PRINCESS FOR HIRE by Lindsey Leavitt is a cute, fun ride with plenty of depth. It lives up to the promise of its title. Join me as I break down Act I – so we can learn and hopefully apply to our own writing. Scroll down for links to Act II and Act III.

Logline: (my words) Small town Idaho girl receives her wish to make an impact when she’s offered the job to substitute for princesses around the world.

  • Strong protagonist? Check. Desi
  • Irony? Check. Right away I can picture the potential scenes for a small town girl trying to survive in the world of royalty.

Is the main character of your current wip the absolute worse possible candidate for the role? Good. If not? Um, fix it.

  • Universal appeal? Big enough for the targeted age. Girls at this age aren’t playing dress up any more. They make fun of Disney princesses, but secretly wish to feel special – like a princess.
  • Antagonist? The Princess Agency establishment and their philosophy of not letting the subs make an impact in the lives of the princesses. And one agent in particular.

Act I

Opening Image: (Tone, style, mood, snapshot of the character’s life.)

Desi works for a mall pet store dressed as a groundhog, passing out coupons. She runs into her ex-friend, Celeste, who makes fun of her. Desi’s voice during this heartbreaking but humorous situation sets the tone. It makes me want to read more.

Funny, funny, funny. I could do a whole post on the genius of this first chapter!

Theme stated: (What is this story really about?)

Check. I found it in Chapter 2, page 15. Desi wishes to be the kind of person who makes an impact. And she humorously adds, and a more glamorous job. Can a small town nobody make a real impact?


  • Hero: Desi
  • Stakes: Her happiness.
  • Outer Goal: Desi wants a fresh start for eighth grade. (Not looking good.)
  • Inner Goal: Desi wants to make an impact, even though her friends and family seem to be against her.


  1. Desi has a miserable job that Celeste (her ex-friend) knows about.
  2. Desi feels like the black sheep of the family – the non beauty queen.
  3. Low self-confidence.
  4. Unrealistic crush on Celeste’s boyfriend, Hayden.
  5. Unwillingness to listen to the voices of reason in her life. (Friend, Kylee; parents)
  6. Needing money for college.

“If the events that follow did not occur, it would pretty much stay this way.” Blake Snyder, SAVE THE CAT.

Catalyst: (The life is about to change moment!)

In chapter 4, Desi takes a bubble bath, and Meredith appears in a bubble (love the play on Cinderella) and offers Desi a job as a princess substitute.

Honestly, I debated whether the catalyst was Meredith arriving in the bubble or when Desi made the wish to make an impact on the fish tank at work. But Blake’s words in SAVE THE CAT when describing the catalyst moment convinced me otherwise. The main character should be asking: Dare I go? Should I go?


PFH is a middle grade novel. And accordingly, the debate section covered the span of about a few pages instead of a few scenes. Meredith asks Desi to sign the contract. Desi has to make the fateful decision.

Break into Act II (The protagonist makes the decision and leaves the old world behind.)

Desi signs the contract and enters the bubble with Meredith. Reader can’t miss that turning point!

I’m sure there are lots of terrific stories where the main character isn’t the worst possible candidate for the role. But how I feel about that would make this post way too long. So maybe another time!  See you next time for Act II!

Click for the breakdown of Act II and Act III.

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26 Responses to Plot Busters – PRINCESS FOR HIRE

  1. erin February 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Ha! I love the idea of a small-town girl who gets hired as a princess… I can just imagine the comedy and romance and glam!

  2. Jennifer Shirk February 18, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    I love how you break down the story. Makes the plotting so easy to see.
    I want to read that story. Sounds really cute!

  3. Stina Lindenblatt February 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    I love how you analyze novels to illustrate the points you’re talking about. Great post as always, Laura. 😀

    • Laura February 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

      Thanks stina! I’ve been learning a lot through the process.

      Jennifer – When I was looking for it in PFH the plotting was easy to see, which it should be. But it was seamless. And a very cute read.

      Erin – I know. Just the logline holds some potential – that’s high concept for ya!

