Children’s Fiction, with Maggie Bolton – 4 April 2018

One of the possibly more difficult aspects of writing for most people is how to pitch it at a level that 11-18 year olds relate to. In an attempt to demistify and explain how it might be done, Maggie Bolton took the stage on the topic of “Children’s Fiction”. Maggie, who has had a number of books published, took the meeting through the nuts and bolts of writing for that particular genre. If “children” are defined as widely as 11- 18 year olds then this, for a start, poses difficulties given the range and maturity it encompases. Yet writers such as JK Rowling and Philip Pullman have done it successfully, though Rowling did it over several years, taking her reading audience with her.

Regarding the length of books, there seems to be no hard and fast rule, but apparently most young people wish to be seen to read books of some substance as well as substantial size. This may just be a perception, but it could be the case. In regard to subject matter, there again is no limits; fantasy, love, prejudice, comedy, adversity, all are fair game but clearly how appealing these might be would depend on popular current trends. Children/adolescents have become liberalised by society so their interests have followed suit. However, the attention span of an eleven year old is still limited so you need to catch and hold their attention quickly e.g. page one!

As regards content, dialogue should be natural. As such, interruptions dispersed within dialogue would appear to be natural for this age group. As regards terminology, forget trying to emulate the latest youthspeak as it will have moved on before your book is published. Building characters is helpful to any plot and conflict is essential to an interesting read as, equally, a story now doesn’t always need a happy ending. Avoidance of tedium and inclusion of humour helps push a story along. Contrast of light and dark is always essential. The secret is to keep the plot constantly in motion.

Maggie had brought along some books, a “story generator” of random words and phrases as well as photos and objects that might help to provoke our imagination. As a result most people were able to conjour up a short story or image that might lead to a young person’s book. All in all it was a most enlightening experience and has allowed me personally to choose a theme for the Children’s Fiction competition.

Eddie Phillips

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