The Art of Writing From a Kid’s Mind

Arts, Multimedia, & Creative Manifestations
User avatar
Masato
Site Admin
Posts: 14518
Joined: Mon Jun 25, 2012 3:16 pm
Reputation: 6750

The Art of Writing From a Kid’s Mind

Postby Masato » Tue Oct 06, 2020 8:12 pm

Haven't read this yet, nor have I read any of these Ramona books the writer is referencing, though I do remember looking at the artwork for these books when I was younger.

Bit I read the first bit and it looks interesting, so archiving here for later.

I have always thought when I am older and have more time I will make kids books, but I think there is more to doing it well than it might seem...

Ramona Quimby and the Art of Writing From a Kid’s Mind
Annie Barrows on How Children Discover the World

https://lithub.com/ramona-quimby-and-th ... kids-mind/

Image

When I made the extremely practical decision to abandon my career in publishing to become a writer, I didn’t know I wanted to write children’s books. I thought I wanted to write for adults. Accordingly, my first published work was an illustrated book about fortune-telling; my second was about opera; my third, about urban legends; my fourth, I’m not exactly sure, because right about that time, I stopped being interested in adults.

I had had some babies, you see, during this period, and suddenly, I was spending all my time with children; I read only children’s books; I talked only to children; I thought only about children. I had nothing to say to grown-ups, and most of the time, I didn’t understand what they were saying to me. Why did they want to talk about real estate when they could talk about pterodactyls? Why were they obsessed with traffic when they could be obsessed with buried treasure? Adult conversation had become incredibly dull, and adult books, duller.

It was in this spirit that I decided I would become a children’s book writer.

And in this spirit, I was totally, completely WRONG.

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

The problem, the wrongness, was rooted, as it usually is, in arrogance. I decided that I should become a children’s book writer because I was bored by adult books and I loved children’s books. I was going to write children’s books because it would gratify me. This is not an attitude that leads to great children’s books.

However, I didn’t know that, and I set about my new goal industriously. My first attempt was a picture book manuscript entitled Audrey and the Fire Engine, a story about Audrey, who is scared of the sound of sirens. She’s so scared of sirens that she starts dreading the noise even when she’s not hearing it. But—whew!—Audrey has a wise mother who helps her surmount her fear through several ingenious stratagems. Oh, lucky, lucky Audrey, to have such a wise mother! The end.


I thought it was pretty good. I sent it around to some writer friends and one of them connected me to a genuine children’s book author who kindly agreed to give me her opinion on the manuscript. What this kind and brilliant children’s book author said was: No. This is a book about how great Audrey’s mom is, not about Audrey. This is not a kids’ book because it’s not really about kids. This is a book that will make grown-ups feel good about themselves.

To me, the best children’s books, like the Ramona books, are the result of serious unselfishness, even humility.
I didn’t get it. It was a story about a kid, so of course it was a kids’ book! I kept reading my manuscript, trying to figure out which sentences I could change to make it better. Should I add more about Audrey? Should I put the mom in fewer scenes? I didn’t know how to fix the problem because I didn’t understand what the problem was.

Luckily for me, my oldest daughter was at this juncture beginning to move beyond picture book into books with chapters. Also luckily for me, she considered my central duty as a mother to be reading to her. So together, we embarked upon chapter books. Like every red-blooded American family, we began in the Magic Tree House and then ascended the slopes of literature until we reached Beverly Cleary and Ramona the Pest and, above all, Chapter Six, “The Baddest Witch in the World.”

I very well remember my daughter’s response to this segment of the book: complete identification with the emotional roller coaster of Ramona’s Halloween, which starts with Ramona’s passionate desire to be the “baddest” witch in the world; proceeds to her fear of her scary witch mask, happily overcome by her pride in her costume when Halloween finally arrives; moves on to a scene of liminal mayhem in the schoolyard as all the children, released from responsibility and consequences by their disguises, indulge in forbidden behavior; and then culminates in one of the most extraordinary moments of kid-understanding in children’s literature. In this scene, after tearing around the playground in her witch costume, Ramona realizes with a shock that she is, actually, unidentifiable behind her mask; her teacher, Miss Binney, truly does not know that she is speaking to Ramona. And at this, Ramona experiences a profound and profoundly human terror—is she anyone if no one knows who she is? This is followed by an even more shocking thought: What if her own mother can’t identify her? Here, we are privy to, even participating in, one of childhood’s primary fears—the mother denying her child (this is what separation anxiety is all about). Ramona wonders, “What if her mother forgot her? What if everyone in the whole world forgot her?” She removes her hard-won mask.

Right there, as I read “The Baddest Witch in the World,” I understood what the kind children’s author had been telling me. I understood what a children’s book is supposed to be. It’s writing from inside the kid’s world, inside the kid’s perspective, almost from inside the kid’s eyeballs. Beverly Cleary doesn’t tell us what Ramona’s experiencing; she doesn’t separate herself far enough from Ramona to tell us. She doesn’t say “Ramona’s mother would never forget her, but Ramona was worried that she might.” She doesn’t even insert herself into proceedings to say “Ramona thought for a moment that her mother would forget her.” Nope, Beverly Cleary gives the story to Ramona herself to experience, and she does it by withdrawing herself from the equation.

