Critique Group – The Three Golden Rules

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The Three Golden Rules – by Elizabeth (a retelling of “The Princess On The Glass Hill”)

A farmer’s haymeadow was eaten every Midsummer. He set his sons, one by one, to guard it, but the older two were frightened off by an earthquake. The third, Boots, was despised by his brothers, but he went the third year and stayed through three earthquakes.

At the end, he heard a horse and went outside to catch it eating the grass. Next to it was a saddle, bridle, and full suit of armor, all in brass. He threw the steel from his tinderbox over it, which tamed it. When he returned home, he denied that anything had happened. The next year, the equipment for the horse was in silver, and the year after that, in gold.

Now, the king of that country had a beautiful daughter and had decreed that whoever would marry her must climb a glass mountain to win her. She sat on the mountain with three golden apples in her lap; whoever took them would marry her and receive half the kingdom.

The day of the trial, Boots’ brothers refused to take him, but when the knights and princes had all failed, a knight appeared, whose equipment was brass. The princess was much taken with him, and when he rode one-third of the way up and turned to go back, she threw an apple to him. He took the apple and rode off too quickly to be seen. The next trial, he went in the equipment of silver and rode two-thirds of the way, and the princess threw the second apple to him. The third trial, he went in the equipment of gold, rode all the way, and took the third apple, but still rode off before anyone could catch him.

The king ordered everyone to appear, and in time Boots’ two brothers came. The king asked if there was anyone else. His brothers said that he stayed home for all three trials, but the king sent for him, and when questioned, Boots produced the apples, and therefore the king married his daughter to him and gave him half the kingdom.


Spencer peered at a flyer in his hands as he got into his car and waited for his brothers to show.

“Extra credit film class,” he muttered. “I don’t need the credit.” He shrugged. “But why not?”

The passenger door opened and Brad plopped down. Dawson followed and settled into the backseat. Spencer recognized Brad’s brooding look immediately, then noticed a group of guys laughing.
Spencer shook his head. “What is it this time, Brad?”

“Just shut up and drive, BOOTS,” Brad snarled.

Spencer sighed. “Ok. My bad. Here, take this.” He tossed the flyer at Brad.

“What is it?” Brad mumbled, holding it up as if it had germs.

“Extra credit, my man. You need it too. And look there at the bottom. Your collage is hosting it. I’m thinkin’ about going. Wanna come with me?”

“With you?” He scoffed. “No thanks.” Brad crumpled it and threw it at Dawson.

“Hey!” Dawson shouted, reaching around and punching Brad in the shoulder.

Brad started to retaliate, but Spencer shouted, “Yo! Cool it! You’re distracting the driver! Do you WANT to get in a wreck?”

Brad turned on him instead. “Don’t tell me what to do, BOOTS! I’m two years older than you!”

‘And still stuck in high school doing volunteer work because you cause trouble at college. Not to mention you have to ride with me since the police confiscated your car,’ Spencer thought but knew better than to say it out loud.

“True,” Spencer said, nodding and diffusing the situation. “Dawson, how’d that presentation I helped you with go?”

Dawson rolled his eyes. “Don’t ask.”


“My stupid partner ruined it all because he was giving the speaking part. He couldn’t speak in front of a crowd to save his life.”

“That’s probably why your teacher gave him that part.”

“It effected MY grade! Why couldn’t she have let him learn with someone else? I needed that grade.”

Spencer shook his head, then smiled. “Hey, what about you, Dawson? Wanna come to this film class with me? You’d get that credit back.”

Dawson made a face. “I watch movies, Boots, not learn about ’em. That’s sucking all the fun out of it.”

“Okey-doke. But if you change your mind, just tell me. And here we are, Brad,” he said as he pulled into the college parking lot. “When do I need to pick you up?”

Brad gave him a withering look. “Stop acting so superior, Boots. I’ll text you.” He got out and slammed the door.

“Right,” Spencer sighed. He drove in silence for a few brooding minutes, then slammed his fist against the steering wheel. “Doggone it, Brad ruins everything! I need a pick-me-up. Dawson, where do you want to go?”

Dawson looked at him funnily. “You’re weird, Boots.”


Dawson smiled despite himself. “And awesome. Let’s get ice cream!”

“I concur. Ice cream it is.”


