1. ToeKneeBlack
    Offline

    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2014
    Messages:
    592
    Likes Received:
    207

    Too Dark for Children's Fiction?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ToeKneeBlack, Sep 15, 2016.

    I've been told my series isn't quite Young Adult, since my characters are too young. In the first two books, the main characters were 12-14.

    In this entry, the third in the series, they're now 14-16. I'm introducing a new character - a 14 year old girl, who can look into a person's deepest fears and make them visible as a hallucination.

    The following chapter is just an outline, but I'm wondering - is it too dark for my 12-16+ target audience?

    Chapter 1: Home of the Witch
    Two men pull up to a run-down house.
    One of them says the place gives him the chills.
    The other tells him to "man-up". They cross the garden and enter the unlocked door.
    The two of them hear something, but see nothing.
    "Hello!" They turn and see a 14 year old girl wearing sun glasses - indoors and at night.
    Nestled in her hair is a small cat.
    The nervous one asks if she followed them in - she says she lives here.
    The other man says "not for much longer." He pulls a gun, but she calmly pushes the barrel to one side and says it isn't loaded.
    "Really?" he asks. He points it at the ceiling and pulls the trigger - it clicks.
    Confused, he checks the magazine - empty!
    She laughs at him. The other asks why she's wearing sun glasses.
    She lifts the glasses to reveal dull, almost lifeless eyes.
    The confident man says she won't see what he's about to do to her, but she catches his hand.
    He smiles awkwardly.
    The nervous one says they don't have time for this; the boss is looking for a new hide-out.
    The confident one tells the other to wait in the van.
    The girl says the confident one is sick - Mr nervous doesn't want to catch what he's got.
    The confident one says "What's the diagnosis, nurse?" He smiles the whole time.
    The girl says "I don't know what it's called, but you're sick enough to imagine this."
    In the blink of an eye, her fingernails become foot-long razors, her hair turns to fire and she grows to over 8 feet tall with glowing red eyes and vicious looking teeth.
    The nervous one flees.
    The confident one tries to follow, but finds his hand caught in her iron grip.
    "Feeding time, Muffin," she says, before the cat leaps from her hair, turning into a lioness as it lands behind the quivering man.
    He begs for his life, but she says, "Leave this place, and tell your boss he's not welcome."
    She releases him and he escapes, barely an inch ahead of the lioness.
    The van screeches away as the girl approaches the door. "You forgot your gun," she laughs.
    The cat looks up and leaps onto her mistress' lowered hand, climbs up her arm and nestles in her hair.
    "Good Muffin," she says softly as the cat purrs contently in her hair.

    Is the confident man too creepy?
    Is the hallucination too demonic?
    It's revealed in a later chapter that the gun was loaded (someone asks about the hole in the ceiling). Also her own eyes and ears don't work, but she can experience almost all of the senses of most other people and animals nearby, which is why she keeps the cat in her hair. She can also manipulate what others experience, but if there's nobody in range she's effectively deaf and blind.
     
    cydney likes this.
  2. Infel
    Offline

    Infel Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2016
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    99
    Its creepy, certainly. I think its a really good looking outline. I don't think its TOO creepy for your target audience because:

    a) Nobody dies
    b) Nobody gets graphically or violently disemboweled (which I half expected)

    I WOULD say the line about doing something to her is too much for a 12 year old. That's still junior high--we don't need them asking mom and dad about what the guy that almost got his guts slashed open meant by it. Especially if the reader is a 12 year old girl.

    Just my thoughts! Good looking outline though. Hope it turns out well.
     
  3. hawls
    Offline

    hawls Active Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2016
    Messages:
    188
    Likes Received:
    199
    Location:
    Melbourne
    The idea of someone pointing a gun at a child at point blank range, just the idea of it, as well as the implied intended sexual assault of a child are far too horrific. The tone of the dialogue, and I suspect the writing style, is so disproportionate to those things.

    The villains need to be/represent things children can relate to as well. The girl becoming a monster, I love. That's fine. Children can relate to the idea of standing up to a bully by becoming something intimidating themselves. The brand of violence coming from the men is simply too beyond a child's comprehension or even vague understanding. They won't connect with it. Children fear the dark, moving shadows, the unknown and the unseen. They fear ghosts and monsters.

    However they could relate to the idea of the men trying to remove the girl from her home by physically grabbing her and trying to throw her out.

    Home Alone would have been a very different movie if Harry and Marv carried guns instead of crowbars.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,878
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Have you considered writing it with an older age group in mind? It sounds interesting.

    I have an issue with the gun, too. If the men are adults and the girl a teen, you don't need the gun. The could come toward her and find themselves just as far away in a loop or any number of thwarted non-gun threats.

    I think you can write it as a middle-grade story if you want. Look at the Goosebumps series. It's how you write it that determines the reading market, not necessarily the story itself.
     
