Friday, 4 October 2013

Some writing tips when writing for children

I made a promise to blog more, and I also made a promise to give more back. Rather than tell you about me and my books I hope to give you some helpful tips a long the way.

I would like to start with a subject that is close to me as it is the genre I am currently writing in. My books are aimed at anyone 8 years and older, but in particular they are aimed at children between the ages of 8 and 14. When writing for this age group we have to take into consideration something that is maybe not that obvious at first glance. Children have amazing imaginations and they want to use them. Children do not want to be told exactly what every character in a book looks like. The trick is to give them enough details so that the description is sound, while leaving room for those amazing imaginations to flourish and take the reader where they want to go.

My good characters are described by height, eye colour, hair colour and by some of their traits. IE Peter is the sports champion whilst George is the cheeky, always getting a laugh, friend. This gives children the building blocks to build their imaginations into the characters I have created for them.

I'll give you another example of this, and then a story to back it up. In my first book, The Viking's Apprentice, the cover depicts two Vikings with horned helmets. History buffs may point out that very few Vikings actually wore these helmets (a point I discuss in my author notes at the end of the book) but if you ask a child to draw a Viking the horns are always there. Throughout the book there are various Viking characters and not once do I describe what they are wearing. If I was writing a book for adults I would have gone into much more detail, but for children it's not required and I don't advise doing it.

So how do I know that my Viking characters got children's imaginations going? I visited a school who had taken the book as their reading book for primary 5 - 7 (ages 8 to 11), and the children had put together three projects for me on the book. Some of the projects were of their drawings of the characters in the book. There were several drawings of my Vikings and all were different, but all had the horns. Each child gets the chance to fill in the characters how they want to see them. I urge you to read my books and judge for yourself. Do you see what I mean? The technique involves giving them enough starting points to set their imaginations free. It works!

The evil characters in my books were tougher to describe. I had to take myself back to being a child and remember what scared me. The dark scared me, what's lurking there? What is hiding in those shadows under my bed or in the closet. Do you remember that feeling? I tried to capture that feeling in creating some of the evil characters, in particular the Shadow walkers and their leader who I will let you meet for yourself if you read the book.

While I'm on the subject of children's books, and before I forget here is a tip for the cover of your book. Always have the hero facing away from the reader. Why?? The same reason as above. Children do not want to be told exactly what their hero looks like. How many times have you read a book and then the film comes out. They change the cover to the actor's face. What do we all say? 'That's not how I imagined him!'. Exactly the same for children. So if you have one of your main characters (good guys) on the cover have them facing away from the reader. See my cover for The Master's Revenge below.

The hero faces away from the reader, what does he look like to you? What face are you imagining? Your child or the child reader is doing exactly the same, and their imagination blows yours out of the water!

To sum up when writing a book for children of this age group allow them to use their imaginations to place their hero, how they picture them, in the world you have created for them.

1000's of you took the chance to download The Viking's Apprentice for free last weekend, and I thank each and every one of you. I hope you enjoy the book, and hopefully enjoy it enough to continue on to book 2 and beyond.

If you would like to buy my books you can do so at these links. The links will take you to the Amazon page for your country.

The Viking's Apprentice - Buy it here

The Master's Revenge - Buy it here

The Viking's Apprentice reached number 1 in Canada and number 2 in America. It is still in the top 20 in Canada and the top 10 in America.

I have recently started a pinterest board called 'Judge a book by it's Cover'. I would love you all to come and follow me there, and I will add you all to the board so you can pin your favourite covers with me. You can do that here - My pinterest

Contact me at or by email @ You can reach me on twitter @bannon1975 or on facebook via

Would you like to listen to my latest radio interview? If so click here - Interview with Janice Ross

I will write again early next week. Have a great weekend.


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