Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor
zette@cableone.net

Writing for Children

By V. S. Grenier
Copyright 2007 by V.S. Grenier, All Rights Reserved


Now that you've decided to write for children, you're not sure what steps you need to take.  You have a great idea for a picture book, magazine article, or short story.  But how do you make sure your story will grab those young readers? 

Here are a few tips to help you make that story the best it can be.

Make Your Characters a Friend

Kids like to experience what the point of view (POV) character is feeling, seeing, smelling, and doing.  For example, when a young reader sits down to read J.K. Rowling's books about Harry Potter, they are sitting with Harry on his broom stick trying to catch the golden snitch.  Or cheering Harry on when he fights one of Lord Voldermort's followers. 

In a good story a reader finds themselves in the world of the POV character.  They want to become a friend and companion to the POV character.  A most effective way to help readers see a character is to let them into the mind of that character.  In the past, most children's stories had a single point of view, which allowed readers to bond with the POV character.  Nowadays, a lot of children's stories have multiple POV characters.  This is a difficult skill to master so it's best to stay with a single POV character in the beginning.

With a single POV character your reader can feel what the character feels and share his or her thoughts.  This allows a friendship, bonding character to reader.  With this in mind, you'll need to make your POV character likable.  Sure, he or she will need flaws; your young reader is well aware of their own shortcomings and will relate better to an equally flawed character.  Just don't get carried away.  It's best to have your character "accidentally" do something wrong instead of deliberately choosing to.

Satisfy Your Reader

Believe it or not, kids love to read.  You just have to know what they want to read.  The key is to make your POV character a child who succeeds.  In doing this, your reader feels empowered when the hero triumphs.  Why is that?  Because in the real world children are small, weak, and unskilled to accomplish these tasks. 

But in fiction kids can be brave and overcome the wilderness laid before them, as in Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia.  Kids can solve mysteries, fight or outwit the villains, win a contest, or do anything else our world of ink can create.  In the end kids get a thrill and are satisfied when they read about other children like them solve their own problems.  In this way kids gain confidence in themselves. Just make sure to match the age of your POV character with that of your reader.

Kids Aren't Dumb -- Just Inexperienced

Adults know more about the world than kids do, but don't let your readers' inexperience make you write down to them.  Having less experience and less knowledge doesn't mean they're stupid.  Suppose a child has never ridden a bike.  How can you explain it in a way the reader understands without being talking down to her?  Or how about a child who has never been to a baseball game?  Look at this opening:

1.      Jack walked to the plate and swung wildly at the first pitch. Strike one. Strike two. Will he connect on the third one? It's a miracle -- he walloped it out of the park!  Running for home, he yelled, "I'm a champ!"

Many of these words have more than one meaning -- plate, strike, park, and home.  Adults have a broad understanding and enjoy the challenge making sense of the clues.  But children with fewer references at hand will look at this as a puzzle, hoping that half way through the page they can solve it and then go back to put action with character and setting.  But what happens if they can't figure it out?  They'll put the story down and move on to something else.  So clarify:

2.      Jack walked to home plate at the Little League Baseball Championships.  He swung wildly at the first pitch. Strike one.  Strike two.  Will he connect on the third one? It's a miracle -- he walloped it out of the park!  Running for home, he yelled, "I'm a champ!"

With this framework your reader can envision the ball field. They see Jack standing at home plate and then can picture the story as it unfolds.

Now You're Ready to Write

Writing for children and teens isn't easy.  With insight into the minds of these curious readers, you'll understand what makes them "tick," and you'll be able to satisfy their needs.  Know what type of story to write and the characters that your readers will most identify with as a friend/companion during the course of story.

 

Now get started.  Write that wonderful, warm, and satisfying story.  After all, you have the best audience.