CHILDREN’S FICTION

Someone asks me: “Why don’t you write children’s fiction?” Children’s fiction sells a lot. How come? It is not the children’s fiction writers who are better, but schools simply force parents to buy children’s fiction texts for their pupils. This happens in elementary and middle school, in high school we pass to the classics, because teaching usually involves reading texts of Italian literature up to 900. And therefore everything else is ignored and remains unsold. After the closure of a historic bookshop in Turin, the closure of a historic Venetian publishing house has now been announced. The only surviving bookstores are the ones that sell school books and various stationery for students. Two Feltrinelli stores have closed in Rome. And this is a very bad thing. It means that the giant Amazon is winning the game and that people who say they love books no longer go to bookstores but buy everything online. What can be done?
Writing short stories for children is an ambition of many writers. If you have children or grandchildren, you yourself will surely have read many stories for them and you will have invented others. Indeed, by dint of inventing stories at the request of your children, perhaps it occurred to you that you could write them and turn them into a book. Why not? The sector of children’s literature is constantly growing, because children love to read and because parents are keen to give their children continuous creative stimuli. On the one hand, this means that the market is very competitive, but on the other it means that there is a lot of demand. So, don’t be shy: if you have some compelling stories spinning in your head, if you have invented many stories to make your children fall asleep, or if you simply have a strong creative streak and want to give voice to the child in you. , grab a pen and paper and write your children’s book. Writing a children’s book isn’t easy at all. Who has never read or leafed through a children’s book? Well, turning those pages full of images and often written in very large fonts, many think that writing a children’s book is easy. What does it take to invent a short story that, lined up, takes up a few pages? Then just lay out the text with very large characters, enrich everything with large drawings … et voilĂ ! The children’s book is done. To say it is actually easy, but to do it not so easy, I assure you. Writing a book for children is not easy first of all because children’s imaginations are much richer and more active than ours as adults (fortunately for them and unfortunately for us). Have you ever been assaulted by a barrage of questions from a child? Children are curious, they want to know, they ask spontaneously, but if they don’t receive the answers they expect they are unhappy. So when they read or listen to a story, children need to find all the information in the text to bring their fantasy world to life. Writing books for children and teenagers means being able to think (again) like them.
Writing books for children is therefore not easy because you have to be able to get inside a child’s head and understand what he or she expects to find in a story. But above all, writing children’s stories is not easy because children are not all the same. It’s easy to say childhood! If you want to write a romance novel or a detective novel or any other narrative genre for an adult audience, you will have to ask yourself which characters you want to create, where you want to set the scene and other preparatory questions of this type, but if then your reader will have 20 or 30 years will make little difference. In the world of children’s literature, however, there are many differences depending on the age of the reader. The total length of the story, the linguistic style, the complexity of the sentences, the presence of implications, the linearity or otherwise of the plot, the psychological characteristics of the characters are all elements that must be calibrated according to the target audience. Writing a story for a 3-year-old child, who has his own imagination and who still does not read by himself and who will therefore listen to the story read by an adult, is completely different from writing a story for an 8-year-old boy, than that history if he will read it himself and that he has already developed his own identity and his own role in the peer group.
As you have seen, therefore, writing books for children and teenagers is not as simple as reading them. You need to start with a clear definition of your target audience first. This is actually a piece of advice that applies to anyone who wants to write a book, but if it comes to children’s books, the rule is even more valid, because writing for 5-year-olds is quite another thing compared to writing for kids of 11. If you want to write a children’s book that your (little) readers like and is successful, you have to put yourself not only on their side, but in their shoes. In fact, to write a story for children, it is not enough that the characters are children: the story must be told from the point of view of children and with the language of children. So many times to be creative you have been suggested to “think outside the box”: well, here instead you have to carefully choose a scheme, depending on the age of the readers you want to address, and enter it completely without leaving it. If you want to write a book for 5-year-olds, you have to enter the world of 5-year-olds, understand how they see objects, how they experience emotions, how they deal with new things, what scares them and what reassures them. You have to rekindle the fantasy and wonder that lie dormant somewhere inside you. If you want to write a book for 11-year-olds, you have to enter the world of preteens, speak their language, see the world with their eyes, starting with the world of adults, you have to feel the urge to adventure and independence. You have to ask yourself what you want to do when you grow up, as you did then, and, as then, viscerally believe that you can make your dream come true. This is the hardest part for those who write children’s stories, not so much inventing plots and characters. But precisely this total identification with the world of your readers, the necessary rediscovery of the child in you, is the most compelling and rewarding part of writing books for children and teenagers.

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