SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Fear of creating a new fear in a child. Thoughts?

Discussion started on

Member.
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region florida
Hi.  My question is how do you write about scary stuff without creating a new fear in a child? 

For example, you write about scary things that live in the dark when mom turns out the light for bed.  Assume the book maybe is fun and light-hearted, not scary.  Before the book was read to the child, he had no fear of the dark.  He had no idea there was even such a thing as being afraid of the dark.  Now, your book has opened his mind to the thought.   He is now scared of the dark.

My initial thoughts are the adults in the child's life are responsible for monitoring (1) what materials are read to the child and (2) what ideas and concepts the child is exposed to.    Therefore, if I want to write about something that involves a stereotypical childhood fear, then I shouldn't be afraid to do so.

Your thoughts?
#1 - September 21, 2012, 07:07 AM
http://www.linkedin.com/in/debragetts
Crazy Travel Adventures By Debra: http://crazytraveladventures.blogspot.com/
On Twitter: @DebraGetts

My thoughts are that yes, the grownups are in charge of appropriate reading material. Books are a good way to experience fear and conquer it, and as an author, I certainly wouldn't let that stop me. Some kids are too young or too sensitive for certain topics, but some kids *need* those topics and a healthy way to talk about them and process them and ultimately conquer them.
GK Chesterton said "Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed." :)
#2 - September 21, 2012, 08:39 AM
Robin

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region britishisles
Exactly what MysteryRobin said. My daughter scares incredibly easily (at Winnie the Pooh, for example) and so I know not to expose her to certain books. The only caveat I'd add is that it's up to the author/editor/publisher to make sure the cover and/or title/blurb make it clear what the book is intended to be. I read one book recently about 'the new puppy' (not giving the proper title away) and suddenly two thirds in a robber appeared in the story. He wanted to rob the house while everyone slept! I had to change the story as I read and try and explain the strange man away...
#3 - September 21, 2012, 02:33 PM

Member.
Poster Plus
I don't think we should spend too much energy worrying about triggering new fears in our readers. Childhood fears can develop in unexpected ways and about unexpected things. We'd never get any writing done if we dwelled on the possibility of a kid reacting negatively to our work.
#4 - September 21, 2012, 03:07 PM
« Last Edit: September 21, 2012, 08:40 PM by Bigfoot »
I read, therefore I am.
http://bigfoot-reads.blogspot.com/

I’m a dogged reader.
http://www.dogdarecritiques.com

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region carolinas
Do not worry. Write what you want ... and let the parents be the judge of what is appropriate for their child.
Vijaya
#5 - September 21, 2012, 05:55 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region iowa
I love MysteryRobin's G.K. Chesterton quote--always been a favorite.   :exactly:

When our daughter was in preschool, she used to talk about the "Big Bad Boys." These were the four year olds, who would line a hallway through which she had to walk at lunchtime. One day she asked me to tell her a story about the Big Bad Boys, and after that I told one almost nightly for several years. And you know, after I started telling the stories, she still didn't like the BBBs, but she stopped being afraid of them. They had been thwarted, night after night, often in comical ways.

I think the only thing to avoid is a scene that's much scarier than the rest of the book.
#6 - September 21, 2012, 08:27 PM
Learning to Swear in America (Bloomsbury, July 2016)
What Goes Up (Bloomsbury, 2017)
Twitter: KatieWritesBks

Member.
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region florida
Thank you for your helpful responses!
#7 - September 22, 2012, 04:16 AM
http://www.linkedin.com/in/debragetts
Crazy Travel Adventures By Debra: http://crazytraveladventures.blogspot.com/
On Twitter: @DebraGetts

As a bookseller, I am going to say this: Write what you want. It'll have it's audience. The parents are very selective when choosing books for that age group, for all the reasons mentioned above. And you would be surprised by things I get asked for. For a ridiculous exaggeration of the questions I get, "Do you have a book about friendly snails? My child is afraid of snails, and I'd like her to see that snails are people, too." And the parents who have kids who are afraid of the dark love having books that explore that issue. The parents with children who easily develop new fears avoid those books.

And in a side note, I apparently helped my niece get over her fear of snakes by accident. I sent her a brightly colored, beautiful picture book that was illustrated by David Diaz for Christmas one year. There is a roadrunner who conquers a snake in it--and my niece found that very comforting. (If I'd known she was afraid of snakes, I never would have sent the book!)

Holly
#8 - September 22, 2012, 11:31 AM

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region newengland
Ditto what has been said above. You should write what calls you. As a parents, there are definitely some topics I have avoided -- such as fear of the dark (my son never was, so why cause trouble?). But that shouldn't stop you from writing your story.
#9 - September 22, 2012, 07:16 PM
www.carriefinison.com
DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS - Putnam (coming in 2020)

Children's Book Editor
Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region nymetro
I am just jumping in to agree with what others have said. Don't censor yourself. Kids of all ages, even the youngest, are more complex than we know--and stronger than we know.
#10 - September 23, 2012, 07:32 AM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region westcentny
I don't disagree with anything said here, but when I work in the Children's Room at the library, two question I get often are:
1. picture books about starting school that do not depict a scared child - only an excited one
2. picture books about moving that do not depict a scared child - only an excited one

In these cases, the parents are deciding what their child can handle, which is great! These topics seem to be big ones without "scaring" the child more.
#11 - September 23, 2012, 07:47 AM
BLACKOUT -- available now
DESERTED -- available now
SISTERS DON'T TELL -- available now
www.deenalipomi.com

Totally agree with the "write what's in your heart" thing...love how Harold put it.

But as far as that initial fairy tale quote, I just had to jump in here in:  :dragon:

No one needs to kill any dragons...they're perfectly happy living in perfect sandcastles...  :)

Hugs, Jodi  :love3:
#12 - September 23, 2012, 08:26 AM
WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN, Flashlight Press, May 2011
GOOD NEWS NELSON, Story Pie Press, Dec 2012

www.writerjodimoore.com

Member.
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region florida
#13 - October 02, 2012, 05:53 PM
http://www.linkedin.com/in/debragetts
Crazy Travel Adventures By Debra: http://crazytraveladventures.blogspot.com/
On Twitter: @DebraGetts

Member.
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region carolinas
That's a good article Debra. I like the distinction it makes between books and movies, too.
#14 - October 11, 2012, 10:31 AM

I was scared of THERE'S A WOCKET IN MY POCKET because of some of the creatures that lived in dark places, hidden under or in things, or were too fast to be seen... however this was just one element of the story and overall I liked the story even though some parts scared me.

If I was writing something scary, I would keep it scary but add some comfort or reassurance to it. More important than having fear would be how the fear is used.

On a related note, here are some kid movies:
-a runaway son grows up thinking he has caused the death of his father = Lion King
-a widow tries to help her sick son and learns about animal experimentation = Secret of Nimh
...now these might not be exactly PB-audience age, but they could be labelled kid movies and they certainly didn't shy away from dark themes. They used them to add to the story.
#15 - June 25, 2014, 02:19 AM

Members:

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.