Spencer looked around the empty classroom, sighing. “The only one who doesn’t need it and guess what? You’re the only one who showed up.”

He started to think about leaving when the door opened and a teacher with another man walked in. Spencer’s jaw dropped.

“George Radclyffe!” He gasped.

The world-famous movie star looked at him and smiled slightly. “Hello there, young man.”

Spencer felt himself go dizzy and he didn’t know what to do with himself. He thought he might fall down if he stood, so he stayed seated.

“I expected more students to attend, Mr. Radclyffe, sir,” the teacher said worriedly. “We can cancel if you wish.”

George Radclyffe shook his head. “No. I’m here already. Come here, boy.”

Spencer gulped and stood, then slowly walked up to him in a daze. “Y-yes, sir?”

“Do you know the three golden rules of filmmaking?” George asked, sitting on one of the desks, crossing his arms.

Wide-eyed Spencer shook his head. “No, sir. To be honest, I’ve never learned much about film at all.”

George’s eyebrows narrowed. “Then why are you here? The extra credit, I suppose.”

Spencer shook his head. “No, sir. I don’t really need that. I’m here because, before my dad died, he told me ‘never pass up an opportunity to learn something new. You never know what can happen when you do.’ So I just try to take the opportunities that come my way, I guess ”

George looked away. “A wise man,” he mumbled, a sad look in his eyes.

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18 replies

  1. First off, I want to say that The Princess on the Glass Hill is one of my favorite fairy tales! I wish I had thought of doing a rewrite for my creative writing class last year.

    Okay, on to the critique.My first comment is that the dialogue seems a little awkward in places and the actual language used is not how I would imagine most college age kids talking. I think the interaction between the three brothers was done well (of course, I am the youngest of two sisters so I can’t say anything about brotherly interactions!). Clean up the dialogue, let it get a little more loose and less scripted and stiff, and it is good to go.

    My second and last comment is the opening. It seems a little forced and stiff. Maybe have him read bits of the flyer under his breath, almost sighing (“Film class… extra credit… Mondays…” He shrugged a shoulder to himself. “I don’t really need the credit, but I don’t have anything else going then. Why not? Could be fun?”) and interrupt his thought process with his brothers plopping heavily and noisily into the car.

    That’s my two cents worth, but take it with a grain of salt. Hope it helps. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for the advice! I can definitely see where my diolouge could use some work now😋. Also, I apologize up front about the fairytale synopsis at the beginning. I just copied it from Wikipedia and didn’t actually read all of it. I should have cleaned that up before I submitted it😬. Anyway, thanks again! It’s excellent advice!

    • Haha, I was referring to your actual story and not the fairy tale synopsis 😉

      But you’re welcome 🙂 I’d like to read the full story once you’re finished with it!

  3. Will do! I’ll keep you in mind when I’m finished😉

  4. I don’t remember ever reading The Princess On the Glass Hill, but it is definitely an intriguing story. I am very interested to see how this retelling will proceed. By any chance do the three golden rules correspond with the three golden apples?

    I really like how you put a summary of the original story at the beginning, although I agree that you could make it more engaging than Wikipedia. 🙂 At first, I thought that the flyer Spencer was reading was the fairy tale, but I think that was just because of the plain formatting necessary for posting it here. In a finished book, I would guess it would be set off by a special font, or a page by itself before chapter one.

    The all-caps made it clear that his older brothers are calling him “Boots” in a derogatory way, and really helped me hear the tone of voice. I believe, though, that italics are a more standard way to show emphasis. I found it interesting that his friend called him “Boots” also, but in a friendly way. Do you explain why he was given that nickname?

    Last, while I definitely admired Spencer’s work ethic, my first impression was of someone who looks down on his brothers as much as they look down on him. “Extra credit, my man. You need it too.” Especially the comment “how’d that presentation I helped you with go?” The fact that he said “That I helped you with” emphasizes that his brother didn’t do his full share of the work (either due to laziness or incompetence), and seemed like either an intentional prick., or am emphasis of his generous help. It reduced his likeableness to me, and somewhat justified his brother’s dislike. But, dealing with pride may be part of his character arc. If so, you might try showing his work ethic first. That way the first impression is a better one. Then his arrogant streak can be revealed. Another option could be to show that Spencer’s seeming arrogance is just him trying to combat his brothers’ spites. (Although it ends up fueling further conflict) When I read the section again, I could see that he might have said it in a nice way and was simply misunderstood.

