Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Writing for Children Series - Part Three

Story Themes that Appeal to Children

Children have wonderful imaginations and these are reflected in the amazing variety of books that are geared towards them. Like adults, they have preferences and often favor a couple of books that they ask for over and over again. When writing for children, it is helpful to understand the different genres on the market.

Novelty Books for Young Readers
These delightful books appeal to adults as well. They include pop-ups, scratch and sniff, lift-a flap and board books that may contain jigsaw puzzles.

Animal Stories These can be divided into two sub categories. Younger children enjoy stories where an animal is given human characteristics. For example, a tortoise may be portrayed as slow, steady and a loyal friend. In picture books, the animals often wear clothes and live in houses, such as in the tale of The Three Little Pigs.

Older children will find more enjoyment in reading about an animal that is portrayed as an animal, with animal behavior and characteristics.

Traditional Fairy Tales
There are several hundred of these on the market, many written by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. Wikipedia defines a fairy tale as a fictional story that may feature folkloric characters such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, giants and talking animals. Modern day fairy tales will usually contain similar elements.

Comic Strips
These are immensely popular with the 7 – 12 year age group and consist of a story told through sequential pictures with speech bubbles. Themes vary but include superheroes, space adventures and teen humor and romance.

Books Written in Rhyme
Dr Seuss and Roald Dahl were both masters at this style of writing. Children enjoy fun verse especially when accompanied by pictures.

Humorous Tales
Children enjoy humor from an early age. It may be something as simple as a clown that trips over his laces or a more complex scene where one disaster sets off another. The BFG by Roald Dahl is a good example of light humor geared towards 8 to 12 year olds.

Inspirational Chapter Books
These books often tell the story of a child who has achieved a goal against all odds. The writing style is positive and upbeat and the story encourages the readers to stretch their own wings and work towards their dreams. They can also relate a child’s experience of cancer or other illness, in a way that informs other children and helps them realize they can get through this difficult time.

Fantasy/ Science Fiction
This is a broad category and encompasses anything from J K Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Dr Seuss’s Cat in the Hat.

Teen Romances
These are popular with girls aged 12 to 16. Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High series are a good example of this type of book. The stories often include high school settings and the first person point of view is favored.

Mysteries, Thrillers and Adventure Books
Enid Blyton was a master at writing adventure and mystery stories for children. Other well known series are the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. This type of book is built around unanswered questions and normally contains a series of clues so the reader can try and figure out the answers.

Educational and Information
This group includes factual books about nature, the world and science and ranges from simple picture books to detailed encyclopaedias.

These are general categories and a story often falls into more than one group. With the wide range of subject matter, there is plenty of scope for someone interested in writing for children.

Come back next Wednesday to learn how to add Christian values to children’s stories.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Read some of her work at Suite 101 , Take Root and Write and Faithwriters.

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