  4. Susan Kaye Quinn February 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    I’m intrigued by this idea of the “worst possible candidate” for a Main Character! I’ve heard it before, but I want to give it more thought as I’m dreaming up the MC for my next MG novel. I think I’ve stumbled into doing this with previous stories, but more via the personal character conflict.

    Having not read P4H, now I think I need to, just so I can follow your analysis better! 🙂

  5. Marisa February 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    This was excellent, Laura!!

    I haven’t read Princess For Hire (but want to!) – yet this was so clear and easy to follow! And that first chapter sounds awesome!! 😀

  6. Sherrie Petersen February 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    You’re so good at this! I loved this book because it had so much more depth than I expected from a book with “princess” in the title 🙂 Great breakdown here. You seriously could be teaching classes!

  7. Jamie Grey February 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    Fantastic breakdown, Laura! It’s so helpful to see how other authors approach story structure. And your insights are excellent!

    I’d never heard of this book before, but I’m SO going to have to check it out – it sounds adorable, and I’m definitley partial to the title 😉

    • Laura February 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

      Susan – I’m planning a blog post to explore the whole worst candidate thing because clearly it’s not an absolute.

      Marisa – The first chapter was incredible!

      Sherrie – I agree – PFH had way more depth than expected, which made the story that much better!

      Jamie – I can see why you are partial to the title! 😉

  8. Angela Felsted February 18, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    Oh, wow–I so need to get this book!

  9. Lydia K February 18, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    Thanks for breaking this down. I like having it shown to me so my poor brain doesn’t have to do the work in analyzing!

  10. Patti Nielson February 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    I’m picking this book up today. I’m also interested in the worst candidate thing, so I’ll be checking back for that one.

    • Laura February 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      Patti – yes, the blog post is stewing in my mind as I struggle with it – but I will win and then share. 🙂

      Lydia – I learned much more by doing it myself though. Hint Hint.

      angela – Very cute book and great gift idea for girls first grade through young high school.

  11. Laurel February 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    _Save the Cat_ sound like a great resource. It’s interesting that some aspects of structure get more or less emphasis based on genre, like MG books having a more condensed “debate” section. Looking forward to your next installment!

  12. Lisa Green February 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    That made me feel good about the MS I might be diving into for revisions soon. It’s that kind of situation (very different plot of course) but the MC is – or at least appears to be the last person who should be in the situation.

  13. Jill Kemerer February 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    I find this sort of breakdown very helpful. I do this all the time with my own books, but I don’t take the time to do it with books I read. Great exercise!

    Do you think this book would appeal to 13-year-old girls? I’m not sure what the cut-off for middle grade novels is. Thanks!

    • Laura February 18, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

      Jill – I think it depends on the girl. Some 13 year olds would love it. But if they are extremely mature and advanced readers – as in reading adult and older YA – they might be past it.

  14. Tamika February 18, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    Love that you broke everything down. Since plotting makes me cringe, this gave me a clean view of the story line and character arc. Nice!

  15. Janet Johnson February 18, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Wow you’re going to convert me to reading books to break them down. I did read Princess for Hire and definitely enjoyed it. A fun read. But I missed all the learning your found. Great post!

  16. Tana Adams February 18, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    My daughter would LOVE this book! She’s really getting into MG. *sniff* I miss picture books already.

  17. Elle Strauss February 18, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    Great job! Can’t wait to see how the rest works out.

  18. Karen Strong February 19, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    Really great breakdown Laura. Love your plot posts!

    Can’t wait to for the Act II breakdown. I’ve heard so many good things about PFH.

    Hmm…now I’m intrigued. Need to go download this first chapter to my Kindle!

    Have a great weekend! 🙂

  19. Julie Musil February 21, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    Laura, I love the way you break things down. We can learn so much when we do this. Thanks!

  20. Patti Mallett February 23, 2011 at 3:57 am #

    Thanks, Laura!! This is so helpful! When I read a YA book I really like, I’ll flip to the front and start over, the difference being that I’m watching for how the author “did” certain things. Thanks to your breakdown here, I’m going to have a much better idea of what I’m looking for!

  21. Laura February 28, 2011 at 8:06 pm #

    Very interesting, I’ll have to give this a shot!!


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