Trevor “Two Hats” tips; writing humour for children and adults

Trevor Belshaw is a fellow author at Crooked Cat Publishing. His adult novel, Tracey’s Hot Mail, had me giggling out loud. Released as an eBook in January 2012, Crooked Cat Publishing is bringing it out in paperback on August 24th.

 Trevor, what was the inspiration for Tracey’s Hot Mail?

Tracy the character is a mixture of seven young women I sat behind on different buses over a three day period when my car was in for repair. The girls could have won gold for gossiping at the Olympics. They shared secrets about themselves, their bosses and their work colleagues as well as friends and relatives. They didn’t have the slightest concern about being overheard. The experience gave me a real insight into the world of 19-23 year old females. All of the girls were obsessed with fashion; one or two held grudges against workmates, two or three held grudges against their best friends and all of them hated their boss. I really couldn’t let this rich seam of gossip go to waste and by the weekend Tracy was born. She first appeared on a new writer’s site called, ‘Writelink,’ that I belonged to at the time. The first, Hi Emma email went down so well that by the following week I had written two more. The rest was written over the next ten months. When I was first asked who Tracy was, I replied with the following quote. I still think it sums her up perfectly.

Tracy is every girl on the bus, every girl who has a boss, every girl who works in an office. She’s the girl on the end of every lousy chat-up line. She’s the girl that older men fancy, the girl that has opinions on everything and everyone; even if those opinions are based solely on second or third hand information.

Do you have any advice for author’s trying to write humour?

I have heard a lot of writers say that they find it difficult to write humour. While I can’t say with any honesty that I find it easy, I don’t find it particularly difficult either. My first piece of advice would be, don’t force it. Make sure the setting is right and the main protagonists remain in character. The way the scene is set up is just as important as the punch line, if the reader doesn’t feel part of the set-up; they almost certainly won’t get the joke.

Humour can be gentle, brash, dry, or so off the wall that only a few people get it. While I do believe that anyone can write humour, it does have to be done properly. Just as in stand up or situation comedy, the timing has to be right. Personally I like to let my imagination go wild and see how far a situation can be pushed before it falls off the edge before I scale it back make it a little more believable. Another trick to utilise is the element of surprise. The laugh at the end of a sequence of events is always funnier if it is unexpected.

In my (still unfinished) web serial, The Westwich Writer’s Club, I set up a situation where a computer repair man and wannabe writer, Stephen, is called out to the home of the chairperson of his local writer’s group to help her with a computer problem. Margot, the chair, is a little drunk and the situation soon turns away from the faulty computer towards Margot’s silicon enhanced breasts and an Elk’s head with a missing glass eye.

Everyone encounters humorous situations in their daily lives whether it’s at the shops, at work, listening to the kids. Take it in, think about where that situation could lead if it was allowed to continue, and take it from there.

Trevor has also written a number of books for children, under the name Trevor Forest. Do you find it difficult to write for two different markets?

I don’t find it difficult, personally speaking. I have two hats for writing and I always make sure I’m wearing the right one when I start. I have to get into the zone or it doesn’t work. When I write for kids I try to put myself in their place. I try to remember what excited me when I was ten. What I laughed at. What I found scary. What sort of adventure I used to imagine myself being caught up in. A writer has to get into that mind-set when they write for kids. Many people think writing for children is easier somehow. I always seem to get the same responses when people find out I write kids’ books.

‘That’s nice, are you going to write a proper book one day?’

‘Do you really? I’m going to write one when I have the time.’

For some reason, the consensus seems to be that writing for children is easier than writing for adults and that everyone has the next Harry Potter inside them.

My advice is, get rid of that thought. Kids’ books may sometimes be shorter, and the author can usually get away without laying out a massively complicated plot, but the writer will need to be just as adept at the craft as a writer of adult murder stories.

Children can spot when they are being spoken down to and you have to lure them into your newly created world from the first sentence or they won’t join you in it. Also remember, dialogue is just as important as storyline. Listen to how kids talk. They don’t see things the way adults do. Adults are the enemy in a way and kids don’t want to be like us. When children say they want to be a doctor when they grow up, they aren’t thinking about sitting in a stuffy surgery, dispensing prescriptions all day every day. They will see themselves finding miracle cures for incurable diseases. They’ll perform an emergency operation on a kitchen table; they want excitement, not conformity.

So the advice is, never dumb down and never preach. Kids hate that more than anything. Don’t try to come across as though you are one of them either. They know you aren’t, they know you are an adult. They don’t want you as a friend; they just want to be part of your adventure. It’s a fine balance but with a bit of practice you’ll find the right tone.

For me, adult writing comes second. I do enjoy it but time restraints due to work commitments mean that I have to ration my writing time and because I enjoy children’s writing more, I tend to give that priority.

When writing for adults I try to make the characters, believable and down to earth but I always give the main protagonist a little bit of quirkiness, just a little bit of something to set them apart from the crowd. I use a lot of dialogue to drive the book along and I’ll push a situation to the limit to wring the last bit of humour out of it. Not all of my characters are human, or even alive. I had great fun writing my other (still unfinished) web serial, The Diary of an Aspiring Adulteress, and introduced a plastic mermaid, in a fishpond, as a sounding board for the main character’s thoughts.

Many of the rave reviews for these books mention your wicked sense of humour. Is writing humour for children in any way a similar process as for adults?

I find them very similar. As I mentioned previously I have a massive sense of the ridiculous and you don’t have to be an adult to ‘get’ that. My humour is inspired by Tommy Cooper, Monty Python, Benny Hill, Spike Milligan and Billy Connolly. I adored the madness of the TV show The League of Gentlemen. The show is a fabulous mix of sketch, sitcom, horror and rural life. Anything can, and does, happen.

