Diana Wynne Jones Essays

Diana Wynne Jones Essays-56
At first I thought it was my own assumption, based on personal experiences.Once when I was doing a signing, a mother came in with her nine-year-old son and berated me for making The Homeward Bounders so difficult. It was just her that didn't." It was clear to both of us that his poor mother had given up using her brain when she read.So I turned to the boy to ask him what he didn't understand. Likewise, a schoolmaster who was supposed to be interviewing me for a magazine explained to me that he had tried to read Charmed Life and couldn't understand a word, which meant, he said, that it was much too difficult for children. He was making the surface assumption, that children need things easy.

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They are asked for this effort every hour of every school day and, though they may not make the effort willingly, they at least expect it.

In addition, nearly everyone between the ages of nine and fifteen is amazingly good at solving puzzles and following complicated plots - this being the happy result of many hours spent at computer games and watching television. I can make my plots for them as complex as I please, and yet I know I never have to explain them more than once (or twice at the very most).

I took the usual course of those who write for children and relied on my readers having the nous to pick up the situation as they went along. A "long" book naturally entails various kinds of padding.

Apart from the kinds I've already mentioned, the most obvious form of padding is description - whether of the galactic core seen from the vertiginous skin of a spaceship, or the landscape passed through on the Quest.

To take the most obvious first: I found myself thinking as I wrote, "These poor adults are never going to understand this; I must explain it to them twice more and then remind them again later in different terms." Now this is something I never have to think when I write for younger readers.

Children are used to making an effort to understand.

A long book, it follows, is going to be read in bits.

Therefore you have to keep reminding your readers of things, even if they do use their brains.

Now, having come to my senses and started to think about these assumptions, I ask myself why.

A book should conclude satisfactorily; to leave the ending for the next volume is cynical (and annoying for readers).

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