Writing for Children

Writers of children’s books have the best job! Perhaps I am biased; my foray into writing has been through the Caribbean Adventure Series, a series of books aimed at 8 to 12 year olds. However, I think that we definitely have more fun!

In the first place, we are writing for an audience that finds it easy to suspend disbelief. Fiction authors must often write in a way that makes their readers let go of their preconceptions and believe the unbelievable. This comes naturally for children who are not yet bogged down by knowledge of the constraints of physics, biology, mathematics, geography and politics. They are willing to accept it all. Talking animals? Flying elephants? Why not?

I’ll give you an example. In the Caribbean Adventure Series, the main protagonist is a monkey. In the second book, he stows away on an airplane. Most adult readers asked me “How could he get through security?” The children accepted this without question – the monkey travels through time, airport security is a piece of cake!

Another advantage that children’s writers have is the ability to write with imaginative abandon. When I was in school, I was taught that you needed to have a story planned completely before you started writing. However, when I began the Caribbean Adventure Series, I never knew how the books would end until they ended. I thought that this method of writing was unorthodox, until I read that Enid Blyton, an English writer of great acclaim, had the same technique. Now, I am in the process of writing my first novel and I find that to write about adult’s life, I need to be more structured in my thinking and develop the book fully before really beginning to write the meat of the story.

Children’s writers do face challenges that their counterparts with a more mature audience do not. Since our books are usually about children in the same age group as our readers, they do not have a long history that can be woven into the story to develop their character. We are forced to use the way that they interact with other characters to reveal information about them. In the Caribbean Adventure Series, for example, I ended up using two children to enable the reader to fully understand my main human character.

Finally, to quote Spiderman (I am a writer of children’s books, who else would I quote?) “With great power comes great responsibility.” We address a very impressionable audience and I believe that writers of children’s books need to use this medium to send very positive messages to our future generation about responsibility, morality and the triumph of good over evil.

(Originally appeared on Novel Spaces on March 24, 2010)

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