Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Getting Serious About Writing Humor: Maybe Writers Of Adult Work Just Shouldn't Write For Children

Today I'm writing about another humor fail that shall remain nameless, because I just can't come up with anything good to say about it. It was written by someone who writes adult humor, and it's supposed to be a humorous middle grade novel.

  • First and foremost: Humor in children's fiction is just like humor in adult fiction--it should come out of the situations you're dealing with. It should be wholistic and natural and never heavy-handed and obvious like a lesson. And don't think you don't have to really be funny, because you're writing for kids. Don't think kids love jokes and one-liners and you can just salt a novel with them. That comes off awkwardly. It stops narrative flow. Narrative flow always matters.
  • Please don't try to use humor to teach kids something. Using children's fiction to teach is very common in books written by people who have been writing for adults and have little knowledge of children's books. I am repeating myself here, but teaching is a teacher's job, not a writer's. A writer's job is to create a world child readers will want to be part of for the time it takes them to read it, with a coherent story that is supported by every word they write. It's not to change these readers lives with a lesson so heavy-handed a minister wouldn't touch it. A good story may open up readers' minds to something new, but it rarely happens because a writer set out to use fiction to teach kids about climate change or not to be bullies or how to be good friends.  


Ms. Yingling said...

Yes! All of this. And I have a feeling I know which one this is. The third book in a series, I'm guessing, but I will also say no more. Since I don't often know authors of adult works, I sometimes read books and think "Oh, this person doesn't normally write for middle grade," and am all too often right! While I would love to see more humor, I'd love to see more WELL DONE humor. Thanks for this post!

Gail Gauthier said...

Nope, this wasn't part of a series. It was the author's first children's book.