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Write a Children's Book - Your Story and the Background

Authors have a lot of mundane details to wade through when they learn to write. Even when you think you have one aspect mastered, you may turn around and find that another nuance has been entirely overlooked. Each part of a story is like a puzzle that must fit together tightly to create an engaging overall picture for your readers. When you are dealing with children's books, this is even more important.

An adult reader may be able to follow inferences or overlook slight discrepancies. Children, however, need clear and manageable plots to stay engaged in the reading. Your story, and the background surrounding it, can set the stage for the action. However, there are certain things to pay attention to when writing for children.

Don't Over Explain

Imagine you are in a family event and watching from the sidelines as a family member tries to talk to their child. Usually, the adult will cut right to the chase, spending thirty seconds or so going over the main points that the child needs to grasp. Then, almost inevitably, they will begin to go on and on about the details, nuances and moral interpretations surrounding the child's action. Even as another adult, it is more than apparent that the child stopped listening after those first few sentences; they haven't added any value. In fact, they may prove so distracting that the child subsequently forgets the important point altogether!

As an author, what does this scenario have to do with how you learn to write children's books? Simply put, kids just plain have short attention spans and limited ability to stay focused on complex situations. When it comes to the background of your story, keep this at the forefront of your mind at all times. Many background details don't need to be added at all.

If the story has common settings, stating the background in one or two sentences is more than sufficient. Picture books add details with the illustrations, while children's novels can add background details in bits and pieces as the plot unfolds. Leave plenty of room for imaginative interpretation; that, after all, is the fun of reading in the first place.

Keep the Background Understandable

While children do like to use their imagination, they also have a limited capacity to put themselves in situations that are entirely unfamiliar. As you begin to learn to write your children's book, step back and imagine yourself at that age. One of the biggest strengths of a skilled children's author is really getting inside the heads of their young readers. Choose supporting details that can be easily understood by kids.

This doesn't necessarily mean that it needs to be something that they are personally familiar with. In fact, fantastical backgrounds are perfectly appropriate, as long as the details are clearly understood. For example, it works to set a story on board a pirate ship. While there isn't likely a child alive that has actually been on a pirate ship, the fantasy surrounding that is quite clear to most kids: pirates are rough; they like to rob other ships; they might want you to walk the gangplank. Of course, realistic backgrounds are even easier to include in your stories.

Do Your Homework

As a writer, it can be extremely tempting to make assumptions about a particular background or situation. In fact, many things are common sense and you may actually have some general knowledge to support a certain interpretation. When this doesn't interfere with the plot or storyline, it can be acceptable to incorporate a more general background as you learn to write. However, if you are basing a storyline on a particular chain or events, or a true story, you need to do more specific research about the background.

This doesn't necessarily mean that you need to include every detail in the story itself. What it does do is give you the knowledge that you need to determine what details are necessary for inclusion in the background. In addition, doing adequate research will save you from embarrassment as an author. While many readers may not pick out the background mistakes, others will and that will interfere with their enjoyment of the plot and characters.

When you learn to write, there is no such thing as too much attention to detail. You can, however, incorporate details and background in an incorrect way. Because of the short word count of a children's book, there is much less room for making mistakes in this area. As with character and plot, make sure that everything that you include has a distinct, specific and understandable purpose.


Follow the advice of an author of over seventy children's books and write a children's book with success! Go to www.learntowriteforchildren.com (URL appears invalid).

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