Friday, 9 July 2010

TOP TIP 1 - WRITING FOR KIDS / YA

Here begins a series of brief points, in no particular order. It's a handy way of keeping you on your toes while I attempt to write four books simultaneously and have a life.

(By the way, you don't seem to have noticed that, although I said I was going to take a bit of a break, I didn't... Yep, I just couldn't stay away.)

Anyway, my first Top Top for writing for children and teenagers is this:
Because you have been both child and teenager, you are much more interested in them than they are in you. Therefore, where adults appear in your story, do not bother to include their emotions, desires or crises. Your readers do not care. They care only as far as adult actions impinge on the characters.
So, you can show adults doing things and behaving in annoying, reprehensible, or even, if you must, admirable, ways. But you must not get into the minds of the necessarily minor adult characters or begin to see the world through any adult's eyes. And if there is to be any explanation of the bad or silly behaviour of your adults, it must be seen or explained through relentlessly child / teenage eyes.

Don't forget this: you are nothing in a book for children. You just get in the way.

11 comments:

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Nicola, well said! I think it's a trap to allow the adults into your story way too much. Perfect tip!

Glynis said...

Useful info, I have filed it for reference, thanks Nicola.

Lol, I know what you mean about not being able to keep away.

catdownunder said...

Oh, I noticed. I decided not to say anything...was just watching to see when you needed chocolate to revive you when you fell in a quivering heap. :-)

Ebony McKenna. said...

Absolutely. Parents are a part of our lives, but the book is not about them. The fastest way to get rid of parents is to write about orphans, but that's been done a bit.

I do like it if the parents are around, because that
'smother love' can also be an excellent source of conflict.

Sally Murphy said...

Great tip! (And as the mother of three teenagers, I might add it's not just true in books, but also in real life, lol)

Jo Treggiari said...

Excellent advice. I also like it when the parents have not been killed off since most kids have to deal with their parents and usually their presence complicates matters. Parents add conflict and misunderstanding merely by their presence and distance from their own childhoods.

christine said...

good point, well put! Thank you:)

Call in for a chat with me! Christine's Chatter is at :-
http://cadugdale.blogspot.com

Dan Holloway said...

a similar way of putting it is for those of us who wrote as teenagers or younger to go and (if we can bear the cringeing) look over those early efforts and see how much we said about what the yuongsters were thinking and how little about the adults. Unless you're sickeningly talented what you wrote was probably not up to much, but as long as you weren't just pastiching, then seeing the weight you accorded certain elements is a great indicator of what interested youngeryou as a reader - there was much more of a connection between reader you and writer you in those days before you started analysing it all.

Keren David said...

I have to say that when I was a teenager I loved reading books which gave an insight into the minds of the adults as well as the children/teens. I was very curious about adulthood, and beginning to read adult books. Some YA books - Mal Peet springs to mind - have adult MCs. So it definitely can be done very successfully.

Nicola Morgan said...

Keren - thank you - I should always remember that there are exceptions. It's also worth pointing out that in fact what we mostly have to consider when trying to get published is what publishers / adults THINK kids want, and it is very much the received wisdom that they generally want books that show them managing without adults and living in their own heads/world. You're right that Mal Peet does break this rule and I am sure you're not alone in that you liked to read about adult mindsets. I do think it's a good rule for writers to remember though, as long as, as with all rules, you know when you can break the rule and when you can't.

Leila R said...

Another exception is where an adult character is the central character in a book for children. Professor Branestawm, Mrs Pepperpot, classic characters like that. I have also noticed that more and more contemporary books, especially action-thrillers for teenager, tend to break this rule. Perhaps because within them, the teenager is acting equal with an adult, e.g. 'teen spy' kind of thing, so the readers see less difference between them and adults. Also, it can help to look into the baddie's mind now and then. However I do think that new writers (I've seen examples in manuscript critiques) can fall into the trap of making the story all about the adults, with the children sort of tagging along behind them.