How does one go about writing for today’s children? You could certainly survey to see what interest them. You can make assumptions based on the television shows that are popularly viewed by them. You could also not worry about them and write for yourself and hope the children like it.
I often wonder about the market for the 21st century children. I nanny and babysit for many families and have the pleasure of getting to know all the children’s interest. For at least six out of the nine boys that I have looked after, Minecraft (a video game about building that can literally go on for infinity) is very popular and is the topic of utterly stimulating conversation…for them not me. For five out of seven girls I watch over, ninja princesses, fully equipped with poisoned cupcakes, and Pet Palace are among the favorite interest/activities. While I applaud the creativity of these children, these favorite interest are too foreign of topics for me to write about. I know the most valuable advice is “know your audience”, but what happens when you don’t want to write for them? Thankfully, C.S. Lewis has some insight as to different ways to write for children. According to Maria Popova and C.S. Lewis in an article called “C.S. Lewis on the Three ways of Writing for Children and the Key to Authenticity in All Writing”, there are three ways to write for children, two good, one bad. One good way is writing for a specific child/children. Many of us are aware that Lewis Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for a little girl named Alice. As was also the case for The Lord of the Rings written by Tolkien was specific for his children. Another good way that happened to be Lewis’ preference, ” consists of writing a children’s story because a children’s story is the best art-form for something you have to say: just as a composer might write a Dead March not because there was a public funeral in view but because certain musical ideas that had occurred to him went best into that form…Where the children’s story is simply the right form for what the author has to say,”. The last way, and according to Lewis, is the bad way to write for children is simply writing for the children, Lewis states, “Children are, of course, a special public and you find out what they want and give them that, however little you like it yourself.”
All of the ways C.S. Lewis describes present amazing possibilities and cause for concern. I know that I could try and write about the popular topics such as ninja princesses who carry poisoned cupcakes but whether I would enjoy writing it remains a mystery. I could also write what I like and hope children like it. If nothing else maybe I could write a story for just one child and hope it becomes favorable to other children too.
If you would like to read further about the different methods C.S. Lewis has on writing for children, check out his book, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories.