In many ways, writing a story for young children can be more difficult than writing for an older crowd. Not only do you need to restrict your word count,
but you also need to use fairly basic language and find your inner child. If that weren’t enough, you have to make sure that the prose sounds pretty. The task is not insurmountable, though–just challenging! Follow these tips, and you will be on the road to success.
Requirements are high for the discerning audience.
Contrary to some beliefs, writing a children’s story requires the same basic story elements as any other fictional piece. The complexity might be minimal, but the need is just as great!
Setting can often be overlooked or considered insignificant in a children’s story . However, if it is well developed, the setting can really improve a story. The key is to know your main character. The setting is not based on your perceptions; it is based on a child’s perceptions. For example, if you are writing about a child who goes for a walk in the woods, try to think about how the child feels about this setting. Is this a carefree, wild child? If so, it will not be a calm stroll through the woods. That kid is going to climb trees, chase frogs, and jump in streams! However, if your character is a bit timid (perhaps developing some courage during the story), he or she might jump at every shadow or run headlong through the forest in order to escape it!
Of course, an awareness of the main character can lead you to question the setting. If the child is timid, for example, why would he choose to walk in the forest alone? The setting does not make sense for this character! In that case, you need to alter the setting so that it is feasible for your character, or you need to provide your character with a conflict that makes the forest the better of two options. As you can see, particularly for a children’s story, the setting can play a dynamic, integral role.
Just like adults, children need to be able to relate to the main character in a story. Make sure your main character is someone whom children can connect to; chances are, they will not relate to an adult as well as a child, although that really depends on the adult! At any rate, try to tell your story from one character’s point of view, whether you use first person or third person. Sometimes, shifting the point of view can be confusing for kids.
Don’t sell yourself short; plots are necessary, even in a young children’s book. A simple exploration, such as a description of townspeople, colors, or seasons could still have a plot. For example, maybe a child is new to town and feeling a little lost, so his mom takes him all around to meet various townspeople. By the end, he feels less isolated; maybe the new town won’t be so bad after all! As you can see, a plot does not have to be overly complex; it just has to exist.
I think the greatest themes stem from character development, and this is especially true for children, because they are learning lessons and creating their own moral codes with every new experience. As such, it is perfectly natural that the characters in children’s stories do the same. The lesson certainly does not have to be spoon-fed; that can be a real turn-off! Allow the character to come to a realization in the end or to make different choices in the end–without a lecture.
As with all great stories, the page rarely gets turned without some sort of conflict in need of a resolution. Children love to cheer for someone. But, without conflict, there isn’t much reason to cheer. As shown in Plot, the conflict does not have to be complex. In fact, the issues that seem trivial to adults are quite often overwhelming to children. If you are in search of a believable conflict, investigate the issues that worry most kids.
As you can see, writing a young children’s story involves the same elements as any other type of story. The biggest difference is the length. You don’t have the luxury of devoting page after page to your character’s interaction with the setting or analysis of the conflict. Your story has to move quickly, and these basic elements must be embedded in as few words as possible in order to leave room for all of your wonderful literary devices. Fortunately, the editors at WordsRU have vast experience in the field of young children’s fiction. They will be able to identify weaknesses with regard to your story elements and offer solid advice.
Tune in to the next blog post, which will focus on literary devices. Happy Writing!
Which story element do you find the most difficult to incorporate into your young children’s stories?