I often wondered how would it be to write for this audience. It sounds really interesting and challenging. However, since I know absolutely zip about it, I've invited the author of no less than two picture books -- Perry the Playful Polar Bear and Perry the Polar Bear Goes Green -- to explain things a bit.
Please meet Randomities' first honorable guest, Olive O'Brien. :)
Olive O'Brien is a children’s writer based in Cork,
. You can find out more about her at Silver Angel Publishing or at her blogs, where she spends most of her time, at Write Olive and Movie News First. Ireland
If you’re like me and thought one day, I’d like to write a children’s book, it’s important to look at the differences between writing for adults and writing for children.
First, I guess it’s important to remember that children are intelligent creatures! One of the more common mistakes that children’s writers make is they think that they can throw a story at a young reader and expect them to like it.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Trust me, I’ve learned that lesson. So, in that sense, writing for children isn’t a whole lot different than writing for adults.
You still have a main character with whom readers can identify with. And you have a plot which faces that character with a situation, which he or she will have to struggle to resolve.
But, there are other significant differences between writing for children and writing for adults.
1. One of the things I love about children’s writing is that the characters can be as crazy and as fantastical as you want them to be. For example, animals who talk, sing, dance and do everything that humans do, is a fairly common occurrence in children’s books. And it’s such fun!
2. Most children’s books are pretty short. I’m not talking about teen fiction, which can often run to hundreds of pages in small print or indeed middle-grade fiction. I’m a picture-book author and most stories in that genre do not run over 1,500 words. But, sometimes it’s harder than it seems to try and write and condense a story down to 1,000 words, which is the average picture-book length.
3. Many books for adults involve long descriptive passages. Try this in a kid’s book and they will quickly tire of the “padding.” For picture-books in particular, sentences need to be short, easy to understand and you also have to bear in mind that each page will be accompanied by an illustration.
4. If you don’t grab a child’s attention within the first paragraph, you can forget about it. I’m sure we all have ploughed through a book or two, in the hope that it will somehow grab our imagination halfway through. This isn’t the case with children. The very first sentence must capture young readers immediately.
5. Children’s stories usually end on a positive note. There are books and poetry out there that have dark themes, however most end on an encouraging message which gives children hope.
6. Children like to read stories about characters and themes that they can relate to. As a children’s writer, you need to focus on themes that children often experience in everyday life, such as being afraid of the dark, adjusting to the arrival of a new sibling, their first day at school or moving home.
7. Children love heroes! When you look at many popular children’s books, they involve characters saving the day, the world even.
8. Most children’s books involve child characters or animals. Books with characters based on inanimate objects aren’t as successful. There are some quirky exceptions though.
Overall, writing for children is so enjoyable and entertaining and you can allow your mind to wander to some amazing places. But maybe some day I’ll start writing again for “big people.”