The Kids’ Pulp Formula, Alpha Version

We wish to write a bedtime story that will take 3-5 minutes to read, will be enjoyed by the child and parent alike, and will feature iconic and virtuous heroes, iconic and sinister villains, and iconic and cool props. We wish to write our stories fast and in bulk, for children want a bedtime story every night.

With due respect (and apologies) to Lester Dent, fragments of whose formula are scattered through mine until testing brings refinement, here is my first proposition:

Let’s do this!

Pulp for Kids?

I respect the work ethic and powers of the pulp authors. From Lester Dent, to Michael Moorcock, a lot of stories I deeply respect were written by men who had a formula for their skeleton, a deadline, and the objective of churning out prose as quickly as possible. The king of Pulp in my imagination is Burroughs, whose John Carter of Mars stories form a founding stone in my concept of manly storycraft.

I recall hearing (and will not look it up because I don’t want the myth, if it be a myth, to be dispelled) that Rudyard Kipling heard Burroughs had made a crass, marketable pastiche of his Jungle Book, namely Tarzan. Kipling responded by saying he respected the hustle.

I, too, respect the hustle. And right now, thanks to the internet and specifically Amazon, we are enjoying a Pulp Renaissance. The intersection of ebooks, email lists, and Amazon’s marketing algorithm have made it possible for a passable storyteller to at once hone his craft also and make a decent living through sheer volume of output.

But this recipe just doesn’t translate to Kids’ books. Kids want full color illustrations. Parents want physical media to hand their kids. Print on Demand means we can (as I have) dodge around the New York spinsters who gatekeep kids books, but Print on Demand paperbacks cost twice as much as the products made by Authorized presses.

But what if there was a way for children’s stories to participate in the Pulp Renaissance? Well, I think there is. I’m not going to spoil it, because the idea came from another man and would be disrespectful to let the cat out of the bag before we go to market. Feel free to speculate in the comments, though, as I’m sure it’s not the only way and I’d love to see what other people come up with.

The purpose of this post is not to figure out how to make kids’ pulp possible. The purpose of this post is, assuming kids’ pulp is possible, to create and test a formula for cranking out bedtime stories like a madman on crack whilst remaining both sane and crack-free.

Let’s establish our objectives.

Lets sort this!

Hat Trick is Violent

I’ve been doing most of my writing on Twitter of late, but I’m on a social media fast for the month of October. In the interim, I started posting updates on Patreon, as I had this theory that people would be happy to underwrite kids’ books For Great Justice!

That theory has not borne out, and I’ve got a new idea that I’m going to test today, and likely put into full motion next month, but here’s a public post on my current work in progress, Hat Trick 1:

This, right here, is a dream sequence. But someone does actually get stabbed in the book.

Hat Trick wasn’t really intended as a children’s story. I’m creating it in children’s book format because that best suits the Venn Diagram of “Things I can make with the time and resources I have” and “Media suitable for Hat Trick.”

That said, I’m still going to read it to my child. Why? Because I’m with C.S. Lewis on this one.

Those who say that children must not be frightened may mean two things. They may mean (1) that we must not do anything likely to give the child those haunting, disabling, pathological fears against which ordinary courage is helpless: in fact, phobias. His mind must, if possible, be kept clear of things he can’t bear to think of. Or they may mean (2) that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil. If they mean the first I agree with them: but not if they mean the second. The second would indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense. There is something ludicrous in the idea of so educating a generation which is born to the Ogpu and the atomic bomb. Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker. Nor do most of us find that violence and bloodshed, in a story, produce any haunting dread in the minds of children. As far as that goes, I side impenitently with the human race against the modern reformer. Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end the book. Nothing will persuade me that this causes an ordinary child any kind or degree of fear beyond what it wants, and needs, to feel. For, of course, it wants to be a little frightened.

On Three Ways of Writing for Children. C. S. Lewis