Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. And regardless of the time of year, I love to read a well-constructed murder mystery, ghost story, or psychological drama. (Nothing overly grotesque or horror-bound, though...it’s not for me. I’m a big chicken.) So when it comes to my writing; scary, dangerous, or creepy are somewhat foreign ideas. As it should be, right? After all, my target readers are pre-k – 6th graders and I don’t want to frighten the children. A recent review from Publisher’s Weekly has me thinking, though. In a starred review of the children’s book WHAT THERE IS BEFORE THERE IS ANYTHING THERE: A SCARY STORY by Liniers, trans. from the Spanish by Elisa Amado. Groundwood Ages 4-7, the reviewer included this intriguing line: “Fear is the new fun…”
Hmmm. Children do love Halloween, and not necessarily for the candy. Children tell ghost stories and try to gross out each other on a regular basis. But is fear the new fun, or has it always been here marinating as a juicy ingredient for authors to drop into our stories for readers of any age? After all, as Janet Burroway says so well in WRITING FICTION: A Guide to Narrative Craft: “[In fiction] Only trouble is interesting.” p. 32. Some of the best, most satisfying types of fictional trouble involve fear and the recognition that at times, life is scary. Handled well, books for children with a scary element may be able to help young readers navigate those fears.
I wish you a Happy Halloween, and Spooky Stories!