First Impressions

Initially I chose my writing for children class since I figured it couldn’t be too complicated.  Anyone can write simple sentences for children, right?

Wrong.

When I started this class I figured that writing children’s books would be like learning a foreign language, there would be obvious differences between it and say, short story writing. But as I’ve been learning, there’s actually a pretty thin line between writing for children and writing for adults.  The audience only impacts how the story is implemented.  For example, instead of writing lengthy descriptions about a character, setting, and interaction, you write short, direct descriptions, if any at all.  Say I’m writing about Sally who is a wonderful and adventure-driven girl with golden locks and bright hazel eyes.  Writing a children’s book won’t allow me to dive into those descriptors.  Instead of writing “Sally tossed her golden locks out of her hazel eyes as she picked up the frog.”  I would have to settle with “Curious Sally picked up the frog.”

Since children’s books are so short, words begin to count more.  It’s kind of the same with short stories.  If you have a word limit of 1200, you begin to understand the constraints of trying to use descriptions and tell a wonderful story within a few pages.  Unlike short stories which are generally aimed at an adult audience, using larger, more complex words will only confuse a child while reading a children’s book.  The same goes for references.

Generally, the differences between children’s picture book writing and novel writing are really slim.  You still have to “Wow” the reader as Ann Whitford Paul puts it.  You have to define the character, the setting, the conflict, and the conclusion has to tie up all lose ends.  And the writer only has 32 pages to do it.  Well, less than that, since some of the pages don’t include the story at all.  It also has to be done within  a certain word range, since you have huge illustrations on the pages and few words.

So, truthfully, these first few classes have really opened my eyes to how exactly audiences can influence how a story is presented, even if the rules of writing don’t change.

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