Advice for Children's Authors
Darley Anderson’s Children’s Book Agency's advice for aspiring children’s authors...
Start with a bang
Children are the world’s toughest critics. If you want them to read your book, you’d better to be sure to provide a narrative hook early on in your story – ideally in the very first sentence or paragraph. With many other media competing for your readers’ attention, you want to make sure they aren’t going to put your story down because it takes too long to get going.
Think back to the characters you loved as a child – were they ordinary or extraordinary? From Pippi Longstocking to Peter Pan, Huckleberry Finn to Harry Potter, enduring characters that truly capture readers’ imaginations are not usually “ordinary kids”. Your protagonist needs to be unique, and maybe even rather eccentric. And don’t neglect your grown-up characters, either – they need to be more than just caricatures.
Today’s children are a visual generation, reared on television, films and video games. Avoid lengthy passages of description and narrative summary – it is a surefire way to bore your target audience. Today’s children expect plenty of immediate scenes and dialogue – so be sure to give them what they want.
One of the comments I regularly make to authors is that their dialogue sounds “awkward” or “wooden”. Dialogue needs to mimic real speech as closely as possible. Use contractions and sentence fragments. Read your dialogue out loud to catch anything that sounds unnatural. Make sure children sound like real children, but beware of using slang that may date quickly.
Keep up the Pace
Your story needs to keep moving forward. A sluggish pace results in a bored reader. Is a passage or description or bit of dialogue essential to the plot or characterization? If the answer is no, you should probably remove it to keep the momentum going!