Thursday, May 15, 2008

How to publish a children's book - kids as heros

Yesterday I showed you a few of the heroes in my house. Today I want to talk about kids as heroes.

Writing for kids is similar to writing for adults. This is obvious in the commercial success and popularity with adults of books such as Harry Potter. The big difference is that the hero is a kid.

My first book is a picture book, designed for the 3-8 year-olds. But it is true here and it is true for older kids, the kid has to solve the problem, be the hero, win the day, etc. and usually they have to do it from a point of danger against really bad guys.

Again to examples:

Version one:
There was a girl who lost her kite in a tree. So she went home and told her mom and her mom came and got it and she was happy. The end.

BORING! Terrible writing as well.

Version two:
There was a girl who lost her kite in a tree. So she climbed the tree and got it and she was happy. The end.

Marginally better. Now the kid has the problem, the kid solves the problem. But let's try to make it more exciting. Let's make the problem bigger so when the child solves it there is an element of danger and a greater feeling of success.

Version three:
A girl was flying her kite in the meadow. This was no ordinary meadow, it was right next to the scary house. The house that had the ferocious beast of a dog. The girl had been warned that any children that went into that yard never returned. She clearly remembered that Vivica had tried to sell cookies there last year and had barely escaped with her life. But it was such a beautiful day to fly a kite.

Besides, she thought, this is a beautiful day and a beautiful kite. I know it is meant for my birthday present for my cousin but one short flight can't hurt it. I will just take a short flight and then put it back in Mom's closet. No one will ever know.

"Besides, I am not afraid of a little dog" She said this aloud even though she was all alone.

Everything was going fine until the big wind blew the kite into the tree. The tree that just happened to be in the ferocious beast's yard. "Oh great," she thought, "I don't know which death will be worse, eaten by ferocious dog or throttled by Mom. I guess I better go see if I can get it."

....we just made the problem worse. The girl is stuck between a rock and a hard place. She must pick a course of action. We have heightened the stakes. Now if a kindly neighborly lady pops out, takes care of the dog and helps her retrieve her kite, we have failed. That is a quick fix and will not give the reader (who by now hopefully identifies with the little girl) the satisfaction of completing the hero's journey.

I won't complete the story, but you can see the possibilities to expand this story. Just remember who has to be the hero. For example:
1) Climb tree-almost fall-dress dangles inches from beasts mouth - remembers cookie in pocket - throws cookie to distract dog - gets kite - home safe - (and then, all fine or still in trouble or puts kite back and then is given to her as her present).
2) Dog not around - discovers house abandoned - beginning of a mystery...
3)Dog chained up - girl befriends dog - finds out dog is actually prince/mistreated/etc. - figures out how to break the spell - new friend.

The possibilities are endless. That is the beauty of stories.


Jenny said...

Hey Jen...still reading your pointers. Maybe I can email you with some questions I'm having?

Jen Fos - Top Banana said...

Jenny, absolutely you can email with any questions you have and I will be glad to do my best to answer them. Thanks for the meme tag, by the way.

Jenny said...

Thanks Jen. I'll get one out to you within the next couple of days. And don't worry...I won't bug you to the point you feel you need to charge me consultation fees!!!

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