  5. ToeKneeBlack
    Offline

    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2014
    Messages:
    592
    Likes Received:
    207
    I suppose I could drop the gun and lower the age of the thugs to maybe 16 or 17. That way they could talk about being eager to join the gang, and finding a potential new hideout would make them hopeful about being successfully recruited.

    I think I still need a weapon to make them threatening. Maybe he could go to pull a knife, but he finds himself holding a banana? I'll post the changes in green:

    Chapter 1: Home of the Witch
    Two young men pull up to a run-down house.
    One of them says the place gives him the chills.
    The other tells him to "man-up". They cross the garden and enter the unlocked door.
    The two of them hear something, but see nothing.
    "Hello!" They turn and see a 14 year old girl wearing sun glasses - indoors and at night.
    Nestled in her hair is a small cat.
    The nervous one asks if she followed them in - she says she lives here.
    The other man says "not for much longer."
    He puts his hand into his jacket and pulls out a banana. He looks at it and asks, "My knife?"
    The nervous man says "That's not a knife."
    The girl takes a step back and says "That's a knife."
    They stop looking at the fruit and see that she's wielding a samurai sword.
    Before they can say anything, she effortlessly slices the banana into wafer thin strips, barely giving the young man time to pull his hands away.
    She laughs at him. The other asks why she's wearing sun glasses.
    She throws the sword to one side and lifts the glasses to reveal dull, almost lifeless eyes.
    The confident man says she won't see what he's about to do next, but she catches his fist.
    He smiles awkwardly and tries the same with his other hand, which she also catches.
    The nervous one says they don't have time for this; the boss is looking for a new hide-out. If they can secure this place, maybe they can become fully fledged gang members.
    The confident one snaps and yells at the other to knock her out and get rid of her.
    The girl says the confident one is sick - Mr nervous should run away so he doesn't catch what he's got.
    The formerly confident one says "I've never felt better. What do you think you are, a nurse?"
    The girl says "Oh, but you are ill. I don't know what it's called, but you're sick enough to imagine this."
    In the blink of an eye, her fingernails become foot-long razors, her hair turns to fire and she grows to over 8 feet tall with glowing red eyes and vicious looking teeth.
    The nervous one flees.
    The confident one tries to follow, but finds his hand caught in her iron grip.
    "Feeding time, Muffin," she says, before the cat leaps from her hair, turning into a lioness as it lands behind the quivering man.
    He begs for his life, but she says, "Leave this place, and tell your boss he's not welcome."
    She releases him and he escapes, barely an inch ahead of the lioness, but too late to board the van, which races away with squealing tyres.
    The man chases the vehicles down the street as the girl approaches the door. "You forgot your fruit," she laughs.
    The tiny cat looks up and leaps onto her mistress' lowered hand, climbs up her arm and nestles in her hair.
    "Good Muffin," she says softly as the cat purrs contently in her hair.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,878
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I like it but my choice would be to make the knife rubber rather than a banana only because the banana doesn't quite have the right shape.
     
  7. hawls
    Offline

    hawls Active Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2016
    Messages:
    188
    Likes Received:
    199
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Changing one thing changes the tone and context of the whole scene.

    You have changed the gun to a knife. But you have also changed what the girl does to the knife. Changing a knife to a banana is a lot more obvious and freaky compared to using her powers to make the gun not loaded. Because from the perspective of the men, forgetting to load the gun is a lot more believable than packing a banana instead of the knife you intended to pack.

    Which means that by the time she has materialized a samurai sword and sliced the banana into wafer thing slices in less time than it take the men to blink, they would run screaming. They certainly wouldn't have the presence of mind to ask why she is wearing sunglasses.

    By changing one thing you need to consider what would logically follow. You can't just substitute one thing for another and expect the scene to remain plausible.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  8. ToeKneeBlack
    Offline

    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2014
    Messages:
    592
    Likes Received:
    207
    Thank you for the feedback. I'll try again:

    Chapter 1: Home of the Witch
    Two young men pull up to a run-down house.
    One of them says the place gives him the chills.
    The other tells him to "man-up". They cross the garden and enter the unlocked door.
    The two of them hear something, but see nothing.
    "Hello!" They turn and see a 14 year old girl wearing sun glasses - indoors and at night.
    Nestled in her hair is a small cat.
    The nervous one asks if she followed them in - she says she lives here.
    The other man says "Not for much longer." He puts his hand into his jacket and pulls out a knife.

