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