When I’m writing, I tend to let my imagination run riot and just go with the flow. If a scene isn’t working I don’t agonise over it for weeks. For me, humour has to be instantaneous, it’s either funny or it isn’t. If something doesn’t work, it gets cut pretty quickly and I try a different scenario, even if something has to happen to keep the plot alive.

I’ve written a non-fiction memoir, A Life Less Lost, as well as a novel, Once Removed, both under the same pen name. Why did you use different names for your adult and children’s books?

Mainly because of the adult nature of Tracy’s Hot Mail, The Diary of an Aspiring Adulteress and The Westwich Writer’s Club. I don’t feel I can allow children’s books to be sold alongside the adult themed stories.

I really don’t want kids to pick up a copy of Tracy’s Hot Mail and think they’re going to get a dollop of Magic Molly or Stanley Stickle. Trevor Belshaw and Trevor Forest write for completely different markets. They have to be seen as different people.

You wrote a very funny extra short story about Tracey and the Jubilee, which you offered for free. Do you think it stimulated sales for Tracey’s Hot Mail?

I’d like to think so. I wrote it at a time when people were busy doing Jubilee things and it did get a very good reaction. It was written to give people who were unaware of Tracy, a glimpse into the character. I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I’m thinking of doing another one for the end of the Olympics.

The sequel to Tracy’s Hot Mail, Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail, is partly written and will hopefully surface before too long. It will tell the story of what happens to Tracy after she is made redundant from her little job in the office.

Thanks for having me, Kim. I hope your readers find something of interest in this.

Tracy’s Hot Mail is published by Crooked Cat Publishing The book is available on Kindle  and for all other e-Readers like the Nook, iPad etc.

More information can be found on Trevor’s blog;  and his Trevor Forest website can be found at All his children’s books have been published in Kindle format and all will be available in paperback by the end of August 2012. All of Trevor Forest’s books can be purchased from this link.

All Trevor Forest books are available on the Kindle.
Stanley Stickle Hates Homework. The new book from Trevor Forest. Peggy Larkin’s War, Abigail Pink’s Angel, Magic Molly and Faylinn Frost and the Snow Fairies available in paperback and eBook at my book store.

Short stories available at via Iphone app.


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nancy Jardine
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 20:57:22

    Fabulous post, thank you. I must make more bus journeys! Maybe sit all the way up the back! Being a ‘two hat’ author is quite liberating in some ways. Best wishes with all your books, Trevor. I loved ‘Tracey… and have recently loved ‘Molly’ too.


  2. Trevor Belshaw
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 22:24:13

    Thank you Nancy 🙂 and thanks again to Kim for hosting.


  3. Trevor Belshaw
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 22:35:26

    Meant to add. If anyone wants to read the free Tracy’s Hot Mail, Jubilee special, it can be found her.


  4. Jan Needle
    Aug 16, 2012 @ 11:56:06

    Fascinating and inspiring stuff, Trevor – thanks. My writing also crosses ages and genres, and it’s caused me a fair amount of difficulty over the years. I started off using one name, mainly as a children’s writer, then hit the buffers as some of my later work became more adult, not to say ‘adult’! I did make the change, but I only used two names, and couldn’t stop myself from writing in far more than two areas. Same on TV. I wrote Brookside and other adult stuff, while doing loony things like Behind the Bike Sheds, all under Jan Needle.

    With the further confusion that many people always assumed I am female, of course.

    When I decided to go mainly digital recently, I went back to using only one name, and hoping people would work it out for themselves. But one of my most recent ebooks is a modern reimagining of Treasure Island (called Silver and Blood), while another is a fairly violent and sexy thriller. Your point about children and confusion is a good one. I’m not sure of the answer. Even my books for young people range from the silly to the serious. A Game of Soldiers, about the Falklands War, started life as a TV serial which the Government tried to ban, while Wagstaffe the Wind-up Boy is clearly just bonkers. You can check me out at or

    Thanks again for the post.And I love your humour, by the way!


  5. Trevor Belshaw
    Aug 16, 2012 @ 18:29:14

    Fabulous, Many thanks for the reply Jan, will certainly be checking you out, what a fantastic writing CV. I’m starting year 2 of my OU degree this autumn studying advanced CW. The course includes scriptwriting for stage radio tv screen. Really looking forward to it.


  6. Jan Needle
    Aug 17, 2012 @ 08:20:50

    And I’ve just bought Tracy on Amazon. Something for the weekend!


  7. Trevor Belshaw
    Aug 17, 2012 @ 09:19:29

    FAB! thanks Jan, hope you like it.


  8. jadwriter
    Aug 17, 2012 @ 10:11:48

    I know what you mean about bus conversations. I’ve been on buses where someone is shouting down their mobile to their friend, so you can hear what they are talking about. I’ve been on a train where a young girl was talking loudly on her phone to a friend about personal stuff. Aargh. I, too, write for adults and children. I find it easier not to write two things at one time, but I write an adult ebook, then when I finish that and it’s with the editor, I start writing for chidren. That way, it is easier to get in the zone for writing the appropriate material.


    Jan 11, 2013 @ 21:04:54

    Exactly where did u actually pick up the ideas to post ““Trevor Two Hats tips; writing
    humour for children and adults Nuts and Crisps”?
    Thanks for your time -Porfirio


  10. kimmwalker
    Jan 16, 2013 @ 11:41:09

    Trevor is a fellow author with my publisher, Crooked Cat. He writes wonderful humorous books for adults and children and kindly wrote the post for this blog.


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