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Afterward, or not?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Steerpike, Jun 10, 2019.

  1. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Hey all:

    I'm finishing up a book of horror stories for the middle grade audience. I expect it will go over like a lead balloon due to the fact that the stories are all very grim, but it is more of a personal labor of love because my kids always complained that stories they read weren't scary enough and these are some I developed from telling tales to them.

    In any event, my work for children is typically very upbeat and pleasant. My other project for the same market is unfailingly optimistic and happy. As I've thought about this horror project, I've considered a short "afterward," for lack of a better term, thanking the child for going along on the harrowing journey in the book but reminding the reader that we can enjoy the vicarious scares that come with grim stories while still recognizing that the world is a beautiful place. I haven't thought through the exact wording yet. I'm not even sure it is needed or desired. What do you all think?
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Can you do it in character from the perspective of a narrator or another character in the book? I think it's a great idea, but kids won't respond much to a note from the author. If you make it part of the book I think it'll come across well.
     
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  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    It's possible. Initially, I had a narrator that opens the book and then appears from time to time between stories. I abandoned that idea, but if I put it back in I could do it that way. Otherwise, I could put it within the context of characters talking to each other in one of the stories.
     
  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I'm just picturing, say, a monster character, doing something "normal," smiling, suddenly coming across as friendly, and then breaking the fourth wall to address the children directly.
     
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  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Something like that would work. I'd have to add a new story--maybe put it last in the book. I wouldn't be able to work that into the existing stories. My beta reader reaction has been good so far, though I did have one person tell me that while she liked one of the stories she wouldn't let her kid read it :/
     
  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I like it.
    Maybe something about how everything looks better in the morning, or how the sun rises after night, or how we can learn to appreciate the light by knowing the dark. There's a lot of interesting angles.
     
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  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yes...I think it could be made to work. Do you feel it is necessary to make this point in a book that might be frightening or upsetting for kids, or is it something that is a nice touch but the book would work just as well without it?
     
  8. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I have very limited experience with kids.

    That said...
    I think some kind of reassurance at the end would have made me more happy if I'd read a scary story as a kid. If the book/story ended on dark/scary note, that would have left me with the dark feeling after I put the book away.

    I wouldn't say it's necessary, but I think I'd have made sure to put it in if it were me who did the book.
     
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  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yes. That's sort of what prompted my thinking. The final story in the book is particularly grim. There's a death of a pet in it, and the MC ultimately perishes as well, though she saves her dad as a result of her sacrifice. I read through my current draft and, while I believe in the story and like it, was thinking "Well, that's a downer."
     
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    First of all, if the parents are saying they wouldn't let their kid read it, it's perfect for middle grade. There's no such thing as too grim at that age.

    To me, appending a "cheer up" bit would ring false. V.C Andrews and the rest of them who were, in their early work, seen as too very too, didn't apologize and I don't think any kid expected them to. They were there for the ride.

    Second, or would it be third?, wouldn't it be an afterword rather than afterward? Sorry: never met a nit I wouldn't pick.
     
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  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yep--would be an afterWORD :)

    That's a good point about artificiality. That's the main thing I want to avoid with this. I'd rather leave it out than have it ring false. I also don't want a kid to be sad when they're done reading it, but maybe I'm not giving them enough credit. My kids would have liked this sort of thing. They're probably not unusual in that regard.
     
  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Even if you abandon the idea Steer, if the last story is just that grim, some kind of less-Grim epilogue story might be enough to offset it.
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    That's true. Right now, the last story is the title story for the collection. I put it last. But I could follow it with something.
     
  14. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Maybe follow it with a letter from the author - not from a fictional character in a story, but from you personally, directed to them as the reader.

    Something that acknowledges they've gone through a lot of tough stories and that maybe they're stronger for it. Something about how life isn't always sunshine, and it's good to know there are dark sides to life too.
     
  15. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Or just something about why you wrote such a scary book - because your own kids thought ordinary ghost stories weren't scary enough.
     
  16. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Vala

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    This one I like. Yes, it depends on the age, but half the fun of dark and scary things as a kid is that you know things end and things can get better. That you are ultimately safe. Even just a beat or two at the end of the stories, saying this is me in the real world talking and this is why I wrote it.
     
  17. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    Ending on a downer note normally isn't the way to go. So I think you're right in an inclusion at the end. I think, as has been said, if it's some sort of extension to the story(s), that would work. Kid's are less likely to read an Afterward or Last Word, if it's not a story.
     
  18. Firefly

    Firefly Troubadour

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    Horror can actually be a pretty potent draw for an MG audience. See the success of the Goosebumps books, for instance. "I wouldn't let my kids read that" is often just the RIGHT spot for a book to be in for the kids themselves to love it.

    I would highly recommend reading "A tale dark and Grimm" by Adam Gidwitz if your looking for examples of how this could be done. It doesn't have an afterword, exactly, but it does something very similar to this and was one of my favorite books as a kid.
     
  19. I've heard several middle grade authors talk about how their most popular books are the ones that make the parents recoil in horror due to the dark content or the "gross factor" but how the kids eat it up and say those are their favorite parts/stories.

    I agree with the sentiment that working the content of the afterward into the ending of the final story, if you can, is better as you'll have their attention in full.

    Or, if you do bring the narrator back, it can be their introduction to one of the darker stories if placed near to the end. I think of a exuberant narrator going on about the beauty of life and the way we all face our own shadows and dark tales but how many have happy endings somewhere down the road, but then the story intro ends with something like, "but this, dear friends, is not one of those sort of happy story endings."
     
  20. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Kind of an aside, but I've put on scary movies for the kids (not adult horror, but age appropriate to teen), and when they freak out I make them watch to the end. I've done this several times, and each time they have wanted to watch it again. I think a lot of parents give in and turn it off, and then get angry that a movie made their kids feel that way. But I think it's important to teach them that the emotion they feel is something that will pass, and that feeling that way isn't a thing you must avoid at all costs. (Of course if there's a real monster coming out of your wall, get the Hell outta there.)
     
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