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How to Write Horror for Children

Today children are regularly “scared” by the most responsible parents and guardians in order to instil basic moral principles and ensure the survival of the species: it is wrong to steal, to lie, to talk to strangers, to disobey a parent’s instructions. The whole purpose of horror fiction is to scare readers, but the thought that deliberately setting out to scare children is immoral and reprehensible is deeply ingrained in our society. It’s probably as deep as the belief that children’s literature should be useful and valuable, conveying good and sound ideals upon young and impressionable minds. The notion that children might actually enjoy being scared is an unpleasant one, because we are all aware that nobody reacts to fear in quite the same way as a child. Children suffer inexplicable and unreasonable phobias and nightmares. Children can become obsessed with a single glimpse of an image, which can cause terror for months. Yet this same little person will actively seek out a copy of Lee Striker’s “Revenge of the Vampire Librarian”. It doesn’t make sense!

Or does it?

Horror is synonymous with “scaring”, and not necessarily with an educational or moralistic purpose. One problem is the actual word Horror; it’s often referred to dismissively and without positive comment. It seems difficult to say horror fiction can be a good thing ดูหนังออนไลน์ and that it’s acceptable, even advisable, for children to read this genre. These are points all the most successful writers in the children’s horror genre acknowledge, and all approach the sensitive subject with consideration and respect. And when one considers the phenomenal growth of this genre it would seem these writers know what they’re doing.

So, what happens in children’s horror writing?

Most books in this genre share a similar structure or formula – a familiar situation becomes unfamiliar. Cliff-hangers are very effective, because they lead the reader along from chapter to chapter. Frequently the victim never quite escapes, and there’s often a slight chill included in the ending. Here are a few points I’ve picked up during my research into this topic:

Know Your Audience.

Your target audience is generally aged between eight and 12 years, sometimes even 14 years. Both sexes are included, and it’s worth noting this genre is encouraging boys who ‘don’t like reading’ to change their negative attitudes towards books and reading. Noted children’s horror writer Margaret Clark claims that while some of her younger readers might not understand every word in the book they are able to grasp the general storyline. She also feels reading this genre has become “cultish, so it’s important to be seen reading one of these books.

Clark wrote a thesis on television and violence for her honours degree, and has an understanding of her target audience: “I watched kindergarten children playing with bits of bark trying to shoot each other, and I would say that you cannot have guns at kindergarten, and not allow violent games, but you’re still going to get them jumping off the top of the climbing frame screaming ‘Heroes of the Universe!’ So, if you can’t beat them you join them.”

Empowerment is the Key.

Human beings love to be scared, and children are no exception. One of the most important points to remember when writing children’s horror is to keep the victims in the story in charge of the situation. Make them take control of the story; Clark refers to this as “the safety net”. So while they are frantically trying to escape from a wicked witch, dispatch a possessed toy or perhaps free a friend or family member from a nasty curse there is always hope, and always a solution. Granted, the solution may require a bit of effort and thought and application of knowledge learned, but there must always be a way to deal with a horrific situation.

Be Naughty.

It’s natural for children to be naughty, so applying this aspect of childhood to this genre offers a very obvious appeal to young readers. Children love to push the boundaries, to test the limits and offer a bit of resistance to authority. In children’s horror literature there’s an excellent chance for a writer to allow young readers a degree of freedom to indulge their “naughtiness”. For children part of the lure of reading a horror story is that some adults might not approve of the genre, but reading an exciting horror story is a pretty safe way to indulge in a bit of “naughtiness”. Children’s horror fiction is a way of coming to understand the ethical chaos that we all encounter in our lives, so it makes sense that a good horror story could become a benefit to many young readers


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