WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS TIP #7: IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE WORLD OF CHILDREN
Do you have to be a child to write for children? We can guess the answer to that one. Just look at Phillip Pullman, Enid Blyton, Mo Willems, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka.
Do you need to think like a child, see the world through the eyes of children, to be able to write for children? Definitely.
Can you imagine what it is like to be a child and then go off and write books for children without doing any proper research? Best not to try.
To create truly authentic, child-like characters who will resonate with young readers, you need to ‘be’ a child. So, what happens if you’re, like me, on the wrong side of 30 and very very far from childhood?
Here are some hacks:
1. Revisit childhood memories.
One of my all-time favorites. Childhood memories not only help you remember some of the things you did as a child but also how you ‘felt’ and processed information at the material time. Here is an exercise you can do.
Make a list of 5 experiences that shaped our childhood. They can be fights, heartbreak, friendships, first loves and crushes, competitions and prizes, deaths or losses, etc. Now write about these experiences. Things to keep in mind when you write:
- What did you perceive with your senses: what did you see, hear, feel, taste, smell?
- What did you feel or think?
2. Hang around children
Visit parks, spend time with your children or children of friends and family. Study them to determines their interests, speech patterns, what they find humorous, annoying or disgusting. Listen to them speak and act and take notes. Please, do not stalk or take pictures.
3. Be a ‘child’
Do you want to write for or about 7-year-olds? Try to see the world through their eyes. Spend an hour in your home, moving around on your knees so that you are about the height of a 6-8-year-olds. See what the world looks like at that level. What can you reach? See? Hear? How might the 7-year-old perceive these things? Watch cartoons, play games for children: video games, board games, etc. Notice the characters, plot, dialogue and setting in these cartoons and games, they give you insight into the likes and dislikes of your target audience.
1. Action: Pick one of the action points above and try it out.
And of course: Read as many children’s books as you can.
Want to write a story for children, don’t know where to start? Tell me all about it and we can figure out the theme and some mentor texts for you!
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