Your world may seem magical but is it a place your reader wants to enter?
I recently had the pleasure of helping to build Santa’s Grotto.
The grotto was to be the central feature of the school winter fair and resources were minimal. But with a little imagination and a lot of love, we transformed a few old wooden screens, some dusty sacks of fabric and a load of rubbishy fairy lights into a winter wonderland that Santa could be proud of.
I was so pleased with our creation, it looked great. It looked even better in the dark of the evening when I took my little boy to see it; an enchanted snow kingdom where the twinkling lights invited him to be submerged in magic.
Wakeup call… my son hated it. It was far too dark and there were too many spooky nooks and crannies where darker magic might lurk. No way was he hanging around to see Santa.
We had got our world building seriously wrong. We had constructed the Christmas fantasy that we felt was right and not looked at it from the perspective of the smaller children. When I think now of the various grottos I’ve visited previously, they were brightly lit and cheery. Santa was given the appropriate level of mystique but he wasn’t’ surrounded by a dark world lit only by fairy lights. What we thought was atmospheric was downright terrifying for my five year old.
As a writer, the ability to create a strong sense of place and to build a world that the reader can believe in is of critical importance. This experience served as a valuable reminder not to take anything for granted. Yes, I had created a world that was believable – my son was totally transported. However it wasn’t a place he wanted to enter and this took me by surprise.
Whilst it is fun to indulge: to create a world that for you represents magic, mystique and intrigue it has to be a world that is not only real but is welcoming. As children’s books seem to grow forever darker for me it is clear, that with younger readers especially, there is still room for light.