I came to the Christian writing world from the children’s writing world where we had a term that could carry over, but hasn’t. The term is “kid appeal.” Kid appeal defines the kind of writing that is so delightful that it can’t be forgotten.
Now we don’t all write for kids, but I want to suggest that there is such a thing as “kid appeal for adults.” It’s what set authors Debbie Macomber and Nora Roberts apart from other Harlequin authors before they were hitting bestseller lists. I remember the first novels I read of theirs.
Macomber had her heroine crying in the hero’s arms about how she couldn’t bake cookies, and Roberts had her pregnant character always joking about naming her unborn baby “Butch.” I was enchanted. They somehow charmed readers into wanting to read more, like elementary schoolers hooked on Junie B. Jones. Just ask Christian author Tracey Bateman. She learned to write in first person for her Leave it to Claire series by reading Junie B.
There’s a lot we can learn from children’s literature to make our own writing better. Here are the four ways I’ve discovered to create kid appeal in my own writing.
1.) Playing with point-of-view. Rather than talk about the character’s POV, let’s talk about the reader’s POV. Give the reader a vested interest by showing them something the character doesn’t know or give the character a secret the reader knows they have to find out. For example, if you have multiple points of view, you can have one character causing trouble the other character doesn’t see coming. Then the reader knows something big is coming. And they care.
2.) Dancing dialogue. We’ve all heard the saying, “Show, don’t tell.” Well, dialogue is one of the best ways to do that. What are the things that you want to show through dialogue?
a. Personality. Don’t tell your readers that the character is arrogant. Show it through arrogant statements.
b. Relationship dynamics. Do your characters like each other? Do they hate each other? Are they indifferent with each other? Dialogue will reveal this better than anything else.
c. Motive. Why do they do the things they do? One character might assume they did it for one reason and another character might assume they did it for another reason. Eventually the truth will come out, and different characters could react to it differently through dialogue.
d. Change. If your characters don’t change, you don’t have a story. How can you show their change through their words? Maybe they don’t come out and say sorry. Maybe they just offer to help the next time around—through dialogue.
3.) The pacing race. Pace is how you keep your readers turning pages. They have to keep reading to catch up. First of all, you want to start late and get out early. Don’t show the characters on the way to an event. Start the scene in the middle of the event and before the characters leave. Second, don’t slow the prose with description. Keep description relevant to how the character perceives their world and the choices they make. For example, it doesn’t matter if the carpet is Oriental unless it reminds the character of his/her grandma and makes them feel at home. Last, never let there be a dull moment. Don’t sit your characters down for tea and crumpets to have a heart to heart. Have them doing something active or doing something else that matters to the story that will somehow interrupt the heart to heart.
4.) Making memorable moments. Make your story memorable with reoccurring little moments, larger than life moments, moments of self-sacrifice, and moments that tie it all together. This is where the magic happens. These moments need to be unexpected, but when the reader thinks about it, it pulls the whole story together in a way that makes more sense than ever. Like in the movie The Sixth Sense.
To sum it up, I’d say that if you want your readers to have fun with the story, then you as the author need to have fun with it, as well. Let your inner child out to play to create some kid appeal for adults!
About The Water Fight
I, Joey Michaels, am the Water Fight Professional. Basically this means that customers pay me to soak other people. But my super-competitive best friend is sucking all the fun out of summer. All because I made a secret bet with him. Winning the bet wouldn't be so hard if I didn't have the following three problems: 1) My dramatic mother who feels the need to schedule every moment of summer 2) A surfer-dude mailman who can't keep deliveries straight 3) The annoying neighbor girl who all my friends have a crush on If I lose ... ugh, I can't even tell you what I'd have to do. I'd rather lick a slug!
Angela Ruth Strong didn’t run businesses as a kid, but in 7th grade she did start her own neighborhood newspaper. This childhood interest led to studying journalism at the University of Oregon and having one of her stories reach over half a million readers. To help other aspiring authors, Angela founded IDAhope Writers in Boise, Idaho, where she currently lives with her husband and three children (who always love a good water fight). Find out more at www.angelaruthstrong.com.