Thursday, September 24, 2015

Writing Advice from Roald Dahl

Sometimes I read something so wise and good that I can't wait to pass it on to my best writer buds. That happened this morning. Tara Lazur reviewed the biography of Roald Dahl on her blog--Read it here:

But THIS is the part that gave me happy goosebumps:

What makes a good children’s writer? The writer must have a genuine and powerful wish not only to entertain children, but to teach them the habit of reading…[He or she] must be a jokey sort of fellow…[and] must like simple tricks and jokes and riddles and other childish things. He must be unconventional and inventive. He must have a really first-class plot. He must know what enthralls children and what bores them. They love being spooked. They love ghosts. They love the finding of treasure. The love chocolates and toys and money. They love magic. They love being made to giggle. They love seeing the villain meet a grisly death. They love a hero and they love the hero to be a winner. But they hate descriptive passages and flowery prose. They hate long descriptions of any sort. Many of them are sensitive to good writing and can spot a clumsy sentence. They like stories that contain a threat. “D’you know what I feel like?” said the big crocodile to the smaller one. “I feel like having a nice plump juicy child for my lunch.” They love that sort of thing. What else do they love? New inventions. Unorthodox methods. Eccentricity. Secret information. The list is long. But above all, when you write a story for them, bear in mind that they do not possess the same power of concentration as an adult, and they become very easily bored or diverted. Your story, therefore, must tantalize and titillate them on every page and all the time that you are writing you must be saying to yourself, “Is this too slow? Is it too dull? Will they stop reading?” To those questions, you must answer yes more often than you answer no. [If not] you must cross it out and start again.

 The quote above is from a letter Dahl wrote to “The Writer” Magazine in October, 1975: “A Note on Writing Books for Children”.

What would a post about Roald Dahl be without a cover from one of his books? There are so many we love, but this one is still my son's favorite: James and the Giant Peach. 

What about you? Do you have a favorite title by Roald Dahl?