Must we be gross to attract boy readers?
By Max Elliot Anderson
By Max Elliot Anderson
A few articles are circulating on the Internet that ask how gross we have to be, in our writing, in order to attract boy readers. I won’t quote the titles out of respect for the readers of this blog and children who might also be visiting it today.
In recent months, a number of books have been published that make use of toilet humor, gross words or situations, and certain sounds. Are dirty or questionable words funny? Of course they are. Are certain body parts, sounds, and functions funny? No question. But that is no excuse to use them in our writing, especially when children are the intended audience.
There are two kinds of comedians. One can tell a side-splitting joke, or set up a situation and deliver a line so funny that it hurts our stomachs and makes our eyes run, all without reaching down into the gutter. Others come out on the stage with crutches. Their crutches are nasty situations, dirty words, swearing, and a gross use of humor. Just because it’s funny is no excuse for us to say it or write it.
As writers we have a responsibility, especially to the next generation, to set positive examples in the language we use. Our daughter teaches 2nd grade, in a public school, in the Orlando area. “Dad,” she’ll say, “you can not believe what these kids say to each other, to me, and to other teachers.”
Where does this come from? Truth is, they see it on TV, listen to it in their music, hear it in their own homes or from friends, and read it in some of their books.
We can do better. And we owe it to them.
The Internet articles I mentioned take the position that the more gross we can be in our writing, the more likely we are to attract boys back to reading. While the premise might be true, I reject the concept. Even though one might be able to point to skyrocketing sales figures, what is the long term effect going to be. Am I just a prude? Please! I spent two years in the army.
My favorite styles of humor are either sight humor, where something is visually funny, humor where something that is said or seen earlier, gets a funny punch line later, and humor you can see in your head.
You might ask, “Okay, so you’re saying we can write for kids, and clean humor will attract boys to reading?” That’s been my experience so far. Not only can we, I believe it’s our responsibility.
Humor is an important component of all my books for boys. Over the next six months or so, nine of my books should be published. I grew up hating to read, so I write for readers 8 –13, especially boys. And girls enjoy reading them just as much. Here’s a list of those titles:
Lost Island Smugglers
Sam, Tony, and Tyler took scuba lessons together. Tony’s father owned a marina, so Tony got them in for free. After the boys completed the course, they decided to try their new skills in the ocean. The only problem was, none of them had permission to go, or to take one of the sailboats out for their diving adventure. Everything went well until the biggest storm the boys had ever seen, blew up from out of nowhere, and they found themselves stranded on Lost Island. But, if they thought the worst had happened, they were wrong. What about those high-powered speedboats that mysteriously disappeared? And what were they going to tell their parents, even if they did get off the island?
Barney and the Runaway
Summer had no appeal to Mike Ellis. But neither did homework, or class assignments, or self-discipline. He especially disliked his parents always telling him what to do and punishing him when hew didn’t. Wanting to teach his parents a lesson, he decides to pretend to run away from home for a day with his dog Barney. His plans go terribly wrong when a day later he finds himself halfway across the country and very lost. Meeting an old clown who also ran away as a child teaches Mike the importance of home, family, and doing what’s right. But can Mike and Barney save the circus in time?
Tom Stevens was a super salesman. He and his friends delivered newspapers early every morning. Along their route, the boys often saw some pretty strange things. Then one day they actually became the story. Readers will like the humor, attack dogs, car thieves, and the chop shop Tom and the others uncover. This story reminds us of how important friendship is. It also teaches God isn't just for emergencies. He wants to guide our lives every day.
Terror at Wolf Lake
Eddy Thompson was known for one thing and one thing only. Eddy was a cheater. He cheated on anything, anytime, anywhere, until something happened up at Wolf Lake. It wasn’t the brutal cold. It wasn’t when he fell through the ice. It wasn’t even when two scary men arrived at their remote cabin. What happened would change Eddy’s life…forever.
North Woods Poachers
The Washburn families have been coming to the same cabins, on the same lake, catching the same fish, for about as long as Andy can remember. And he's sick of it. This summer would be different he decided. Only he never imagined how different. The story is filled with excitement, danger, humor, and drama. In the end, Andy learns the concepts of family tradition, justice, and it is important to follow the rules. Readers will enjoy the gigantic, jet-powered floatplane, computers, home made radio transmitter, and naturally, no one will ever forget Big Wally. He’s a fish of course.
Mountain Cabin Mystery
Scott and his friends had dreamed and prepared for their first wilderness camping adventure. When they become separated from their group in a mountain fog, trouble begins. There was that bear, the decrepit suspension bridge over a bottomless gorge, the sheer cliff in the dark, those terrorists in the remote cabin, the Army, the helicopter ride, and…
Todd and Amanda live with their parents in a Midwestern city. The family doesn’t go to church. The children are invited to visit their uncle, aunt, and cousin Drew, on their Wyoming ranch over spring break. Todd learns, in a unique way, why stealing is wrong. He decides to choose a new path for his life because of his uncle’s positive example. A band of high-tech cattle rustlers are caught, revealing that Todd was also wrong about Travis, a shadowy character. Read about the round up, rattlesnake, and rustlers.
The Secret of Abbott’s Cave
A detective, a police scanner, and a cave offered possibilities for danger and excitement. Who are the real heroes in America? Randy and his friends pooled their resources to go cave exploring, discovered the hidden loot from a bank robbery, and learned they weren't heroes at all.
Legend of the White Wolf
They didn’t call him a liar; they just couldn’t believe his story. Brian Fisher was determined to prove it was true even though it involved the risk to his own safety. His rescue of a wolf pup from a steel trap results in a mysterious relationship with surprising results. The story is set in the lower elevations near Yellowstone
Let's close the lid on toilet humor. When it comes to our writing, we’re talking about the next generation. And shouldn’t we try to leave this world a better place than the way we found it? As the adults in the room, we should be looking for ways to raise the bar, not lower it.
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