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Yes, Virginia, There is a Hideous Monster that Eats Your Face

February 16, 2010

I’m trying to open myself up to different kinds of writing. You know, what business types refer to as “diversifying.” So I’ve got my non-fiction stuff going, I’m working on a horror story which is kind of a first for me, finishing my first mystery…

Now all that’s left to conquer is the children’s story (side note: why does WordPress think that the word “children’s” is misspelled? Those little wavy red lines make me crazy!). A lot of children’s authors have been making big bucks lately (can you say J.K Rowling, anyone?). I want to write the kind of children’s series that gets made into movies so that kids can watch the movies and never read the books, too.

It seems like the fantasy/children’s book niche has already been filled. Like a zillion times. So has the “I’m a regular young person with regular young person problems…omg, my brother ate my turtle!” niche. And don’t even get me started on the “I’m a sexy teenager who is in love with a sexy vampire” genre. I might say something unkind.

One thing that hasn’t been explored a lot in recent children’s literature is the sci-fi genre. I find this odd, because it seems like science fiction has begun to appeal to a much wider audience in the 21st century. Yeah, it’s not just for nerds anymore. Even the cool kids went to see hot new Kirk and hot new Spock last summer.

So I’m thinking about a sci-fi story for kids. I’ve brainstormed a few ideas…but every time I start actually trying to write the damn thing I get a little stuck. I have a problem. The problem is this: I know that children these days are far more jaded than I was as a small person. I watched a four-year-old at Blockbuster the other day as he stared at a God of War III ad with excitement and not a trace of fear. When I was four, the sight of Kratos bludgeoning a screaming giant cyclops would have scared the CRAP out of me.

However, as children become desensitized to horrific video game violence and accustomed to sexy vampire stories, parents remain pretty overprotective. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series caught flak for being “demonic” and encouraging witchcraft, which I think is completely crazy, but it did happen.So do I write an exciting story with space pirates and shootings-in-the-face and whatnot for the kids, or do I write something that will not scare their parents?

Also, how jaded is jaded? How much violence is too much violence? How much romance before kids stop understanding the romance? How many monsters and undead and explosions are ok? I’d gauge this by my own reactions, but I was a total sissy as a child. I had a stuffed sheep that frightened me. A stuffed sheep. As an adult, I’m pretty traditional, actually, and I would never let my hypothetical children read the sexy vampire books on the market right now.  Wait til they’re sixteen, give ’em Anne Rice. That’s my motto. Or it would be my motto, if I had one.

I don’t want to talk down to kids or bore them with trite observations about how hard it is to be an adolescent. I want to excite them and stimulate what’s left of their imaginations. I just wish I knew how to do that so I could be ridiculously well-paid and famous for my well-plotted stories that are not very well-written, in which every line of dialogue is followed by  “said character adverbially”. That’s right, J.K., I’m lookin’ at you.

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