Articles and books about how to write for children always start with (or include) that gnarly nugget ‘read some children’s books’ and this one is no different. If you want to find success then you need to know about the kinds of things that are successful, and it will help you a lot if you can work out why they are successful.
I could list a few authors and titles at this point but instead I suggest that you go down to your local library or bookshop, find the types of books you’re interested in writing and pick up a few. If you want to write a funny story for children aged 7-11, then peruse the fiction aimed at that group. Check the blurb and see if words like ‘funny’, laugh’ and ‘humour’ are mentioned. If there are several titles in the series then they’re probably doing well. Borrow or buy one or two and read them. Ask yourself some pertinent questions:
You might find those questions easy to answer and you might not. If you don’t ‘get’ the book at all then writing humorous fiction for children may not be your purpose in life!
Another thing that every author, agent or publisher will tell you is that there is no formula for writing a successful book. Indeed, you may find completely different answers to the above questions for two different books. But, despair not, there are certain rules, strategies and tips which can help you turn your manuscript-with-potential (or idea-with-possibilities) into something that a publisher might get excited about. Here are some of my pointers:
So, what are the ways that funny children’s authors make their stories funny?
It’s not so much a case of writing jokes into your books as settling up situations which have comedy potential. It’s just like we never laugh as much at a gag on TV as we do when, at home, Great Aunt Gloria does something unexpected with a bassoon.
Be prepared to tweak and tweak again. You have to have the right blend of fantasy and reality, of sanity and mayhem, of chase and chat. The world you’ve created must be recognisable but it also needs to be intriguing. You can have too much new stuff but, likewise, too much mundane conventionality will make it boring. So, how do you judge? Ah, well, you could read more books, you could seek professional feedback and you could apply those three questions. Happy tweaking!
Andy Seed writes for both children and adults and is the author of The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff (Bloomsbury) as well as the popular ‘All Teachers’ series of memoirs. He is a regular visitor to schools where he greatly enjoys inspiring children to read. Find out more about Andy and his latest funny novel for children, Prankenstein, on his website.