Saturday, June 23, 2012

Plotting for children's stories: Despatches from manila coloured file jackets

I am sorting through my file jackets, ( yes, I know that they are more cream than manila, but I love the exotic sound of manila); you know those ones marked 'miscellaneous', which when you open them, you move the bits of paper, articles, pictures, etc. around and around, and then somehow mysteriously they go back into the folder, or into another equally mysterious folder marked 'miscellaneous', but which may be of another colour, marked perhaps,  Book House Trust or CAPNET,  left over from a very important meeting so it cannot be discarded yet, even many years later.  Consequently,  I am finding some gems which refer to children’s literature, and so with your permission, I’ll be sharing them with you from time to time. It makes me feel as if the paper gem has done some good. Here is the first. It’s clipped from somewhere, I don’t know where; it appears to be typed/printed from a time when  the only font we used  was Times New Roman, 10 pt. So if anyone recognizes it as theirs, or recognizes its source, apologies, and please let me know. I’ll credit you.

Kinds of Plot
Young children tend to read for plot. If little happens in a story, they tend to reject it in favour of  a more eventful one.  Good literary values go unnoticed. One of the reasons for giving children good stories is to help them to become sensitive to those qualities which distinguish well-written materials.
Even plots can be pretty poor ones but still acceptable to children who have not been educated to sense the virtues of a good plot. They value action, suspense, surprise and obvious  humour, whether or not the action is needed or warranted, the suspense important to the overall structure, the surprise justified though surprising, and the humour appropriate to the tone of the entire story.
There seems to be only one thing children will not tolerate in plot, and that is confusion and clutter. Too much, too long, too complicated a story loses its young readers.

So what do you think? Does this still apply?

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