Think Like a Child—Write Like an Adult
What You Need to Know BEFORE You
Write For Children
Today I would like to introduce everyone to a lovely woman that I recently met at a book event. Her name is Bobbie Hinman and she writes the cutest books for children that I’ve ever seen!
If you’ve ever thought about writing a children’s book, here’s some of her helpful tips. For even more of her suggestions, buy her book How to Create a Successful Children’s Picture Book–available on Amazon.
One of the advantages of writing for children is that this gives you permission to think like a child and get away with it. But, how do children think? Having been a teacher, mother, grandmother and successful children’s book author, here are some of my observations about how children think:
Children are enthusiastic, creative and self-centered. They are eager to know what’s coming next in a story. They are excited when good things happen to the characters, their imaginations allowing them to almost live in the world of the story. Ask them what they think will come next in a story, and their thoughts run wild. Most of all, children enjoy reading books that relate to them, finding it exciting when they can picture themselves as the characters.
Children love illustrations, adjectives, fantasy and rhyme. Thriving on visual stimulation, children love bright, colorful illustrations, and prefer pages with more pictures than words. They will react far more positively to a description of a “roly-poly, yellow duck” than to just a “yellow duck.” Instead of “a big monster,” they love a “hurly-burly monster.” Children have no trouble at all believing that chickens can talk or rabbits wear clothes. They have fun believing in make-believe, so why not let them believe as long as possible? They also love the rhythm of rhyming lines and are often able to memorize a rhyming story after hearing it just a few times.
Children live in the present and seek happy endings. It’s fine to have your story take place over a few days, but when you talk about “three years later” or “when he grew to be a man,” children have no point of reference; they are not able to identify with what is happening if your story extends over a long period of time. As far as the ending of a book, I can’t think of any reason ever to have a children’s book with a sad ending. Childhood should be a time of optimism and fun. I’m not saying you should completely stay away from important issues that children encounter, such as divorce, but stories should offer young readers a resolution and conclude with a sense of hope for the situation.
Children have short attention spans. Generally, the younger the child, the shorter the attention span. However, even older children are easily bored if the material itself is boring. For this reason. it’s essential to have things happening on each page. One of the beauties of a picture book is that both the words and pictures are “talking” and “moving,” giving the young reader a lot to look at.
So, if you have an idea for a story, start by writing it down. Then find yourself a group of children — perhaps the children of your friends and neighbors, or in your local library, perhaps even a class in a local elementary school. Read them the story, watch their faces and, if you have the courage, ask for their opinions. Above all, listen to what they have to say and adjust your story accordingly. Remember that your goal is to think like a child; they already do!
Bobbie Hinman has a B.S. degree in Elementary Education and has been a speaker and presenter at numerous schools, libraries and book festivals all across the United States and in Canada. Her 5 rhyming picture books have received a combined total of 27 children’s book awards. In her new book, How to Create a Successful Children’s Picture Book, Bobbie tells you how she self-published and sold over 50,000 copies of her books. Her picture books are titled The Knot Fairy, The Sock Fairy, The Belly Button Fairy, The Fart Fairy and The Freckle Fairy. The premise of her books is simple: Who better to blame it on than a fairy? You can see more about Bobbie and her books at http://www.bestfairybooks.com