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Roald Dahl on writing for children

Submitted by Nigel Bernard on Mon, 09/05/2016 - 15:12
Dahl montage

This month sees the centenary of the birth, on September 13th, 1916, of Roald Dahl, the master children’s storyteller. What can writers learn from Dahl about writing for children? Donald Sturrock, in his biography, Storyteller - The Life of Roald Dahl, quotes a long passage from an article written by Dahl in 1975, entitled, A Note on Writing Books for Children. In this article, Dahl gives lots of examples of things which children like and do not like when they read a story.

He says they love giggling, being spooked, suspense, action, ghosts, finding treasure, chocolate, toys, money and magic. They like stories to have victorious heroes and for villains to have grisly deaths. They also love new inventions, unorthodox methods, eccentricity and secret information.

According to Dahl, children hate descriptive passages, flowery prose and long descriptions. Children can get easily bored, he said, and writers must always ask themselves; is the passage I have just written too slow and too dull?

Oh, and he says the writer needs a `really first-class plot’ …