Writing for Young Children

Last year I sent my young cousins a leather-bound volume of all seven Narnia books for Christmas.  They were almost the right age for the stories, and to my delight they were read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe this past year, and loved it – so much so that my younger cousin had a Narnia-themed birthday party.

This year I had an interesting idea.  What if I wrote them a book instead, and sent new chapters in serials every week or two?

Many authors through the years wrote books for specific young people, usually but not always their own children.  Tolkien himself wrote The Hobbit for his children, before it was published.  I do not usually write children’s books, tending toward the teen/young adult range, but it is somehow easier to imagine writing a children’s book when I have the readers themselves in mind – and charming readers they are, too!

I feel that the danger in writing for young children is the tendency to want to insert “lessons” into the book.  I firmly believe stories should be told for their own sake, for their own enjoyment, and not to push an agenda (typically).  This is especially important with children’s books; often the lesson is far too obvious, and they see it right away and lose interest in the story, well aware of its intent.   All stories have lessons in them, but they will come out of the woodwork naturally, on their own, if the story is well-told.  I don’t think the author should design or force them.

But it’s amazing how counterintuitive that is!  While planning my serial story today, I had to constantly hand-slap myself for designing morals and messages to employ.  I had a difficult time forcing myself to focus on world-building and characters – usually my first priority – because my imagination kept tangenting into symbolism and “meaningful stuff”.

Perhaps it’s harder when you know your audience personally, and are basing characters off them.  Maybe I’m not meant to be a children’s book author.  Maybe it just takes practice?

Regardless of all these things, I am enjoying the process of planning The Queen in the Wooden Box, and I hope its recipients will enjoy it.  I aim to have the first chapter or two off in the mail to two dear children soon!

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6 Comments

  1. Greytawnyowl

     /  December 15, 2011

    That’s a good idea, to write stories like that…I can see how it would be hard, though. Have you ever considered writing stories for your son?

    I think writing children’s books can be harder just because it’s different. I’ve never quite been able to lay my finger on exactly how a good children’s book differs in style from a good adult book (obvious differences are length, etc.). The Narnia books are actually a good example, and I know of several children under ten who’ve read Harry Potter too. Both series capture the interest of every age. Maybe because they have so much depth…but a simple story.

    Once you get further along in your story, will you post an excerpt? I’d love to sample it. 🙂

    Reply
    • I hope to write stories for my son someday, when he’s older! For now he’s only beginning to be interested in books, and he likes them chiefly for their edibility (or what he THINKS is their edibility). 🙂

      I think some authors have the knack of writing exactly what interests young children, either in the tone of their writing or the stories they choose to tell. I guess it remains to be seen whether I have that knack, since I haven’t written many kids’ books.

      I’m thinking of maybe posting each part of the book as I send it to my cousins…I’m not sure yet, but if it generates enough interest I think I will.

      Reply
  2. Greytawnyowl

     /  December 15, 2011

    I think I sympathize with him a little…some books just smell so good…

    Yes, I agree!

    I’d love to be able to read it! You have my vote! 🙂

    Reply
  3. Cheers, Bethany!

    This is probably one of the best ideas I’ve heard for a while. They likely will love this. Intriguing title! Have much fun! Sounds like you’re learning a lot–big part of our work and delight too, isn’t it?

    Yes, some books do smell yummy!

    If it’s something you want to do, posting it gets another vote!

    Reply
    • I think it will be fun! It’ll be a Christmas gift that keeps on giving…at least, until I finish the story. And maybe I could write a sequel eventually, if they really love it. 🙂

      I think Charles (my son) is more attracted to books on a textural level…

      I think I will post it, Maria! Thanks. 🙂

      Wow…I think I just started all those paragraphs with “I think”. Not intentional!

      Reply
  4. Greytawnyowl

     /  December 16, 2011

    Well, thinking IS good…

    Reply

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