I have learned (the hard way, I might add) that what we as adults often feel most inspired to write for children is not necessarily what children want to read. That can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow! But how do you overcome this? How do you crash through this barrier and begin writing not what inspires you, but rather what is inspiring to the children of this generation. The answer to that question is to go directly to the source.
In order to truly understand what children these days long to read, and how to effectively write to their desires and needs it is necessary to really know them. It’s that simple! By immersing yourself in the culture of today’s children you will begin to gain a very clear sense of the types of themes, plots, characters and genres that will and will not work for the audience you want to target. There are many aspects of a child’s life you will want to focus on in order to improve your writing for them. Here are a few to get you started:
Child Development. At each stage of children’s lives they face challenges, strive to reach new milestones, have to solve conflicts and overcome obstacles. By having a firm knowledge base of how children grow, mature and develop it will enable you to craft stories that parallel the challenges unique to each stage of development. Stories such as these empower, encourage and inspire children. These are the stories they return to again and again.
Dialogue. Listen to the conversations they have with one another and the words they use to speak. This will be greatly beneficial to you as a writer as you craft dialog between characters in your stories.
Play. Observe their play, both by themselves and with their peers. Focus on the toys they use, the things they make and the themes they use. This will help you to gain a sense of what their interests are and how to hold their attention.
Media. Pay close attention to reoccurring themes, personality traits, gender roles, and conflicts that surface through current children’s TV programming, movies, video games, music and play. This will give you insight into the themes that are most important to them.
Literature. Browse through the children’s section of your local bookstore or library. Read some of the newly released books. Take note of the themes, conflicts, dialog and character traits that emerge. Is there a pattern? How is what you read consistent with what you have recently observed in other forms of media for children? Your observations will help you to see how other authors are effectively speaking to the hearts of the children of this generation.
Use the information that you have gathered to determine what is currently most important to children and use this as the springboard for your writing. Do you have any other ideas of how to generate topics that will interest today’s children? We’d love to hear your tips in the comment section below.