There are certainly other ways to write a good children’s book; it is possible for a narrator to be part of the tale in a non-oppressive, non-colonizing, non-grown-uppy way. But to me, the best children’s books, like the Ramona books, are the result of serious unselfishness, even humility. The author sets up the furniture, props the door open, and then covers herself with an author-cozy and disappears, leaving the entertainment to be directed, acted, and understood by the kid-characters. The wise and kindly adult who interprets the meaning of the action or, worse, teaches the befuddled youngster an improving lesson—that person is banished in great kids’ literature. The main characters, the kids, learn things on their own.

But how do you do it? How do you enter the kid-world so thoroughly? I think there are three major routes. The first is a willingness on the part of the author to be erased (which most grown-ups don’t have; they want more attention, not less); the second is a deep and serious sympathy with kids; and the third is a pretty good memory. I’m guessing Beverly Cleary has all three.

“[Beverly Cleary] knows Ramona from the inside out, and she loves and respects her.”

I’m certain she also has the fourth thing, the special extra that’s not required but is lovely: generosity of spirit. Because “The Baddest Witch in the World” doesn’t end with Ramona so fearful of loss of identity that she can’t partake of the Halloween parade she’s been anticipating for years. It ends with Ramona’s brilliant solution to the problem: She runs into her classroom, grabs a piece of paper, and writes “RAMONA Q.” Then, with nametag affixed and selfhood firmly reestablished, she pulls her mask back over her face and races out to enjoy being the baddest witch in the world in all her disruptive glory. What a great ending! How satisfactory! Are children helpless? NO! Are children resourceful? YES! Are children going to be forgotten as a punishment for donning the guises of wickedness? NO WAY! Children are going to have a great time on Halloween and overcome any problems that might arise! Plus, they are going to eat candy! What could be better?


The lesson in “The Baddest Witch in the World” for Ramona is that there is no lesson—or maybe it’s that she has the power to make herself known. But the lesson for me was profound. The lesson was this: It’s not about you. Of course, Beverly Cleary’s understanding of her own position and her mastery of what’s called “kidbrain” in industry circles didn’t stop with the baddest witch; it’s apparent in all of the books about Ramona. It’s in her glorious red galoshes and her impatience with Howie’s dullness and her dawnzer-lee-light humiliation and her response to Miss Binney’s substitute. She knows Ramona from the inside out, and she loves and respects her.

Hmm, I thought, holding Ramona the Pest on my lap while my daughter went off to the kitchen to make a potion, maybe I should forget about Audrey and her wise mom. Maybe I should try writing about something I know inside out. Like what? I thought, watching my daughter get out the food coloring (a good potion requires a lot of food coloring). All I know are seven-year-olds. Seven-year-old girls. Seven-year-old girls who want to be witches. Or paleontologists. I know a few of those. Let’s say there are two. Yeah, let’s say there are two seven-year-old girls who are very different. Let’s say their moms want them to be friends. Let’s say they don’t like each other. . . .

User avatar
Edge Guerrero
Posts: 6166
Joined: Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:14 am
Reputation: 2560
Location: Smackdown Hotel at "the corner of Know Your Role Blvd

Postby Edge Guerrero » Thu Oct 08, 2020 12:04 pm

- This brings memory of The little Prince!
- I rent this space for advertising

Don't be selfish, preserve this world for the next generations.

I'll never long for what might have been
Regret won't waste my life again
I won't look back I'll fight to remain

User avatar
Masato
Site Admin
Posts: 14518
Joined: Mon Jun 25, 2012 3:16 pm
Reputation: 6750

Postby Masato » Thu Oct 08, 2020 1:53 pm

Just read it. I've been thinking about the question since I read the opening paragraphs and posted, wondering if the author would take the question in a similar direction

I think the author is still missing something. She is correct in everything she says, but I think ultimately a good children's writer MUST write from an 'adult' perspective, otherwise what's the point?

The article theorizes that you just have to pop yourself into the mind of a child, suppress your adult self, forget everything you've learned, and let the story unfold

But what is the value in a story that is just pure childhood rambling imagination and naivety? Sure it might result in some fantastic, funny, and entertaining scenarios, but I am personally valuing more and more in stories that DO have a point, or a lesson... stories that are anchored in some sort of truth that is worth passing on. Maybe its just me but stories books movies etc just for the sake of entertainment, meaningless rides of eye candy and fluff that tastes good but has no substance, like candy you have actually been a little poisoned by it lol it did you no real good and there is nothing worth keeping from it.

I think the best kind of children's books likely do exactly what the article suggests, but stealthily, hidden in secret behind the curtain, is the wise storyteller that knows the real meaning of the story, is telling it for a reason, and you enjoy the tale even better knowing somehow that you're in good hands, and not just being led by a 7 year old.

