So You Want To/Write a Kid Friendly Series
Writing for children is different from writing for adults. Here's some advice on how to make it work.
- 1 Necessary Tropes
- 2 Choices, Choices
- 3 Pitfalls
- 4 Potential Subversions
- 5 Writers' Lounge
- 6 Departments
- 7 Extra Credit
While a series written for teens can get into sex, swearing, and violence, a series written for kids needs to avoid that stuff like the plague. Or, at the very least, use the utmost caution, and always ask yourself whether you really need to include that element. Or even, "Am I writing for the correct demographic?" Maybe you're not.
But assuming you want to stick with the "kid-friendly" label, then:
- No sexuality
- No gore
- No more than mild violence
- No more than moderate scariness
- No more than extremely mild swearing (mostly euphemisms, like "dang"; possibly "hell" but more likely "heck")
Depending on the specific demographic you're writing for, the requirements might be even more stringent (e.g., some Christian publishers (thought not all of them) might be troubled over a kiss between people not married). So, research! Find out what you can and can't do before you get too far into the plot.
Because these guidelines will reduce your options. For example, you can't make a really scary villain (though he might end up unintentionally scary or scary in hindsight). And you can't rely on misinterpreted swear words as a plot point.
You may be able to get away with naughty stuff ocasionally, just try not to overdo it.
Kids are smarter than you probably give them credit for! And in today's world, what with television, the internet, and the playground, they're exposed to a lot more at an early age. While you shouldn't assume they're capable of reading into things the way adults can, neither should you talk down to them.
And don't shy from topics like sorrow and death. Treated right, these can still make excellent material for young readers. You can even get into grays a bit... if you're careful.
Kids get that it's not a black-and-white world probably earlier than you'd expect. On the other hand, they don't want to see Karma Houdini characters any more than adults do. Make sure the baddies get what's coming to them.
Heard somewhere that while adults tend to favor mercy, children cry out for justice. You thought the Brothers Grimm were cruel? Apparently children enjoy seeing the baddies get what's coming to them, without pulling punches. It assures them that someone's keeping track of things like that.