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In my post on age demographics last week, I talked about choosing the correct themes for the maturity of your audience. In my own novel, I’ve created a bit of a challenging situation for myself on that front, as the manuscript is aimed at ages 13-15, but deals very strongly with the theme of death in a way that is intended to be light-hearted and humorous. Under normal circumstances, I would think that readers in this age range are quite ready to start discussing heavier topics such as mortality, but to present it in a style that strips it of its emotional weight requires an understanding and maturity that would probably only be found at the top of this age bracket.

I bought a chilli chocolate bar with a picture of the Grim Reaper on the front the other day. It wasn't as non-threatening as I had hoped. Image by Flood G.

I bought a chilli chocolate bar with a picture of the Grim Reaper on the front the other day. It wasn’t as non-threatening as I had hoped.
Image by Flood G.

My solution to this was to lighten the theme of death by using known characters that the audience should already see in a non-emotional way. I mentioned in another post that I have tried to use legendary figures that my audience has never heard of, because it really is a fascinating subject with so many under-valued deities. But in order to keep the tone light, I also featured characters such as Hades, Anubis and the Grim Reaper, who are already widely circulated in pop-culture and quite often presented in a light-hearted or non-threatening way. I hope that the inclusion of these familiar names will help to remind the audience that the theme here is not “Death” with a capital “D”, but “death” written in felt tip pen on the back of a sweet wrapper.

That’s not to say I never want to take a serious tone on the subject. Writing about death without even the slightest hint of emotion would lessen the impact of the plot to the point where it becomes more of a slap-stick sketch than a novel. But I don’t want my readers to end every chapter staring into space as they contemplate their own mortality. It’s supposed to be fun. At least, most of the time.

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