Monday, June 28, 2010

Philip Womack on children's fiction

Philip Womack, author of The Other Book and The Liberators, wrote a long article about writing successful children's fiction in Saturday's Telegraph Review Magazine. Here are just three key points and Womack's persuasive conclusion:

1. "What is it that makes a good children's book...? Ted Hughes (who wrote excellent stories for younger readers) suggested that you had to 'kill a cat'. ... What Hughes was driving at was that a children's book needs to make the domestic and normal come under threat."

2. "The hero of a children's book must be almost a cypher... A child will think that the child hero of a book is, effectively, itself, and will happily cast itself as princess or pauper."

3. "The villain, on the other hand, should exude personality. Here the writer can give free rein to flamboyance and pull out all the sinister stops. ... Roald Dahl used to say that the villain should come to a grisly end... It appeals to a child's sense of order and revenge, is immensely satisfying, and stems from our oldest stories. Even the new, hyper-liberal Doctor Who slays its villains."

And the conclusion: "Successful children's books tap into a child's hunger for the safe made strange. They rejuvenate ancient folktales of order rising out of chaos. They speak to a child's subconscious, and form its collective experiences."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Advance word on "The Gates"

According to Mary McNamara in the LA Times, The Gates - a new series about a gated community of werewolves and vampires - is better than it sounds. Worth keeping an eye out for this side of the pond. Presumably FX or Sky will oblige.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Two items of positive TV news

Torchwood series 4 has been announced, with Russell T Davies heading the writing team. Barrowman and Myles are both in it, the only surviving original characters, and the series is to have a more international theme (probably reflecting the last original radio series).

The British Comedy Awards are moving to C4. This is a very good thing, given the scandals of the ITV tenure (fiddled phone votes etc). ITV has certainly bucked up its act, having rid itself of Charles Allen who is now busy flushing EMI down the pan, but the Comedy Awards have always sat slightly uncomfortably on a mainstream channel. C4 is a much better fit. It isn't clear if Jonathan Ross will continue to host. Personally I think he should be rested this year and somebody very different brought in (not either of the Carrs, however, perhaps someone who doesn't consider themselves a comedian - a good laugher.)

Friday, June 04, 2010

British brainpower

Found this rather bracing statement by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, professor of history at Notre Dame (USA) in this week's Times Higher Ed:

"In Europe, Britain is notorious for mistrusting the power of intellect and confiding in unchallenging idiocy."

Whoa, steady on, Phil! Then again, he is talking about our ludicrous royal family.

"Members of the younger generation of the family ... seem utterly unpenetrated by the influence of expensive schooling.

"Their various modest and miserable examination performances - which in Prince Harry's case would have disgraced deprived victims of social disadvantage - have been the prelude to lives of deoressing narrowness."

Hard to argue with that (beyond the obvious question of is Harry really royal?). Nice one, Phil.