Tip 6 – Themes and Ideas
With Vlad the Inhaler I tackled various themes. If you read the book, you’ll find I dealt with:
- Being a child of mixed parentage (Vlad’s mother is human, his father is a vampire)
- Bullying (his vampire cousins’ best games all involve hurting and/or frightening Vlad)
- Being misunderstood (most of the villagers fear Vlad even though he isn’t a full vampire and would never hurt anyone)
- Dealing with illness or being seen to be different to other children (Vlad is asthmatic and a vegetarian)
- Being scared (Vlad is extremely timid at the start of the book and has to learn how to be brave)
- Learning to love yourself (by the end of the book Vlad knows he is an example of the best of both species)
When thinking about the basic plot idea for your children’s book, it is a good idea to decide which theme you are going to explore. Then think about the best vehicle to carry that theme.
What is it that children like? Obviously every child is unique and will enjoy different aspects of stories, but there are certain ideas that seem to appeal across the spectrum.
Kids enjoy being frightened, but not too much. The fear factor has to be controlled so that they reach the stage of peeping from behind a pillow at the scary bits, but not get so frightened that they fear going to bed, or need a nightlight in case a creepy villain comes to life while they sleep.
They also love being made to laugh, both at themselves and at funny situations. Their humour levels are different and far more down to earth than most adults. Give your own childlike humour free rein and chuckle along with your readers.
Some Idea to Consider:
- Gadgets that work – kids love gadgets and enjoy reading about inventions, the more outlandish the better.
- Gadgets that don’t – gadgets that malfunction and cause mayhem are always enjoyed.
- Things that go bump in the night – witches, warlocks, vampires, ghouls, ghosts and goblins have a timeless appeal.
- Time travel forward – finding new life forms and visiting distant stars in the future opens endless doors to explore.
- Time travel back – an opportunity to rewrite history, or simply to have adventures in the past.
- New worlds to conquer – writing fantasy gives you the freedom to create new planets and countries, as well as generating new beings to inhabit them.
- Computers on the outside – most children today are computer literate and might enjoy a tale about a computer boffin or hacker, particularly if he is evil and defeated by your heroes.
- Computers on the inside – computer games that swallow the players, forcing them to play for their lives inside the machine, could have your young readers on the edge of their seats.
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