Children’s Book Writing Exercise

Okay, who wants to watch me step waaay outside my comfort zone? … Well don’t everybody jump up and down at once.

The fact is, I’m not that great at writing child characters. In Blood of Midnight, the male protagonists’ younger sister, Rebecca is as low as I’ll go with confidence. She’s 14. Naturally, I was petrified when my buddy Lofn’s Bard brought some children’s story writing exercises to Writers’ Circle. Nevertheless, I soldiered on and managed to make some improvements in the way I write kids and, perhaps, write for kids. I’ve still got a long way to go, but this has been a good start and I’d like to share one of those exercises with you.

The chief reason I find it so hard to write in a child’s voice is that I really can’t remember my childhood except for a few incidents here and there. I don’t know why. That’s just how it is. So, naturally, an exercise that helps squeeze more details out of a given memory is really helpful!

Filling in the Blanks

Take this sample phrase and fill in the blanks:

When I was __ years old, my favourite _____________ was ___________________.

I remember the time when ____________________________________.

For example: When I was 10 years old, my favourite toy was a Power Rangers action figure.

I remember the time when one of mum’s babysitting kids broke his head off and I was so angry that I didn’t talk to him for a week.

But don’t stop there. Keep writing everything you can remember on the subject. Write for about ten minutes even if you have to drift into other topics. Anything you can dredge forth from the fog of memory is good material.

Now, have a look at your finished product. Look at the age you described and at the scribbles under it. Does it sound like it is being spoken by a person of that age? Why or why not? If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably written it mostly, or entirely in your adult voice. Don’t despair. The discrepancies are telling and you can learn from them.

Rewrite the piece now, paying close attention to things like word choice (children have small vocabularies), abstract ideas (children are very literal), and sentence length and structure (keep it simple). For a really good workout, try a year or two younger and a year or two older and explore what the maturation process does to the writing.

Hope this helps you and, as always, thanks for stopping by. Make good art!

Author: Ethan Kincaid

Ethan Kincaid was born in 1985 in Brockville, a sleepy little town on the St. Lawrence River. He graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa with a degree in Linguistics and a minor in Japanese Language. After finishing his education, he settled down there with his wife Kaitlyn and became a full-time writer. In 2011, he moved to Montreal and discovered its vibrant writing culture. In 2015, Ethan moved to Helsinki, Finland with his wife; he works as a props crafter and part time author. His first book, Blood of Midnight: The Broken Prophecy is the first of a new fantasy trilogy. The greatest joy in his life lies in helping budding writers find their voices. In his words: "I like to shake people until cool stuff comes out!"

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