I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Guest Post: Writing a Boy's Book

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Please enjoy this guest post/book excerpt by Ben Woodard, about his new book A Stairway to Danger.

I grew up almost living in the local library. Reading was my escape and the library was my portal. I loved boys adventure stories and have been amazed at the reports that say boys don't read. So I decided to write the kind of stories I remembered. The result is A Stairway To Danger. More edgy than what I read, maybe The Hardy Boys on steroids. It's probably PG. Some mild cursing and violence. Nothing too terrible, but there are guns and dead bodies.

The setting is a small town in Kentucky that is now a preserved village. In 1923, when the story takes place, it would have been a rural community with houses built in the early 1800s, now in a run-down condition. The book sprang from stories family members told me about growing up in this town called Shakertown. Tales of lost gold and river caves, and of adventure. And of a friendship that endures through adversity and danger. This is a book that doesn’t whitewash the racism and sexism of its time, but focuses on two boys and their adventures.

Writers can't fool kids—of any age. The writing has to be authentic. Children, especially teens, can easily tell when authors are writing down to them. And my audience, boys, are tough customers. The stories not only have to be real, but they have to be fast, exciting, and make sense, or the author will lose the boy reader. The writer might be able to get away with a few mistakes in grammar with a kid, but never will they get away with mistakes in the story. Writing for children takes different skills than writing for adults. It is more difficult, and more fun.

I sincerely hope boys like my stories.

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:

Will used his boot to roll the body over. An arm flopped in the water and the face pointed directly at Tom. A face with no eyes. Tom sucked in a breath and staggered back. He slumped to his knees staring at the ground.

“Fish ate em,” Will said, toeing the body.

Tom raised his eyes to see Will studying him, his head cocked. Tom’s stomach rolled like the back of a hay wagon, and the taste of bile filled his mouth. His breath came in short gasps as his mind went back to that narrow staircase four years ago. He felt those walls closing in again. Sweat rolled down the nape of his neck. He bent over, gagged, and threw up. Not just because of the eyeless body. He wanted to empty out all his guilt and self-loathing onto the rocky hillside.

“Never seen a dead body before, huh?”

Tom glared. “No. Not that.”

A flash of remembrance crossed Will's face. His head dropped and he turned back to the body. “You reckon that’s the Deputy?” Will asked. “He's been missing a couple of days. We better tell the Sheriff.”

Tom didn’t answer. His only thought was running. Running and not stopping. Running north until he collapsed somewhere on the way to Cincinnati. He had to get away. And not later. Now.

Will slipped his arm under Tom's armpit and hefted him up like a sack of potatoes. “Let's get outta here. I'm getting kinda sick myself. We’ll follow the river back. That’s the quickest way.”

The yellow sky darkened to purple as they edged around the body and moved along the bank back toward Shakertown. Tom looked away from the bloated corpse and tried not to breathe. The stench filled the night air suffocating the musty smells of the river and forest. Will first said the smell was a dead cow until they spotted the body. Tom didn’t recognize the Deputy, but he recognized death. He had hoped coming to the farm would help him forget what happened at Grandfather’s. But reminders were everywhere.

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