Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper’s grandpa has always warned him about the dangers of lightning. But Joshua never put much stock in his grandpa’s rumblings as anything more than the ravings of an old man with a vast imagination.
Publication date: May 19th, 2015
Stay away from the window, don’t go outside when it’s storming and whatever you do, do not touch the orb.
Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper’s grandpa has always warned him about the dangers of lightning. But Joshua never put much stock in his grandpa’s rumblings as anything more than the ravings of an old man with a vast imagination. Then one night, when Joshua and his best friend are home alone during a frightful storm, Joshua learns his grandpa was right. A bolt of lightning strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever.
To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark place that steals children for energy. But getting back home and saving his friend won’t be easy, as Joshua must face the terrifying Child Collector and fend off ferocious and unnatural beasts intent on destroying him.
In this world, Joshua possesses powers he never knew he had, and soon, Joshua’s mission becomes more than a search for his friend. He means to send all the stolen children home—and doing so becomes the battle of his life.
10 Steps to Writing Thrillers for Kids
Do you love to be scared? I do (when I know it’s safe)! Haunted houses. Hayrides. Rollercoasters. Adventure rides.
I got so scared once in a haunted house that I whacked the “ghosts” with the teddy bear from my costume. The management turned on all the lights and asked me to leave. Oops.
Just last Halloween my friend dared me to do Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary. I was very proud that I didn’t whack anyone this time!
But I still get scared of real places as a grown up. Of the dark garage. Of the creepy cellar. Of nighttime when taking the trash cans out. My heart pip-pops waiting for that creature or boogeyman to grab me. I know he could be. My imagination tells me so.
Thriller movies are fun to watch – but I think it’s even more fun for me to watch my son watching them. He yells at the characters, “save yourselves!” then jumps up and down, hides his eyes, and we hug each other in fright – whether it’s Jurassic Park, Twister, or Dante’s Peak.
I think the same elements in thriller movies cross over into thriller books.
· Incorporate plot twists to shock the audience
· Tease viewers to keep them hanging on until the end
· A hero, or band of heroes, opposing an enemy while on a quest
· The threat of death or capture always looming
Some of my favorite children’s thriller books, like The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen and The Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan, are my favorites because they contain these elements I love.
As my son became an avid and selective reader, I discovered that kids love to be thrilled not just in movies but in books too. I started reading some of the books my son had on his bookshelf like Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan and Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo. In doing this I began to see patterns in these kid adventure tales – and I began applying what I learned, along with general thriller elements, to create my own stories.
10-steps for writing kid thrillers:
- Put the kids in charge. Kids don’t want to read about grownups having adventures.
- Which leads into…have the kids figure out how to take the bad guys down – not grownups. Kids want to see themselves as the hero, not Mom or Dad or their teacher.
- Whatever scary situations the kids find themselves in – they must navigate their way out.
- Don’t dwell on the dark stuff. Make it happen fast without gory detail – kids can use their imagination.
- Give them friends in their travels. Life is hard without friends! And a kid needs friends to help him along his scary adventure.
- Through story events have the kids discover their own strength and courage to overcome the bad things happening to them.
- Make all seemed lost! End the chapters on cliffhangers to encourage kids to keep turning the pages and find out what happens next.
- Have it work out in the end, or at least partially, even if all seems doomed for a while.
- Add humor! Interjecting a dollop of funny can alleviate the tension in the scariest of scenes and lighten the moment.
- Make it a series. Have a final resolution to the story but leave it open for more stories down the road for the characters. Kids love to follow their beloved characters into new adventures.
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About the author:
Donna Galanti writes murder and mystery with a dash of steam as well as middle grade adventure fiction. She is the author of books 1 and 2 in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, A Human Element and A Hidden Element, the short story collection The Dark Inside, and Joshua and The Lightning Road (Books 1 and 2, 2015). She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. It has lots of writing nooks, fireplaces, and stink bugs, but she’s still wishing for a castle again—preferably with ghosts. For more information on Donna and A Human Element, please visit:
Website ** ElementTrilogy
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Thanks so much for hosting Joshua and the Lightning Road today! It was super fun to talk about writing scary for kids. Who doesn't love to be scared for fun, right? :)
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