Writing for Children


Start the story with ACTION! Show don’t tell. Even better if you can start in the middle of the action and hook the reader immediately. Action adds excitement or drama or conflict to a scene. Keeps the reader interested. 

Use authentic DIALOGUE!  Children don’t talk in full sentences and neither should your characters.  Have characters interrupt each other or finish each other’s sentences. Use contractions. Make sure dialogue is relevant to scene. In a scary situation, are characters voices trembling, out of breath, whispering? Avoid talking heads; characters should always be doing something during dialogue. 

Use SETTINGS children are familiar with. Best settings for picture books,early readers and middle-grade are home, school and outdoors. That doesn't mean you can’t use fantasy or outrageous settings, you can, just be sure to bring it back to reality or make it seem real for the reader. Uncomfortable settings are funnier with middle grade and young adult stories. Also the settings are much broader, not just home or school. 

Use DESCRIPTIVE words in your writing. The grosser the better! Sometimes all it takes is one word to make a sentence funnier. Use a thesaurus when searching for more vivid words. Instead of the word vomit, use spew, barf, retch or hurl. Instead of the word money, use moola, beans, or loot

Be mindful of SPEECH TAGS. Nothing wrong with using said.  Don’t use animal sounds unless you character is an animal. We are humans; we don’t purr, growl, hoot, hiss or bark. Too many fancy speech tags can confuse the reader. Keep it simple to move the dialogue along and let the reader know which character is talking.

Use lots of WHITE SPACE on page. This keeps the writing fast-paced and entertaining for the reader. Too much narrative bogs the story down and has the reader skipping over it. Break up narrative with dialogue or action; this will keep the story moving forward.

Use a unique VOICE for each character. Characters should have their own dialogue pattern or voice. They could also have funny quirks or characteristics that will allow the reader to remember who they are and how they might behave.

Don’t overly PREACH the moral or message in your story. Make it subtle. Children don’t want to be talked down to in real life or in a story. Let the reader figure it out on their own.

Get the ADULTS out of the story as soon as possible.  Children want to read about children not adults. Find a clever way to eliminate them from the main plot.

PROOFREAD and EDIT! And after that PROOFREAD and EDIT again and again. You can never proofread and edit enough. Always read your story out loud. Oh Yeah, and ask your friends to help you EDIT!  

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