[DWJ] Writing for the young (was Dumbledore vs. Snape)

Mark Allums mark at allums.com
Mon May 14 20:27:02 EDT 2007

With much snippage here and there:

Minnow wrote:
>> minnow at belfry.org.uk wrote:

> In this scene it was assumed that somebody holding a wand must be the
> person who had used it, on no evidence whatsoever and when a Truth Spell
> would have been available to establish the facts...  Or that's how I
> remember it.

Yeah, that one's a bit awkward.  I always thought, based on [spoiler] 
that the truth spell/serum was Not Done.  Except by cretins and Evil 

>  No questions asked about
> whether 'stun' for a human is 'sudden death' to an alien life-form about
> which nothing at all is known.  No attempt to find out whether this might
> be the local cops in pursuit of a criminal lunatic...

Yeah, that one requires one to a) assume that there is info *you* don't 
have, or b) suspend disbelief for the duration.

> Is that supposed to excuse poor writing?  If so, it's a *terrible* excuse!
> When Kipling wrote for children he didn't let the standards slip; nor did
> Rosemary Sutcliff; nor did C.S. Lewis, nor Diana Wynne Jones, nor Patricia
> Wrede, nor Neil Gaiman.  Nor (you have your own list).

No!  On the contrary.  Writing good children's lit is *hard*. (I've 
tried.  I can't.)  I was referring to the fact that IMO, reading Harry 
Potter is fun.  Most children's lit is intended to be a pleasant 
experience, at least for the children, if not for the characters in the 

>>  Start reading now, and be ready for when Book Seven
>> appears.  :)
> Can't do that!  The rule is that I'm waiting until I won't have to wait for
> the next one.  Judging by the now-eighteen-year-old, these books are going
> to take me less than a day each to read: if she got through them that fast,
> on first reading as they came out, I expect I shall too.  So I had better
> start about a week before the last one comes out: that gives her time to
> read the last one whilst I am on Book 6 and have it ready for me when I
> want to keep on keeping on through.

Ahhh, a Strategy!  :)  Good!  I bet it's been hard, though, trying not 
to be too spoilered.  I read the first one to see if it was appropriate 
for my niece.  She was about 7 at the time.  There were rumors of 
murders and morbid stuff in the books (book 4 was imminent at the time). 
    She had already read 1 and 2.  I was behind.  I caught up.  And 
found myself hooked.

>> *literarily?  Let us coin a word, meaning, "of or about something
>> literary".  It's a bit of a tongue twister.
> Lit'ry is the word for that sort of discussion and the lit'ry folk who have
> it, so maybe "litrily"?  I don't demand lit'ry in my light reading, but I
> do require literate (as well as coherent and self-consistent within the
> world created: there are definite limits beyond which I cannot suspend my
> disbelief).  Judging by the random four pages or so of HP I read when
> someone was making a point on this list a couple of years ago (see comments
> on mer-people earlier) I may decide that this is not a book to be set down
> lightly -- in the Dorothy Parker meaning of that phrase -- purely on
> account of my being a member of the Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty
> To The Semi-Colon.
> One thing has to be said for Enid Blyton: she had at least been taught the
> use of punctuation at some point.  Her stuff doesn't demand a re-write
> every couple of sentences, and I don't find that I have got out a red biro
> and started absent-mindedly to proof-read it as I go along.  Formulaic,
> yes, maybe, but not horribly constructed word-by-word as well as
> plot-by-plot.

Oh dear.  I do commit the serial comma/run-on sentence upon occasion.  I 
use semi-colons both correctly and incorrectly; here's an example of 
one.  Is it correct?  I once knew all the rules; I got a really nice 
grade on quite a few papers.  But time and brain atrophy have taken 
their toll, and I verb nouns and commit other crimes against grammar.  I 
  can mispell with the best of them.  Alas, I'm getting worse.  Forgive 
me my more atrocious errors.

--Mark A.

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