So, I’ve been working with a Korean writer who is trying to branch out into writing kid’s books in English, and to writing fiction. So far, she’s mainly written nonfiction stuff–educational books–but now that she’s in Saigon, she feels like she has the time and freedom to branch out into fiction. It’s been pretty interesting to go through the basics with her, week after week, because so much of what’s true of kid’s fiction is true of all fiction. Characters, motivations, story problems… they’re all there. Kidlit is sometimes a little more directly allegorical, and sometimes is a little more overt in some of what it does, but it’s still fiction.
And like with all writing, if you want to do it right, you need to get into the mindset of your audience. This is an interesting challenge when you’re writing for four- and five- and six-year-olds, in part because of how casual most adults are in their dismissal of kids’ minds. Case in point: we were reading her daughter’s favorite book in an effort to figure out just what might be the big attraction of Winnie the Witch. Here’s a (low-res, sorry) Youtube video of the whole book being read, with the illustrations:
The woman I’m working with understandably read Winnie as being a child-like figure, since she’s given to impulsively reacting to annoyances. She figured that Winnie had learned, by the end of the book, to control her impulsiveness and “grown up” a little.
I had a different view.