Today I have a very important creative writing tip for you, if you write novels for older children/teens.

Don’t try to be too clever at the expense of CLARITY.

Being CLEAR is one of the most important rules of a good novel for children. Lack of a clear picture is annoying!

Your readers will vary in their ability to read, and also in their ability to take in information they are reading.

It’s therefore rarely a good idea to hold back information, in the hope of creating an air of mystery. You have to be really careful not to confuse. Children/young people need to know what’s going on, so they can be right there with the characters in the story.

If they’re not sure what’s going on, and why, they’re more likely to put the book down than try to work things out.

Of course you need an element of mystery in your plot, but your readers need to know:

  • what your characters are thinking
  • why they are there,
  • what they are hoping to achieve
  • what the stakes are if they fail.

For example, if you have a scene where your characters are hunting wild boar in a forest, make sure your readers know who is involved, why they are included, what the hunt is about, how many boar they are aiming to kill, how the boar are going to be killed, what your characters feel about that, how the hunt is expected to pan out, and so on.*

Also include details like the type of weapons, the ease of use, the dress, description of the forest, how long the hunt is likely to take… if you have included all these details, your readers will be able to ‘see’ the scene. (Make sure, of course, you use lots of show-not-tell descriptions, and all the senses. What does the forest smell like? How heavy are the weapons? What can they hear?)

Then when something starts to go wrong (which it will, I’m sure!), readers’ hearts will start to thump. Well that’s the aim, anyway!

So make sure that clarity triumphs. Then your readers will be right there, rooting for your characters’ success.

Hope that’s useful. If it is, would you be kind enough to share with at least one friend who would benefit? Many thanks!

See you next week,

Janet

*I use this example because we have a historical novel with a wild boar hunt coming soon at Dernier Publishing, called The Dove Stone, by writer-for-a-reason Pam Daunton!)

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