    "Ooh, shiny!" says the girl as the blade slides away from the handle and embeds itself in the exposed floorboards. "Were you going to use that on me? Shame on you!"
    The nervous man stifles his laughter.
    The girl takes a step back and asks "Would you like to know my secret?"
    The confident man gets angry and mutters "We don't have time for this!" He throws a punch, which she catches.
    "You wouldn't hit a girl with glasses, would you? It'd be a shame to break them," she says before lifting the glasses to reveal dull, almost lifeless eyes.
    "How are you doing that?" mutters her attacker as he throws his other fist her way, which she also catches.
    The nervous one says she would make a good gang member; the boss is looking for a new hide-out. If they can secure this place, maybe all three of them can become fully fledged members.

    The confident one snaps and yells at the other to knock her out and get rid of her.
    The girl says the confident one is sick - Mr nervous should run away so he doesn't catch what he's got.
    The formerly confident one says "I've never felt better. What do you think you are, a nurse?"
    The girl says "Oh, but you are ill. I don't know what it's called, but you're sick enough to imagine this."
    In the blink of an eye, her fingernails become foot-long razors, her hair turns to fire and she grows to over 8 feet tall with glowing red eyes and vicious looking teeth.
    The nervous one flees.
    The confident one tries to follow, but finds his hand caught in her iron grip.
    "Feeding time, Muffin," she says, before the cat leaps from her hair, turning into a lioness as it lands behind the quivering man.
    He begs for his life, but she says, "Leave this place, and tell your boss I was here first!"

    She releases him and he escapes, barely an inch ahead of the lioness, but too late to board the van, which races away with squealing tyres.
    The man chases the vehicle down the street as the girl approaches the door of the building. "How pathetic!" she laughs.

    The tiny cat looks up and leaps onto her mistress' lowered hand, climbs up her arm and nestles in her hair.
    "Good Muffin," she says softly as the cat purrs contently in her hair.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2016
  9. ToeKneeBlack
    Offline

    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2014
    Messages:
    592
    Likes Received:
    207
    I've removed the creepy attraction and ramped up the fear factor:

    It was after eleven o’clock at night and darkness shrouded Northampton. The empty sky which had bathed the city in warm sunlight during the day now let in a refreshing chill.
    Deep within a residential area in the Kingsthorpe suburb, a small, shabby looking white van parked itself in front of a dilapidated building.
    Two young men stepped out of the vehicle. Neither of them looked quite old enough to be legally allowed drive, but they didn’t let that stop them.
    They stepped cautiously between the gate-posts; the gate itself had long since been torn from its hinges, and now lay in pieces on the overgrown path which led to the front door.
    One of them stopped to look at the building. It was dimly lit from the outside, but he could tell the roof had quite a few holes. “Hey, Phil, what happens if it rains?”
    “Water falls from the sky,” muttered Phil.
    “No, look at the roof.”
    “We’ll get it sorted,” explained Phil as he reached the front door.
    The tattered edges of a demolition notice which had been stapled to the door fluttered in the gentle breeze; it was dated October 2204.
    “If they can’t be bothered to knock this place down after all these years, we’ll gladly move in!” said Phil with a confident laugh. While he turned the door handle, his associate ran to catch up with him.

    As if there was someone on the other side, the door opened on its own.
    “I thought they said this place was empty,” whispered Phil’s friend.
    “Man-up, Paul! The hinges must be wonky, that’s all.”
    “Something doesn’t feel right. What if this place comes down on us?”
    “It won’t. We just need to secure this place and they’ll let us join the gang.” Phil clicked the button on his torch, which brightly lit up a section of the floor.
    Paul did the same and followed him into the building.


    Cautiously, they crept through the abandoned house. The property was quite large, and had previously been the site of a home for children in care; those days were a distant memory for those who had once lived there.

    Phil shone his torch at the wall in search of a light switch. As he swept the beam, he heard the sound of footsteps further down the hallway.
    “Did you hear that?” asked Paul, nervously.

    “Probably just a stray dog or something. We’ll take care of it.”
    After a few seconds they heard more footsteps, this time from the front door.
    Paul set his torch beam on the entrance; the presence of a dishevelled young woman startled him for a moment.


    “Looking for something?” she asked innocently. Her long, unkempt blonde hair and shabby looking night gown told them she was a runaway. However, they were unsure why she was wearing sun glasses in the middle of the night in a house with no lights on.
    “A light switch,” said Phil with a confident grin.
    “That won’t help you,” said the girl in a threatening tone, before cheerfully adding, “nobody’s paid the bills in five years.”


    Both intruders immediately noticed something stranger than her sunglasses – her mouth didn’t open when she talked. Then something stirred in her hair; two small green eyes stared at the young men before a quiet “meow” gave away the creature’s identity.
    “You don’t live here, do you?” asked Paul. He didn’t like the idea of somebody living in conditions like these, and was starting to feel sorry for the girl.
    “For as long as I can remember. I can’t imagine why everyone else left,” said the girl, again without moving her mouth.
    “Not for much longer!” shouted Phil, who produced a flip-blade knife from his jacket. As the shiny metal blade swung into position, a quiet click was heard before it separated from the wooden handle and embedded itself into the exposed wooden floor boards.
    Paul tried not to laugh. He wasn’t sure why he wanted to be a gang member any more, but he also didn’t want Phil to be angry with him.
    “You brought me a shiny gift, how thoughtful. It is my birthday soon,” said the girl cheerily before shouting, “It’s broken!”


