Five things children look for in a good book

boy reading to snakeMy favorite part of the school day was most often literature circle.  There was something very special about talking about a good book!  It connected people to each other, even students who didn’t always see eye-to-eye.  It gave them a chance to vent about their own lives when a character went through something they could relate to.  It was always therapeutic, informative, and bonding!

While children’s interests are as varied as their personalities, there are some elements that are consistently attractive to children.

1. Humor – Children love to laugh and they should! How many times has a child told you a joke that made absolutely no sense, but they burst out laughing anyway?  So make sure you include moments of humor.  Even if you’re writing a serious drama of a dark world, you must include moments of levity.  So what’s funny? That’s up to you.  Keep a little notebook handy and write down the things that amuse you.  What cracks you up?  Books reveal much about the author.  The humor you include must be funny to you in order for it to be funny to others.  Did you ever see a comedian delivering a joke he didn’t think was funny?  It just doesn’t work.

2.  Intrigue – Keep them guessing! Cliffhangers, twists, how will the character ever get out of the mess they got themselves into?  As adults we may think the plot is predictable, but that’s because we have read so much and we are not easily fooled.  And if you can pull off the unexpected and surprise your reader you have them hooked! I bet you will even figure out how to fool the well-read reader because you are that good.

3.  Something to talk about – Let’s face it, kids love to gossip!   The worst thing that can happen, has to happen IN EACH SCENE.  Don’t make anything easy for your MC and kids will be talking about it.

4.  Identification – Your reader needs to relate to the MC on basic struggles, so they care about the big struggles.  Most children have limited experiences to build from, but the core of children is the same.  They want to be loved, accepted, have friends, succeed, not embarrass themselves, privacy, have fun, to be safe, and more! That’s a lot of basic stuff to work with.

BUT, you still have to . . .

5.  Suspend reality – Your MC has to do things a typical child will never have to do.  Who wants to read a book that is as ordinary as life? We read to experience things we never could, to go places that are out of reach (some that don’t exist on this plane or in this time period), to be someone so very different (yet similar).

It’s so easy, isn’t it?

What’s missing from this list?

Next time I’ll compare historical fiction to documentary novel.  Which one are you writing? Are you sure?

Until then,

Enjoy Playing with Words!

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