Did you ever read a book or watch a movie that left you wanting for more? Like the ending wasn’t very satisfying? Maybe the writer didn’t explain things well and the storyline was hard to follow. Like an alphabet book that jumbles up all the letters, then ends with U! Let’s don’t ever, ever do that to our readers! Let’s leave them saying, “Ahhh!” not “What happened?”
Here are some tips when writing for children:
- Children are not little adults! Writing for children is all about communicating with them on their level. Which is not the same as talking down to them, by the way.
- Read and study other children’s authors’ writings. Artists learn their techniques by copying the old masters. Writers can apply the same principle.
- Spend time with your target audience – children – listening, learning and interacting with them.
- Write what you know or love. The more interesting it is to you, the more life and energy your writing will have.
- Just like in any form of storytelling, you’ll need to follow the basic age-old outline:
- the main character(s) gets introduced
- the character(s) have some kind of problem, conflict or situation that needs resolution. The more drastic or hopeless, the better!
- the problem, conflict or situation gets resolved. Hopefully by the main character(s). The more spectacular and unexpected the resolution, the better!
- Characters need to stay consistent throughout the story. Quiet and shy Susie on page 6 shouldn’t suddenly be loud and flamboyant on page 15. Of course, that could be part of the conflict, helping Susie come out of herself. Then there needs to some kind of influence outside of Susie that causes her to change. But she will just be a more confident Susie. Her personality won’t totally change.
- Don’t insult your reader’s intelligence by over-explaining too much. Part of the fun of reading is figuring it all out.
- That said, don’t be so convoluted and mysterious that your poor reader gives up trying to understand.
- Inject some energy! Instead of “Charlie said”, how about “Charlie stammered”, or “Charlie wailed”, or “Charlie pleaded”? Breathe life and clarity into the narrative by using expressive words.
- Tie it all up by using elements, situations, or characters both in the beginning and the end. Maybe some character is always wearing a beat up blue hat that‘s never explained. Then at the end, the hat plays a major part in explaining or resolving the book’s conflict. The illustrations will be exceptionally helpful in such a case.
- Live life with your eyes and ears wide open! Story ideas are everywhere! After all ... where do you think the inspiration for all these stories comes from? Real life!
And speaking of real life ... next week I’ll tell you about a real-life super hero that I know personally. Because some of my very favorite stories and movies are about super heroes. And I can show you how you, too, can become a real-life super hero!
When I raised my five, I wouldn't let them watch some cartoons solely because they weren't drawn well. One of them would say "but it's still funny" and I'd tell them that not much talent went into drawing the characters and perspective was off on landscape, etc.
Sometimes I wondered if I was being superficial but having some moderate artistic skills, I couldn't bear it.
So our book collection was large and beautifully illustrated, written well enough I guess if wanting to pass most to their own is any indication. I do remember a few that mostly decorated the room, just pretty books. Your notes would have helped me in choosing - and if I ever want to write one, well thanks for the formula.
Years later my daughter told me those particular cartoons weren't good in morals or psychology. They learn so much when they apply themselves in college. Just a good thing I was so picky - and I should add that most likely Jesus whispered to me.
Any wise parent wanting their child to grow strong and healthy in body would only give them the very best quality nourishment. Decisions need to be made regarding which food choices are the best. The same is true for growing strong and healthy minds and spirits.
In our media-saturated world, choices need to be made. Everything that enters our minds, visually and/or audibly is either nourishing or harming us mentally and spiritually. There’s no such thing as “neutral” or “benign” foods – physical or spiritual.
For the children God has charged you with, and yourself:
In every area of life, there are only 2 choices between one Master and another master.
Choose wisely … choose the Best … never compromise … the consequences are eternal!
And I’d like to add for children’s authors and illustrators seeing this …
Be excellent in your craft! Let your work/art be the right kind of “food” to nourish young hearts and minds!
- Sherry A Mitcham