I enjoyed The Hairy Hand so much, I had to have an interview with the author. His catch phrase for the book is …. ‘With great power at your fingertips, comes great trouble.’ I’m pretty sure that applies to writing for children too.
So here he is sharing his tips …
The five (and a half) rules
- Get rid of the parents:
Preferably they are gone for good (eaten by a tiger whilst exploring the jungle is handy because it’s dramatic, implies an adventurous family streak and is a tiny bit funny). If you can’t bear to part with mum and dad in perpetuity, they can just be at the office a lot.
- Fantasy needs a lot of reality
The little buggers will believe anything (to paraphrase Roald Dahl) but you have to have rules. If dragons live in space (Space Dragons), if your hero has a magic hand that can point out treasure (The Hairy Hand), if we live alongside vastly talented and immensely powerful creatures without knowing it (Small Vampires), then that’s all well and good, but children need to know what their heroes have for dinner. And(above all), why all this stuff is happening.
- Delete the first half of your first chapter
Seventy-seven times out of one hundred, your first thousand words are just you warming up. However much you cherished them that first morning you sat down in the spare room, their work is done. Loving is letting go. You don’t find many ten year-olds reading Faulkner or Flaubert – mainly because forty opening pages with just two full stops or a very detailed description of few streets in Rouen is dull. By way of example, for The Hairy Hand, my editor made me throw away my first two chapters and the story was much better for it. I still moaned about it, mind you.
- Children deserve the best of us
At the end of the day, most kids just have to go along with whatever adults decide – and that’s fair enough: we’ve paid our dues, plus we’ve got the car keys. But the one area they are in charge of is their imagination: so make sure that when you write, you write for themand not for you. Also, BE KIND: children are more fragile than they let on and more forgiving than we deserve, books are often their only friends and comfort. If you must make a child suffer in a story, be sure it is for a good reason.
5. Character is king (or queen)
Plots don’t drive a good yarn, people do and children long for interesting characters
… who they relate to (i.e., are like them)
Thanks very much for joining me Robin.
PS – Is it just me, or does everyone now want to read the missing first two chapters?? Purely out of curiosity, because the start to The Hairy Hand is brilliant so the editor was clearly right to chuck them away …
PPS – I have an exclusive Q&A with Robin in my next newsletter … if you aren’t already on my mailing list, you know what to do!
The Hairy Hand
A scary adventure for 8 -12 year olds, full of jokes, magical familiars and a Dickensian cast. When Septimus inherits a magical, treasure-finding Hairy Hand from his uncle, life suddenly becomes a lot more exciting – and dangerous!
Robin Bennett is an author and entrepreneur who has written several books for children, adults, and everything in between. Listed in the Who’s Who of British Business Excellence at 29, his 2016 documentary “Fantastic Britain”, about the British obsession with fantasy and folklore, won best foreign feature at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards, and his first book for young adults, Picus the Thief, won the Writer’s News Indie Published Book of the Year Award in 2012.
Twitter – https://twitter.com/MonsterBooksRaw
And I had to go to Wikipedia to find a picture of Robin Bennett – so apologies in advance if this is NOT what he actually looks like …