Fireworks in Fiction

As an aspiring children’s fiction writer I find myself thinking: Is the task of getting children to read books today far more difficult than it was in my young days? I know the answer – but why, and how can we encourage our children to read and enjoy proper books, as well as screens?

Back in the fifties, and even sixties, books had no real competition. Children were encouraged and expected to read widely. So we did. Books and magazines were the sole material for accessing this task. As a girl I read the usual classics: Little Women, Heidi, Treasure Island and, of course, that wonderful author, Enid Blyton. What a wonderfully rich story chest for us children to dip into and devour. Reading was a major activity for most children in my day.

So what has happened? Children still read books of course, but the competition from tablets and other screens is huge. After school, instead of reaching for the book I got her for her birthday, my seven year old granddaughter reaches either for the TV remote or for her tablet. I can understand why. There is something far more exciting about characters that visually speak and move in front of our eyes. Stories can become much more alive on screens. I don’t like it – but I get it.

So, using only the medium of words and paper, how might we lead today’s children back to reading? Fireworks – hence my title. Can we create enough of a firework display, using only words, to keep young minds engaged and children turning the pages? Well, we have to, or else books will die and we can’t have that, can we?

So, as an aspiring author, if I want to break into fiction, what do I need to think about? Why have books such as Harry Potter, helped books to survive? Let’s explore a range of techniques from the perspective of someone who is determined to find out more – and to succeed in this difficult area of writing.

We are told that our first words and sentences must have a hook? How does this work? The first firework in the display – words that create noise, light, colour. Does the hook open up a mystery to be solved? Does it resonate with the targeted age group? Does it lift the character off the page, make it three dimensional, so that we want to know more about him or her? It can do any, or all, of these things.

So is my first firework a rocket or a banger? I will go and check and come back next week with some examples and my next thought on creating fireworks in children’s fiction.

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