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Writing tip of the day - Writing for kids.
Many years ago a good mate and I would have a monthly dinner at a close friend's home. Di was a single mum with two young daughters - Sheree and Tracey. One evening when the girls had nestled into bed, Di asked me to tell them a story. Di knew I'd always been a storyteller, but I wondered, 'What will I tell them?' Di's answer was simple, 'Tell them what you've seen on your travels overseas.'
Sheree and tracey were wonderful kids; 5 and 6 years-of-age at the time. They were gorgeous kids, and so polite. Anyway, nervously, I entered their bedroom and started to tell them about America, a place I had lived for some time. Naturally, I gave them a brief introduction, explaining how long it took for me to fly to America, the size of the Jumbo jet, how many states existed in the USA and how many people lived there.
Minutes later, I was chatting about New York City, The Statue of Liberty, snow, extreme heat, the Empire State Building, how high it was, how the building swayed in the breeze and many other major highlights. The girls were enchanted. The next morning Di rang me to say that the girls had raved about America during breakfast, and continually asked, 'When's Uncle Clancy coming for dinner again?' Mm ... now the girls are in their early 30's and have kids of their own: Kate, Ben, Kai and Summer. However, Sheree and Tracey still vividly recall those storytelling episodes in detail.
So, what's the secret to writing a good story for kids?
I guess you have to try and recall what you were like as a kid when someone read you a story. All the gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions, hand movements and special effects that helped to grab your attention. You also have to decide if your story will be an adventure, humorous, fantasy, science fiction, magic or dramatic story. The same principles apply in a book, whether it is a picture book or novella.
What do children's publishers look for?
1. Many kids books are published each year so you will have heaps of competition. Brace yourself. Publishers will be looking for originality, or a different slant on a theme.
2. Your story must appeal to kids: language, storyline, sentence structure, be fascinating, understandable etc.
3. 'KISS' - keep it simple stupid!
4. Don't forget who you're writing for. What you like may not be easily understood by kids. Write for the specific age group you are targeting, not yourself.
5. Be a storyteller.
Be observant. Watch and listen to kids. They are great teachers. Don't forget to include smells, feelings, sounds, shapes and weather in your story. As a photographer, I've walked hundreds of miles over the years with a camera around my neck, waiting, waiting for that great shot. Yes, I see things through the lense of a camera and grab it. Sometimes I perceive something might happen, especially with kids. What do I do? I wait ... then Bingo! Sometimes what happens might be totally unexpected, but who cares. I've captured that very moment and learnt more about how kids play or react to different situations.
Test your skills on your clients.
Many of my students are writing stories for kids. I always suggest that they test their work out on kids and have those kids answer a simple questionnaire like I do with my readers. The results can be quite gob smacking.
NB: This post is dedicated to Sheree and Tracey - two wonderful listeners.
Don't be shy ... send me an email or leave a comment: email@example.com
Thanks for listening.
I'm Clancy Tucker.