Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Secrets to Writing for Kids: It's the Little Things

As one of the few authors on Publishing Hub who writes for audiences younger than Young Adult, I decided to start a regular feature here called Secrets to Writing for Kids. In my writing, I focus mainly on Middle-grade and YA, but I hope to bring in guest posts from picture book authors and those younger audiences.

I'll be tackling kid-lit topics from dialogue, to word choice, to the philosophy of "kid-friendly" content (and why you should sometimes buck what's "kid-friendly"). But that's another post for another time.

It's the Little Things

I talk a lot about the difference between conflict and action—action is just the flash-bang, while conflict drives the story forward by twisting your characters into precarious positions and setting them against each other (or themselves).

Honestly and truthfully I believe good conflict is what makes a good kids' book. (Characters also, of course, but they're inextricable from one another: good characters are conflicted, and good conflict changes the character for better or worse.)

Childhood is all about conflict. Conflict is what drives us and makes us better.

But what makes writing kid conflicts fun (and frankly, easier) is recognizing the inherent conflicts present in day-to-day life. Even simple conflicts can drive story, when the daily things that we (adults) find basic can be a struggle and a source of anxiety. Remember how scary that first day of school was? Or that time you watched a scary movie, thinking you were grown-up enough to handle it, and then couldn't sleep for a week? Getting along with schoolmates is the center of your life when you spend most of your time with them at school.

These conflicts follow us for the rest of our lives: handling fear and anxiety. Overcoming jealousy and envy. Making friends and keeping them. These are things we all feel from time to time, all struggle with no matter how old we get. But part of growing up is feeling them for the first time and figuring them out.

The best conflicts are ageless.

Read more of Kiersi's writing advice on her blog, The Prolific Novelista, or follow her on Twitter at @kiersi.

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