Tuesday, 20 September 2016

How to write funny for children

Last Saturday I went to Charing Cross to learn how to write funny books for children by Mo O'Hara. This was a SCBWI Masterclass. I learnt lots. I am only going to give you the main points I learnt as we were told we can't give out all the details. So here they are.

Keep asking questions. Keep saying yes. Eg if your character wants to run and win the marathon, they will do anything to get there.
Make your readers recognise your character in what they do.

1. No swearing
2. Can't talk about things that children won't understand. You have to look into children's world to see what's funny to them. Eg what makes sense to adults but children can think ludicrous.
3. Has to be the kid's pov, literally. Can be looking up to someone and seeing their nose.
3. Don't write mean comedy. Eg at someone's expense. Being fair is important to children. Don't put children down. Have justice and kind humour.

I got an idea how to write funny scenes in a series about asperkids I have in mind.

Writing funny has three main components: who, where (plot) and when (timing)

We were given exercises then to so.

Other components are: incongruity (someone out of their usual zone), status. So when you are writing, ask yourself: What is the status of my character? Do I have much variety in status?

We were given more exercises to do, which were fun. One of these gave me an idea for a possible series of picture books.

In series fiction the character only learns a bit, but in stand-alone they learn a lot.

Make it tough for the character. Think of worst thing that can happen and make it happen.

First draft - ask, is this character funny? Have I put them in a setting that's funny? If potential, make funnier.
Have a checklist for when you do your second draft. This should include: character who has fears, objectives and status, setting, confined space, comic potential and conflict potential.
Next edit should be the punch edit. Make more funnier. Think rule of 3: Punchline is at the third time.
Recurring theme/gag. Elude to it to get a big laugh.
In dialogue, have repetition. Emphasis - strong, silence - for pausing.
Don't overuse asides. Only put in what the character would really do. Read it out. Use surprise.

I learnt a lot. But there was one thing I did come away with, and that was I do enjoy writing for children more than adults now. So, thanks, Mo. Great workshop.

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