In fiction anything is possible – you can invent new worlds and creatures, make ordinary people do extraordinary things, exhibit bravery they probably wouldn’t be able to summon up in real life, and so on.
But there still needs to be some sort of internal logic to it all, and one thing I notice quite often in manuscripts is a sort of randomness: questions left unanswered, dubious things left unexplained. It can crop up in any type of fiction but I think it’s more common in children’s writing because we often ask our young heroes to do things they simply would neither dream of nor be physically or mentally capable of in the real world.
That’s fine – the world of children’s fiction would be so much the poorer if the young heroes didn’t take on aliens, international jewel thieves, and a variety of other adult evil geniuses. BUT, once you’ve got this great idea it’s important to think it through before you find your eager fingers typing those daunting words Chapter One.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have asked authors why?
Why did Grandad decide that the only way to tackle the ghost in his old cottage was to approach his bewildered eleven-year-old grandson, Tommy?
Why did the supernatural goodies who have been secretly guarding the world against the supernatural baddies jump out of a computer game to enlist the help of little Maisie and Jamie when the going got tough?
I’m not saying that none of this shouldn’t happen. It should. It has to or we’ll probably run out of plots! (If you do use a computer game as a portal to another world, dimension etc you will probably elicit groans from the editors or agents you submit to who have seen it a hundred times before – but as with everything, if you do it well enough…)
What I’m saying is that you need to build in a reason, and that’s something many writers fail to do. Maybe Grandad knows Tommy has inherited a special psychic gift from his mother that he’s unaware of. Maybe Maisie and Jamie are the only ones to have cracked a level of the game put in there specially by the goodies, thus proving they alone have the skills to take on the baddies.
Okay, that last one sounds a bit weak. Very young readers might buy it but maybe not street wise older ones – which underlines the point that although we want our youngsters to be heroes, even with a logical explanation there are limits to what we can reasonably get away with before the editor starts to make Hmmm...noises