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Rosalie Alcala is a ghost writer. She sits in her creaking orange chair and does what she knows best, write. Rosalie, has written hundreds of stories for children, you may all ready have read Rosalie’s wonderful work, without even knowing it! This young women, with a creative mind and witty sense of humor is gifted, passionate and brilliant. Meet Rosalie Alcala, and allow her to share her tips on writing for children…
Tips on Writing for Kids by Rosalie Alcala
There are many books out there, whether in print or on e-book format, written specifically for children. There are thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of aspiring writers hoping to get into publication. Apart from the usual requirements – original work, typo-free, correct grammar, form, rhythm, etc. – Here are some helpful tips for those planning to write stories for kids.
Think like one.
Some of the best children’s stories are about outrageous things. Talking bears, flying monkeys, wizards, friendly giants and eccentric people are some of the best themes and characters out there. Mainly, this is because of the level of imagination that kids possess. Children are attracted to color, action, zings and pops, and less on internal struggles of the characters. If you want to write a book that a child will love, forget all your preconceived notions of how the world actually works and let you imagination do the talking (or writing).
Forget your worries about bills and the weekly meal schedule. Being a grown-up means that there are a lot of responsibilities, but to write for children, let fantasy take its course. Children are curious (sometimes too curious) and they love hearing things that are out of this world. Think of your children’s book as sci-fi work, with marshmallows, clouds and lollipops. Create an exciting story that will grab their imagination from the get-go. Remember, children are easily bored too, so your subject matter should hold their attention. You don’t even have to have kids of your own to think like one. You were a kid once yourself!
Don’t sound like an authority figure.
This tip is actually one of the most important ones on this list. In relation to thinking the way a child thinks, talking down to them is not really a very good approach. They get enough of that from their teachers, sometimes their parents and other grown-ups. If you want your story to have a moral lesson, wrap it in sparkly colored paper with a lot of shinny ribbons. Let them understand the moral of the story in their own terms, and try not to spell it out for them in every possible paragraph. For instance, instead of a story telling children that they should brush their teeth every day, come up with a fun quip about a green three-eyed blob of plaque that attacks their teeth at night. The moral of the story is there, hidden between the lines. The lesson of the story will sink in, sooner than you think.
Use simple words, or make up some new ones.
You don’t have to impress your readers with your wide and extensive vocabulary. Sure, it might sound smart to grown-ups, but they are not your market. Keep the words simple and direct. Add fun adjectives to make it more exciting.
If your words are not enough, make up new ones! A child will understand that a dollop of mud on the floor looks like a yucki-dory-gloppity-goo! Kids can understand simple context too! Besides, making up new words are the best things that can happen to a writer. Sometimes, there are no words to express your thought, so making up a new one is just perfect!
But don’t be afraid to use big words once in a while.
This particular tip is rather challenging. It has to be done in a very subtle way. Even without that particular hard word, the kids should be able to understand what you are saying. But I added this tip to give a sly lesson (apart from the usual moral one) to the readers of your book. Give the kids something to do after, or while reading the story. Let them look it up! The words in a children’s story are fun, yes, but a little tidbit of homework can’t hurt anyone.
For instance, you can have a line that goes,
“Gloria looked up haughtily and asked them why they were playing with her toys.”
It would be easier to understand the word “proudly” or “importantly” rather than “haughtily”. It would even be easier to just say,
“Gloria was feeling snooty so she asked them why they were playing with her toys.”
“Snooty” sounds like a funny word, after all. But give the kids a little challenge. Add in a hard word every now and then. Let them learn something new that they can add to their own vocabulary.
And here is an extra tip that every writer needs, whether you are writing for children or for adults. Write every day, even if it is only one line. In my opinion, the hardest thing that a writer needs to develop is discipline. Writing is such a personal action that sometimes it may seem selfish or unimportant to do something other than chores or building a career. But, write. Jot down your ideas, even if it’s on an old grocery receipt. Ideas come unexpectedly so write it down before you forget. Find the time. Stop playing another game of Candy Crush and open a blank document on your computer. You’ll be surprised to find that after scribbling or typing a few words, a fantastic, glittery and mistilicious-whimsfying-wowzamazing world is forming right in front of you.
Rosalie Alcala – Creative Writer / Storyteller for Children – Freelancer, Philippines – oDesk