Writing a children’s story has to be the most frustrating thing for me. I have a few, and whilst I think they turn out well, they are easily the most difficult to write.
I think it is very important for children to read, it is one of the things that I am passionate about. A child that reads is a child that thinks. It’s a good line, and it’s true, but for me it’s about the imagination. Creating a story that fires the imagination is what I hope to do, and not just for children. However I have found that children’s stories are so much more restrictive, and I struggle with that.
Naturally I read about writing specifically for children, it should help. One of the books that I read, and the advice that it gave sticks out the most for me. Neil Gaimans “A View From The Cheap Seats.” In a section of it he talks about writing children’s stories and how he doesn’t know if a story he is writing is for children or adults until it is done. I can see the value in that but if left to my own devices my mind will inevitably take me to dark and grimy places. He also mentions that he finds it’s true that children self censor when they read. I can vouch for that being an avid reader as a child, sometimes I would come across something I didn’t fully understand and it’s meaning would be lost on me. Sometimes things were simply boring and children don’t absorb what is dull.
As an adult looking back, some of the books I read had some questionable material in for a child to read, I can’t recall it ever effecting me. That said there might be something in the fact that my mind seems to take me in dark directions, maybe it did affect me. The only time I can recall being really bothered by a book was Ursula K. Le Guins “A Wizard of Earthsea.” I had borrowed a copy from my Uncle Tommy (A man who shares my addiction to books) and I was lying on my Nan’s couch reading by lamplight. I must have been ten or eleven at most. It was late, later than I should have been awake. Outside the living room window, past the small garden were trees that were fantastic for casting shadows in the streetlights. I won’t spoil the story if you are unfamiliar with it but I will recommend you check it out. Shadows play a part in it, and lying there reading it, the trees casting dancing shadows across the living room walls, I had to put the book down. It evoked such a sense of fear in me like I have never experienced since.
I digress. I find it hard to gauge what is appropriate for a children’s story. It is my intention to foster a sense of wonderment and maybe in places a little anxiety or fear, but how much is too much? How do I handle physical conflict? How do I handle death? What is considered too far? Of course this is where beta readers are invaluable to me, and I do have a few (some even with children of their own) but it still bothers me. I still second guess everything in a children’s story, from the actual writing of it to the basic concepts. Perhaps I should simply write the story and let it stand on its own.
Although, I can’t say I wont laugh and maybe be a little proud if I ever scare a child like Le Guin scared me.
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