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.
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 being 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.
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
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.
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