As I wrap up the launch of “Every Child is Entitled to Innocence,” I’ve been thinking how often children are used in dark fantasy stories. Let’s make it easier: How often are children not in dark fantasy stories?
To be fair, dark fantasy hardly needs to include children as main characters. Many new vampire stories contain adult themes and “YA” is not translation into “pre-adolescent.” Another notable way to look at the use of children in stories would be non-dark fantasy, as in “Atonement,” where seeing events through a child eyes led to tragic results.
As I think back to my own childhood, in terms of fantasy I think of it as a time of adventure, which makes sense for inspiration for writing. As children we see fairy tales as more than just weird creatures; it’s more real to us then than when we’re adults. Along with a sense of adventure and imagination comes an eagerness to learn and experience new things; as children we have yet to learn the consequences of our actions that define us as we grow up.
Childhood is also a time of great happiness. I heard a celebrity say once “When I was a kid, I was poor, but didn’t know it.” That struck a chord with me; I knew I was poor but it didn’t bother me. Lots of kids are poor and it wasn’t considered anything to be embarrassed about, we were just poor. Poor kids in the country, at least where I grew up had few interactions with wealthy kids, so there was no one to be jealous of. Nobody at school asked me “what my Daddy did,” everyone knew everyone, so such topics didn’t come up. Also, we make some of our closest friends when we’re kids. I have friends today I’ve known since I started grade school.
Childhood is also a time of great sadness. I’ve known a few people that seriously say they wish they were a kid again, but it’s not a road that I want to re-travel even if I were in a completely different situation. There’s social awkwardness, shyness, self-esteem issues, and dealing with loss; be it a pet or a family member. Loss is tough for kids.
But while life can be tough for kids, let’s not forget the resilience of children. A child can get through a sleepless night of parents fighting and go to school making straight A’s and never say a word. Children run high fevers due to common illnesses and recover within hours. While many kids from troubled households move on to troubled adulthoods, many others move on to happy productive lives and take care of the parents that took care of them.
In creating dark fantasy, the experiences of childhood translate into bravery, happiness, sadness, friendship, and resilience. All the makings of heroic protagonists stem from what is experienced in our youth. Parts of our childhoods linger with we new authors as we continue to create our stories.