Yesterday I was going through a book written for children. Interesting, but not captivating enough. Writers make the mistake of underestimating the quality of work when it comes to writing for children. That doesn’t make sense, as right from the beginning children should be accustomed to reading quality writing. Hence, I would like to enumerate 7 points on what not to do when it comes to writing for children. If you’re interested in writing for teenagers then see my previous post on writing for teens.
Never underestimate children’s capacity and use of kiddish language
Remember that you are writing for children who are often more shrewd and clever than what you were as a kid. After all, the internet, television and computers have widened the range of information and knowledge that is available to them. Nowadays, even children expect quality and substance when they read.
Never talk or write down to children
I strictly prohibit baby talk when I’m not playing with toddlers. Baby talk is something to keep far away from children’s literature. No one likes to be patronized, so why should children be any different? Authors should take care never to underestimate the ability of children to learn new words. You should use interesting but not simplistic language and try to enhance the vocabulary of children, not restrain it.
Do not preach
Like adults, children read for entertainment and do not always like a story with endings such as “slow and steady wins the race.” Even if there is a moralistic ending, it should go with the plot and should be subtly evident in the story; you shouldn’t have to spell it out. Your job as a writer is to entertain. If your story has a message, it should be evident in the plot and a moral doesn’t always need to be tacked on to the end.
Do not avoid a serious or controversial subject
I have met children who are often aware of serious subjects, without understanding them, which leads them to a confused feeling. If you write a story that deals with complex subjects like war, or death in a sensitive and realistic manner, it may help children to cope with the harsh realities of the world in a mature manner.
Don’t give adults priority, again
What I mean is – allow your plot to have a young protagonist. Of course, adults should be a part of the plot, providing help whenever required. Nevertheless, the ending should not always have the adult making a stupendous save. Allow children to identify with the protagonist’s role, and this will captivate their interest.
Never write without a plot
Even children are mature enough that a story should have a beginning, a body and an end. Don’t give them something, which begins out of nowhere, and ends abruptly. Just like life, children want to make sense of what they are reading.
Never write in clichés
Originality is necessary when writing for children. I have nothing against using animals in the plot, but do not have a cliché ending that revolves around animals. Stories need not always end with the frog turning into a prince and marrying a princess. Children are not drawn to stereotype characters, even if they are animals!