    As you understand your story better than I do, feel free to disregard any advice that doesn’t apply. You have an engaging excerpt here!

  5. Thank you for all your encouragement! Yes, the three golden apples do correspond to the three golden rules in the retelling. Spencer’s nickname isn’t solely a nod to the original fairytale, so I haven’t really come up with a reason why😂. I didn’t write Spencer’s interaction between his brothers with a derogatory theme in mind but more of a way to help the reader understand certain things, so it’s really helpful for me to know that it seemed that way to you so I can change it. Thank you so much for your feedback!

  6. Spencer’s nickname isn’t (I meant is here. Auto correct got ahold of me😂) solely a nod to the original fairytale, so I haven’t really come up with a reason why😂.

    • You’re welcome! And yes, autocorrect can produce some unusual sentences. 🙂 It would probably be good to think of the reason they call him Boots, even if it never makes it into your story. The origins of nicknames can be intriguing! I’m also guessing that if you can unobtrusively incorporate the explanation, it will deepen the story. That way it would be more than a nod to the fairytale, and actually deepen your characters/backstory.

  7. I really liked the modern-day rendition of a fairy-tale (even though I’m not well-versed in fairy-tales, etc.). I actually hadn’t heard of this one before, but it sounds interesting. I’m curious to see how your version correlates with the original.

    Being a younger brother (by two years, in fact. How ’bout that?), I like the interaction between Spencer and Brad. It felt organic, although the dialog may need some fine-tuning. However, the relationship between Spencer and Dawson was a little bit confusing. According to the fairy-tale, it seemed that both of Boots’s brothers were mean to him, but Dawson seemed more amiable. Is it just because Spencer does what Dawson wants him to do?

    A few rapid-fire questions: how did Spencer get from ice cream to the college? Where did Dawson go? How much time has elapsed between the two scenes? How old are each of the brothers? I know you may decide to answer these later, but I think it would help to clarify the story.

    Thank you for submitting this. I like the idea of re-writing a fairy-tale. I’d love to read more.

  8. Wow! You guys are blowing me away with all your encouragement😂! Seeing as how I have no brothers, I wasn’t sure if Spencer’s interactions with his brothers were natural.
    As for your questions, Spencer and Dawson do have a better relationship than Spencer and Brad probably because Spencer is more mature and that irrates Brad. Dawson respects Spencer’s authority over him as an older brother (and his willingness to buy him ice cream I guess😂) and generally doesn’t fight with him, just vents. He also accepts the fact that Spencer is filling his Dad’s shoes since he died, which would also be another good reason for Brad to dislike him since he’s older than Spencer and feels he should be filling his Dad’s shoes himself.
    It’s hard to answer these questions one at time, so I’ll try to answer them all at once😋. Brad is in college, Spencer is in his senior year, and Dawson is a junior. So I obviously took a little creative license since their ages aren’t like in the original fairytale. It didn’t seem to flow well with Spencer as the youngest. There are many other points like that that don’t follow the fairytale completely.
    Anyway, the high school and the college are not far away from each other, but Spencer going to the film class was also a completely different day. I’m assuming that answers your “where did Dawson go” question, but I’m not sure.
    Thanks so much for the feedback and encouragement!

    • Thank you! That does answer my questions. I was under the impression that Dawson was the oldest (because Brad was two years older and I thought that Dawson was older than Spencer). I forgot that the film class was on a different day. My bad.
      Thank you again for this. It’s a great submission. Keep up the good work! 📝

  9. Elizabeth,

    I enjoy retold myths. “Till We Have Faces” retells the Cupid/Psyche myth, and it is one of my top three novels of all time.

    You are doing well to introduce the characters and their interactions before any intense action comes. It’s crucial to connect to the characters, especially the protagonist as early as possible.

    First, I would not present the fairy tale at all. Readers will constantly compare your story details to the tale, which will keep them from being immersed in your tale.

    Second, some of the opening dialogue is contrived, that is, inserted unnaturally in order to inform readers. Whenever a character says something to another character that they both already know about, and the only real purpose is to inform the reader, that’s dialogue you should probably delete.

