Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A New Voice

For the longest time, I’ve dreamt of writing an enduring piece of fiction for children. It represents the Holy Grail of writing achievement for me.

Why, you ask?*

The opportunity to surprise, to enthrall, to drive a thirst for stories is immeasurably bigger with the young.

In our youth, we are more easily and more deeply influenced by the stories we read (or have read to us). The good ones—the moving ones**—stay with us in ways that nothing we read as adults ever will. That impact is a result both of our un-cynical innocence (how else would the simple-minded preachiness of the Hardy Boys move so many generations of boys?) and the very limited history we have with stories—we haven’t yet grown hardened to the tricks story tellers will play on us through the years.

And beyond our innocence and clean-slatedness, we are also unshakably receptive to the absurd in our youth.

The potential for such remarkable and long-standing influence draws me to children’s fiction like I’m drawn to no other form. I always had a vague pull in that direction, but in recent times—perhaps it’s a response to my 7-year-old son’s burgeoning love of story—the drive has grown immensely stronger.

In response, I’ve started a novel for children. The biggest challenge I’m faced with, in the early going, is a question of tone. I can play the story--a realistic-fantasy, for lack of better-tuned language--straight, like I would a mainstream novel, or I can attack it with an absurd tone through-and-through, like much of Roald Dahl’s work(James and the Giant Peach, The Twits).

Tone is something I’ve never given this much attention. Its exploration opens up all kinds of possibilities and challenges that I’ve solved on auto-pilot in the past.

In the next few days, I’ll post more about the specific scene exercises I’m planning to undertake, and I’ll post a few different permutations of specific scenes.

Stay tuned…

*I know the question didn’t even occur to you, but play along with me here.

**for me, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte’s Web, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings leap to mind

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