    Phil looked down at his blade before tossing the handle at the girl, who caught it between her thumb and forefinger.
    “She’s good,” muttered Paul.
    Phil wasn’t so impressed. He kicked the blade aside and swung at her with his right fist.
    The girl dropped the handle and caught his balled-up hand with her left, forcing him to lose his balance in the process. “You wouldn’t hit a girl with glasses, would you?” she said innocently.
    Phil let out an enraged grunt.
    “Because it’d be a shame to break them,” she added before removing her eye-wear with her right hand.
    The intruders stared at her eyes, which appeared to be dull and lifeless.
    “How are you doing this?” shouted Phil impatiently as he swung his torch towards her in his left hand.
    This time she grabbed his wrist, causing him to yell in pain as her overgrown nails pinched into his arm.
    “You’d make a good fighter. If you joined us and let them use this place as a base, they’d let us join for sure!” said Paul, hopefully. “What’s your name?”
    “Alexandra Estival, but my friends call me Lexa,” explained the girl.
    “STOP MAKING SMALL TALK AND KNOCK HER OUT!” yelled Phil. His arms and legs felt weak. He dropped his torch, which rolled upon impact with the floor and cast a series of menacing shadows on the wall.
    “Such a temper! I think you’re ill,” said Lexa, playfully. “I think it’s catching.” She turned to face Paul and added in a threatening tone, “You should leave before you catch it!”


    Phil tried to pull his fists away, but found Lexa’s grip too strong to escape. “I’ve never felt better! You’re just stronger than you look!”
    “You must be ill. A big strong man like you shouldn’t be struggling with little old me.”
    Paul looked on; Lexa was right. He wondered why his friend would be working so hard against such a small opponent.
    “DON’T JUST STAND THERE! Bash her with the torch!” ordered Phil.
    Paul looked on. Lexa was beginning to scare him. He wanted to run, but he also didn’t want to abandon his friend.
    “I’m not ill!” insisted Phil, still caught in Lexa’s unrelenting grasp.
    “Oh, but you are ill! I don't know what it's called, but you're sick enough to imagine this,” stated Lexa, who suddenly started to grow taller.


    In the blink of an eye, she towered over the young men. Her fingernails grew into foot-long razor sharp looking blades while her hair burst into flames. Her faded eyes glowed with a fearsome red light, and long, needle-like teeth filled her mouth, which gaped open in a wide grin. “I’m hungry!” she announced in a deep voice.

    Paul had seen enough! He dropped his torch and ran towards the back of the house, hoping desperately to find a door or window.

    Phil tried to follow, but found his right hand still lodged in her iron grip. Her lethal looking talons pressed up against the sleeve of his leather jacket.
    “Feeding time, Muffin,” she boomed, prompting the cat which was still perched on her blazing scalp to leap over Phil.
    A deep growl could be heard. Phil turned to face the cat, which was now a menacing looking lioness which pawed at his leather jacket.


    With a quiver in his voice, Phil begged, “Please let me go. I – I promise we won’t bother you again!”
    Holding her terrifying mouth still, Lexa said, “Take a message to your boss. Tell him I was here first!”

    Phil nodded. A pitiful whimper escaped his trembling lips. Before he knew it, he felt her hand loosen its grip.
    Lexa stood aside as Muffin roared commandingly.
    With the front door clearly in his sights, Phil felt the strength return to his legs. Without a second thought he sprinted out of the house with Muffin barely an inch behind.


    The safety of his van was the light at the end of the tunnel; the squealing of the tyres shattered his hopes. Fuelled by fear, he followed the van down the road without slowing down.

    Lexa stood in the doorway of her abandoned house; she looked completely normal once again. Muffin, who’s appearance had reverted to that of a small black cat, rubbed herself against the girl’s ankle.
    “They think they’re so strong. How pathetic!” said Lexa, who kneeled down to let Muffin leap onto her hand.
    As she turned to face the inside of the house, Lexa yawned and tossed Phil’s knife over her shoulder.
    The weapon was in one piece, but it landed harmlessly in the deep, overgrown grass by the path.


    “Good Muffin,” said Lexa as she locked the door.
    The cat purred contently, warmly curled in her mistress’ dull blonde hair.
    Lexa climbed the stairs to her room, wrapped herself in her bed sheets and threw herself onto the bare mattress. As she fell, Muffin took her position under the pillow.
    Alone together, the pair of them fell asleep at the same time.
     

Share This Page