August 18, 2013

Deliver a Powerful Punch

Recently, I received a promising story for the Kid's Imagination Train magazine.  The author kicked off the piece with conflict:  the main character tells a friend that a monster lurks in their neighborhood. Great!  The story was off to a good start. Throughout the piece, the tension was successfully created.  But unfortunately, the ending was a letdown. Quite frankly, the monster was not all that scary.

This ending might have worked better if the monster was:
* large in size, that is, something a kid can’t squish with his foot or,
* something amazingly detestable for a kid to encounter or,
* a believable, yet unexpected surprise

When you write a scary story, close it with a strong ending—something that is icky or would give kids the goose bumps.  That’s what you’re aiming for.  Resist the urge to slip in a scientific fact to clarify the ending. It will come across as being too didactic.  The last thing children want to read at the end of a suspenseful story is an explanation (even if it’s one sentence).  An explanation may slow the action and weigh the ending down.   

When you spend time developing characters, creating conflict, and building suspense, you should make the ending as worthy of the tension that has been set-up.  Think of it this way:  you have gained the trust of your readers by promising them something big is going to happen; therefore, don’t disappoint.  They’re invested in your story.  If you’re writing a piece that intends to frighten, be sure the ending delivers a powerful punch.

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