How to Write Stories for Children

Stories have been the media for communicating myths, knowledge, and wisdom throughout history. Stories entertain and educate both adults and children. It is a privilege and an honor to write stories, especially writing stories for children.

Many people think that writing for children is easier than writing for adults. All that’s needed is an idea. Then create a simple plot upon a simple setting, add a moral message, use plain language … and voila! you have a story for children. It is not that simple.

Many writers of children stories fail to understand their young readers. Writing stories ABOUT children does not automatically mean children would like it. They need to feel that the stories were written FOR them, not just about them. Children are not just small beings with simple minds. They are sophisticated readers. They want stories, not sermons or lengthy words of advice. They are respectable beings and dislike condescension or over-patronizing. We need to get into the skin of a child to be able to write FOR them.

We all have stories to tell and stories to write. Yet, many of us think writing is a complicated effort, especially writing in English, which is not our native language. Here are some tips I can share.

First, read a lot. Get enough exposure to fill your ‘tank’ of words, sentences, styles, and tones of writing. If you are interested in writing stories for children in English, do an effort to read lots of English storybooks! Listen to children telling their stories to other children. Get the ‘feel’ of how stories are told BY children FOR children.

Second, make writing a habit, an everyday routine activity. Singers are good at singing because they practice singing a lot; great cooks spend most of their time cooking; writers write everyday. Decide on a certain time of the day, like every morning after your shower or just before you go to bed. Set aside at least half an hour to one or two hours a day for writing.

Third, don’t tell yourself that you cannot write. You are underestimating yourself and creating your own obstacles. Remember you all have stories to tell, they are just hidden inside you, and you only have to fish them out. Ideas for your stories can come from old memories of your early childhood, from pictures, paintings, or touching scenes that caught your eyes. Ideas could also come from your dreams, from observing things that happen around you, or from stories your parents or grandparents told you.
Fourth and last is to keep in mind that children do not like stories that are nothing more than a story-version of advice, reprimands, or repetition of patronizing words that they already had to swallow from teachers at school and from parents at home. Be honest with them and tell them the stories they want,  stories FOR children.

Join this course and I will help unleash the writer in you.

(By Mathilde May)

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