is a bit different from Dianne's original.


Next, I start note taking, a matter of days and weeks:


Then, at last, an outline on the computer:

Version 1 & 2
Princess Philippa Potts


Philippa Potts was a princess of uncommon beauty.
            (ET in drag)
Everything about Philippa was a struck a stunning figure / stunning beauty / Every thing about Philippa was truly stunning. Except for her ____
That was very ____

She had ____
And ____

It was so long she kept tripping over it.

Each morning Philippe would (try on/attempt to) dress for every (special occasions)occasion.

As everyone knows, the paparazzi never sleep.
Practice for the paparazzi.
And her millions of fans.
Including her ____ (pet)

Yes, Philippa was truly (uncommon looking).
From the top of her crown to the tips of her toes, Philippa was truly a ___ princess.

But . . .

As all true princesses know, the search for a prince is ____
For Philippa knew that dancing at a ball doesn’t make you a princess anymore than standing in a kitchen makes you a stove.
Every princess must hold the most fabulous luncheon parties. Cakes, tea and Horsd’ouvres Horses of Ord.
Always use your napkin.
Even if you don’t need to.

A princess must always dress for the occasion. Any occasion. Every occasion. All at once. Philippa was good at that.

The most troubling part of being a princess is finding a prince.
According to the handbook:

A prince should be seriously strong, have a sense of humor, be funny but above all, be a real man.

Philippa welcomed her suitors.
The first prince was certainly strong.
Strong smelling
The second prince was most definitely funny
Funny looking.
Philippa took matters into her own hands and went searching for a real man.
No thanks. After futher deliberation Philippa decided that she could wait for a prince.

Being a princess is exhausting.
And demanding.
And hard.

But, with great ___ comes great ____ (wealth,responsibility)
And so despite her (aching feet)
Philippa dismissed her servants for the evening.
She bid/said farewell to her suitors
She still had time to sign a few autographs.
…picked a book to be read and went to bed, ____ -ed

______________

Obviously we need to do some serious work here.

How about this...
_________________

Princess Philippa Potts


Philippa Potts was a princess of uncommon beauty
(ET in drag)
It could be (it was often) said that Philippa was born with a distinctive style.
Had developed unusual talents
Beyond question, Princess Philippa was indisputably unique
Except for her mother. Philippa’s mother was rather typical
For a mother that is.

Each morning Philippe would dress for every occasion.
All at once.
A proper princess is always prepared.
And, as everyone knows, the paparazzi never sleep.
And her millions of fans.
Including her ____ (pet)


Yes, Philippa was truly (uncommon looking).
From the top of her crown to the tips of her toes, Philippa was truly a ___ princess.

But . . .

As all true princesses know, the search for a prince is ____
For Philippa knew that dancing at a ball doesn’t make you a princess anymore than standing in a kitchen makes you a stove.

Every princess must hold the most fabulous luncheon parties. Cakes, tea and Horsd’ouvres Horses of Ord.
Always use your napkin.
Even if you don’t need to.

A princess must always dress for the occasion. Any occasion. Every occasion. All at once. Philippa was good at that.

The most troubling part of being a princess is finding a prince.
According to the handbook:
A prince should be seriously strong, have a sense of humor, be funny but above all, be a real man.

Philippa welcomed her suitors.
The first prince was certainly strong.
Strong smelling

The second prince was most definitely funny
Funny looking.

Philippa took matters into her own hands and went searching for a real man.
No thanks.
After futher deliberation Philippa decided that she could wait for a prince.

Being a princess is exhausting.
And demanding.
And hard.

But, with great ___ comes great ____ (wealth,responsibility)
And so despite her (aching feet)
Philippa dismissed her servants for the evening.
She bid/said farewell to her suitors
She still had time to sign a few autographs.

…picked a book to be read and went to bed, ____ -ed

___________________

Well, a little better. Let's let things gel for a while, time to let it sit for a day or two.
___________________


Philippa Potts was a princess of uncommon beauty.

(illus. note: Page turn / and we see rat’s nest hair, schlumpy slipper shoes--obviously not a human--let’s call her a ‘Gobling’, or troll or possibly an ogre. She has a book: from what we can see of the title, it’s a …Being a Proper Princess book.)


--Going to ___ doesn’t make you ____, any more than standing in a ____ makes you a _____.

(illus. note: Book chapter heading: Going to a ball/wearing a crown/ does not make you a princess, any more than standing in a kitchen/              makes you a stove/chef/                 .)

Every princess must learn her/proper manners.
            ? paraprosdokian page turn

(illus. note:


No gobling’s allowed

            (illus. note: there is a LOT of messiness on her hands and a spattering of food bits all around.)

Always use your napkin

(Illus. note: napkin is draped over her head)

#3

…The last thing I want to do is ____, but it’s still on the list.


find a proper suitor.

(illus.note: in the book: An appropriate prince must have strength and vision, they are usually very strong. It’s always good to choose a partner with a good sense of humor, being funny is an asset. And above all he should be  a real man.)

Philippa’s first suitor was certainly strong.

            (illus. note: We see a hint of a jowly and whiskery-faced mug, also, he is of rather diminutive proportions.)
           
Strong smelling!

            (illus. note: We see the retreating back of our prospective odiferous and oh-so-offended ‘gentleman’.)

Philippa’s second suitor did have a sense of humor.
(Illus. note: Puckered lips, closed eyes)

Funny looking!

(Illus. note: Opens eyes, we see a close-up. He does look rather googily.)

…searched and finally found the only man, the only real man to be found in all five kingdoms!

(Illus. note: Enters a door appropriately labeled, “Man Cave/No girls allowed/ boys only / entrance reserved for real men only/….?? ”. Page turn / Philippa has turned on her heel and SHE is the one disappearing. What we see of our ‘real man’ is that he is rather obsessed with/buried in his ‘toys’)

Not likely!

Time to try something else.

… I used to be indecisive, now I’m not sure

All princesses must prepare to greet their populace, their fans, and their paparazzi!

(illus. note: We see something that might resemble E.T. if he were dressed in a decades-old Barbie wig, cocktail gloves, enormous hat, dress and princess shoes.

            ?Paraprosdokian page turn              

1
2
3


(illus. note: Toe tapping giant is nearby)

A true princess will always save some time to sign a few autographs.

(illus. note: She is marking off a list on a chore chart: playroom (the tea party), feed Prince Charming- the dog, pick up room (the ‘dressing’ room), and read for 20 minutes, not yet marked off).

Exhausted by her efforts,
(Humbug Witch- undressing)

Puts her book away
(illus. note: We see full book title: Every Girl’s Guide to Being a Proper Princess)

Carefully selects a new book to be read, and goes to bed.
I want to ___ peacefully in my ____, like my _____. Not ____ and _____ like the _____ in his ____.

__________________
notes:

If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.

The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Page turns like Once There Was a Bull—(frog)
            The page turn is the illustrated last half of the paraprosdokian phrase

Twists like Just Another Ordinary Day by Rod Clement

Flips

Surpising like Humbug Witch by Lorna Balian

Empowering like Tatterhood


Princess Philippa Potts ________
A paraprosdokian tale
___________________________________

Now I have it all on the page, I print and really tear into it:



I carry the printout wherever I go, it sits on my nightstand, it rides along in the car and even accompanies me on any errands and appointments I have. It doesn't complain too much about it either. Atta boy!
I spend a lot of time just daydreaming and jotting down anything that comes to mind. I also spend some quality time with Rodale's Synonym Finder.
When things are looking a bit too jumbled and messy, it's back to the computer for another draft.