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.
Necessary TropesWhile 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")
PitfallsKids 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. Don't default to vapid, flat characters and rely on flashy action scenes or cute design for appeal. Engaging, deep characters that undergo development over time are just as important in kids' shows as they are anywhere else. This mirrors the point above - they're not going to understand complex webs of intrigue and deception, and you should be wary of anything that verges on innocence-destroying, but at the same time, they'll appreciate a well-rounded character more and for longer than a cardboard cutout. A good question to ask is, if you fast forward ten or twenty years, are your viewers going to remember your show fondly or regrettably? A good children's series can be enjoyed by kids of all ages. This isn't about Getting Crap Past the Radar or even Parental Bonuses - amidst the tooth-rotting cute, kinetic fight scenes or quirky, zany antics, is there, honestly, a good story in there? All too often, kid's series forget the story part of the story.
Suggested Themes and Aesops
Potential MotifsHeard 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.
Set Designer / Location Scout
The GreatsAnime and Manga Creators Literature
- The Boxcar Children
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- The Deltora Series
- Harry Potter
- Rowan of Rin
- A Series of Unfortunate Events
- The Wizard of Oz
- Bill Nye the Science Guy
- The Electric Company
- Sesame Street
- Power Rangers (and it's Japanese progenitor, Super Sentai)
- Animaniacs managed to get away with a lot of things.
- Avatar The Last Airbender
- Adventure Time
- The DCAU
- Gravity Falls
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- Phineas and Ferb
- The Powerpuff Girls
- The early Spongebob Squarepants episodes. (Season 1-4). Seasons five to nine are in the Epic Fails.
The Epic Fails
- The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure pretty much falls into all pitfalls: A shallow, Tastes Like Diabetes story with creepy unlikable characters that doesn't treat its audience right.