How to Write Engaging Stories for Children and Children at Heart

Writing for children can be tricky. Writers should aim for clarity and avoid confusion while still entertaining children. They also need to  engage their young readers without patronising them. Clearly, writing for this audience brings its own set of challenges, so, here are a few tips to make it easier.

  • Determine the age of your target audience

Knowing the age of your target audience will help you reach young readers. Different age groups have different interests. Not only that, but fiction falls into different age groups. There is children’s fiction, young adult fiction, new adult fiction, and adult fiction. New adult fiction targets readers in their late teens and twenties. While, children’s fiction is divided into several age groups for different reasons.

The different interests and life experiences of different readers is one such reason. An eleven-year-old may not be interested in reading a book intended for an eight-year-old, while an eight-year-old may not understand a book intended for an eleven-year-old. Many younger children prefer happier, safer endings. They appreciate order in their reading. Older readers may prefer more adventurous narratives. They may appreciate safe endings but more complexity and ambiguity in the text. Visit your library and bookstores to study the preferences of different age groups.


  • Remember that kids are honest readers

Children can be brutally honest.

Young readers may not finish books that do not interest them. They may complain to their parents if they find certain books boring. They will let their parents know if they do not want to read any more work from certain authors. When books do not interest children, they may put them down and never come back to them again. While adults may find the patience to continue reading and wait for a possible spark, children may not. Children and adults may both be incapable of tolerating a boring, poorly written introduction.

So, make your story enticing. Ensure, each chapter advances the story. Adult fiction requires these elements, but children’s fiction can be even more demanding.


  • Trust your young readers

Do not look down on children or write down to them. They will know.

Adults sometimes underestimate the perception of children. Because, while children’s stories must be clear and easy to follow, they should not be excessively so. Do not dumb down your plots to target certain age ranges. Add more explanation to give readers the opportunity to piece the story together, but avoid unnecessary, complex sentences. Make sure that your ideas do not go in circles. Strike a balance between clarity and entertainment.


  • Keep in mind that humour may be different for adults and children

Adults and children may not find the same things funny. It may seem obvious, but as an adult writer, the notion may slip your mind. If you observe adults and children watching movies together, you may notice that they laugh at different parts. Take note of what makes children laugh and incorporate this knowledge in your writing.


  • Make things simple and incorporate visuals

Do not overcomplicate the set-up of your story. If you find it hard to picture your story, your readers will too.

Using vivid descriptions can help readers, especially including the use of the 5 senses. It can help them visualise different aspects of the story and imagine who’s who in the scenes. To take this one step further, authors can use drawings, photographs, or other visual elements to tell their stories and reach young readers.


  • Avoid creating two-dimensional characters

Characters in children’s books must immediately grab the readers; attention. Children may not be interested in extensive backstories. They may appreciate a little background, but a strong first impression is crucial. Main characters should be interesting and children should be able to identify with them easily.


  • Read, read, and read some more

Reading can help writers in all genres, but it can be particularly helpful when writing for children.

Children are savvy readers, and authors should work to craft stories to engage them. They can do this by studying work aimed at children. If authors read and do their research, they can improve the chances that children will read and enjoy their work. Particularly considering that many children have diverse interests that may be short lived. Knowing what other work exists can help authors keep abreast of current trends.


  • Consider writing styles

The writing styles of adults may mirror the writing styles of the books they read. If authors prefer to read classic literature, for example, they may write in similar ways. Children may not find certain styles engaging and may lose interest in work that uses those styles.

Consider writing in ways that appeal to the preferences of children. Just because certain things appealed to you when you were younger does not mean that they will interest children now. Keep in mind that today’s children have tablets and phones. They have access to the internet and various technologies. Learning about such technologies, reading new books, and interacting with children can help authors stay current.

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