    For example, “I’m two years older than you!”

    And your interior monologue can also be contrived – ‘And still stuck in high school doing volunteer work because you cause trouble at college. Not to mention you have to ride with me since the police confiscated your car,’

    That seems intended only to inform the reader.

    Third, although other critiquing contributors seemed to enjoy the opening banter, I didn’t care for it. I know you’re trying to develop the characters, but the petty bickering annoyed me, and I didn’t get a sense of purpose. Good stories begin with the protagonist doing something that has a clear goal, even if it’s small. In this opening, I can’t pick up anything.

    I think it would be better to start the story with all three of them going to the film class (they don’t have to stay). Maybe Spencer can be holding the flyer and comparing the room number to what he sees on the door. His brothers can be reluctant, and the banter that shapes their characteristics can still exist but be more subdued.

    I would also give Spencer a motivation to go to the film class, maybe that he heard that the actor would be there. It is hard to imagine that a flyer would leave out that information.


    Sometimes I struggled to figure out Spencer’s motivations:

    1. He shrugged. “But why not?” – That’s not much of a reason for going. You explained later, but if we’re in Spencer’s head, then we would know.

    2. My bad. – Actually, no it wasn’t. Why did he say this?

    More details:

    Brad started to retaliate – What does this look like? Show, don’t tell.

    diffusing the situation – How can he tell that he was diffusing the situation after just saying “True” and nodding. Do you mean “attempting to diffuse the situation”?

    Dawson rolled his eyes. – He’s in the backseat. How does Spencer see the eye rolling. Is Spencer looking in the rearview mirror?

    Dawson made a face. – What does this look like? We know he has a face. And how does Spencer see this?

    Hey, what about you, Dawson? – Wasn’t he already talking to Dawson?

    Dawson looked at him funnily. – What does this look like? And how does Spencer see this?

    Dawson smiled despite himself. – I don’t understand why the smile is despite himself. And how does Spencer see the smile?

    He started to think about leaving – Show, don’t tell.

    The following is a motivation/reaction issue:

    Spencer’s jaw dropped.

    “George Radclyffe!” He gasped.

    Spencer’s jaw dropped because he recognized the actor, but you reported his reaction before his recognition. That’s out of order. Also, if “he gasped” is a speaker tag, then the “he” should be lower case. If it’s not a speaker tag, then he would probably gasp before he spoke.

    the teacher said worriedly. – Show, don’t tell. What does worried look like? This will give you an opportunity to give us one physical trait the teacher has so readers can paint a mental picture.

    “No. I’m here already. Come here, boy.” – You need a dialogue beat between these two sentences. Check out this link –

    George’s eyebrows narrowed. – How do eyebrows narrow? I can’t picture this.

    George looked away. “A wise man,” he mumbled, a sad look in his eyes. – Repeated “look.” Also, if George looked away, how could Spencer tell that he had a sad look in his eyes?

    Thank you for submitting this, Elizabeth. Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you so much for your opinion and the time it took to analyze my story to help me better understand the flaws. It’s highly appreciated! I’ve also read Till We Have Faces and thoroughly enjoyed it. This isn’t the first fairy tale I’ve tried to retell partially for that reason. It’s a very inspiring book. Fairytales, myths, and legends have survived hundreds of years of countless changes, so I guessed they could live through mine as well😋. Thanks again for the help!

  10. Interesting approach, Elizabeth.

    When I saw that you were doing a retelling of “The Princess on the Glass Hill”, I was very curious how you would do it. I was kind-of confused at first to find myself reading the original fairytale, but seeing that you did start retelling the story — in a modern setting, no less — I became very intrigued on how you would do this.

    I like how you rapidly developed the character personalities and story world setting. I think it might be best to just make mention of “The Princess on the Glass Hill” without retelling it before your story, because it seems to take out the tension from it as we know what’s going to happen (in the vaguest sense). But I do see the benefits like with Brad calling Spencer “Boots” and that being a significant connection to the original story, but I’m now somewhat curious as to how that nickname came about in this modern setting.

    Anyway, I like what you have so far (in your retelling) and am curious where you’re going to take it. 🙂 Keep writing! 😀

  11. Thanks for the feedback! It’s very helpful!

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