There is an author here in Ontario that has somehow had huge success with his books, for some reason all the major bookstores and chains keep highlighting and promoting his books, even though there are so many other amazing authors and illustrators out there making better stuff. Anyways I see his work everywhere, even the schools I think bulk-order his books. But I think they are weak, and soul-less. I even went once to one of his readings when my kids were very young, and my impression of the guy was that he was kind of a jerk and showed no compassion or connection to the kids he was reading to whatsoever. He had a routine that he had done 100 times, and he just went through the routine and couldn't wait to GTFO of there. Really sad.

Also, as a professional illustrator, I also think it's sad how little illustrators get paid for their artwork. I would love to do children's book art for a living, but the pay is stupid low for the hours you put in. It's just not feasible. I often wonder when I see brilliant artwork in children's books how much they got paid, was it more a labor of love, or if there is some corner of the market I don't understand yet where you can make the money to hire great illustrators and pay them for what they are worth.

An underrated/underestimated art form imo.

I hope to tackle it some day perhaps when I'm older and I have more things worth crafting stories about.

User avatar
Edge Guerrero
Posts: 6166
Joined: Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:14 am
Reputation: 2560
Location: Smackdown Hotel at "the corner of Know Your Role Blvd

Postby Edge Guerrero » Fri Oct 09, 2020 4:22 pm

Masato wrote:Just read it. I've been thinking about the question since I read the opening paragraphs and posted, wondering if the author would take the question in a similar direction

I think the author is still missing something. She is correct in everything she says, but I think ultimately a good children's writer MUST write from an 'adult' perspective, otherwise what's the point?

The article theorizes that you just have to pop yourself into the mind of a child, suppress your adult self, forget everything you've learned, and let the story unfold

But what is the value in a story that is just pure childhood rambling imagination and naivety? Sure it might result in some fantastic, funny, and entertaining scenarios, but I am personally valuing more and more in stories that DO have a point, or a lesson... stories that are anchored in some sort of truth that is worth passing on. Maybe its just me but stories books movies etc just for the sake of entertainment, meaningless rides of eye candy and fluff that tastes good but has no substance, like candy you have actually been a little poisoned by it lol it did you no real good and there is nothing worth keeping from it.

I think the best kind of children's books likely do exactly what the article suggests, but stealthily, hidden in secret behind the curtain, is the wise storyteller that knows the real meaning of the story, is telling it for a reason, and you enjoy the tale even better knowing somehow that you're in good hands, and not just being led by a 7 year old.

There is an author here in Ontario that has somehow had huge success with his books, for some reason all the major bookstores and chains keep highlighting and promoting his books, even though there are so many other amazing authors and illustrators out there making better stuff. Anyways I see his work everywhere, even the schools I think bulk-order his books. But I think they are weak, and soul-less. I even went once to one of his readings when my kids were very young, and my impression of the guy was that he was kind of a jerk and showed no compassion or connection to the kids he was reading to whatsoever. He had a routine that he had done 100 times, and he just went through the routine and couldn't wait to GTFO of there. Really sad.

Also, as a professional illustrator, I also think it's sad how little illustrators get paid for their artwork. I would love to do children's book art for a living, but the pay is stupid low for the hours you put in. It's just not feasible. I often wonder when I see brilliant artwork in children's books how much they got paid, was it more a labor of love, or if there is some corner of the market I don't understand yet where you can make the money to hire great illustrators and pay them for what they are worth.

An underrated/underestimated art form imo.

I hope to tackle it some day perhaps when I'm older and I have more things worth crafting stories about.


- Never thought about that. Was DR Seuss from a adult perspective?
- I rent this space for advertising

Don't be selfish, preserve this world for the next generations.

I'll never long for what might have been
Regret won't waste my life again
I won't look back I'll fight to remain

User avatar
Edge Guerrero
Posts: 6166
Joined: Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:14 am
Reputation: 2560
Location: Smackdown Hotel at "the corner of Know Your Role Blvd

Postby Edge Guerrero » Fri Oct 09, 2020 4:27 pm

Masato wrote:Just read it. I've been thinking about the question since I read the opening paragraphs and posted, wondering if the author would take the question in a similar direction

I think the author is still missing something. She is correct in everything she says, but I think ultimately a good children's writer MUST write from an 'adult' perspective, otherwise what's the point?

The article theorizes that you just have to pop yourself into the mind of a child, suppress your adult self, forget everything you've learned, and let the story unfold

But what is the value in a story that is just pure childhood rambling imagination and naivety? Sure it might result in some fantastic, funny, and entertaining scenarios, but I am personally valuing more and more in stories that DO have a point, or a lesson... stories that are anchored in some sort of truth that is worth passing on. Maybe its just me but stories books movies etc just for the sake of entertainment, meaningless rides of eye candy and fluff that tastes good but has no substance, like candy you have actually been a little poisoned by it lol it did you no real good and there is nothing worth keeping from it.

I think the best kind of children's books likely do exactly what the article suggests, but stealthily, hidden in secret behind the curtain, is the wise storyteller that knows the real meaning of the story, is telling it for a reason, and you enjoy the tale even better knowing somehow that you're in good hands, and not just being led by a 7 year old.

There is an author here in Ontario that has somehow had huge success with his books, for some reason all the major bookstores and chains keep highlighting and promoting his books, even though there are so many other amazing authors and illustrators out there making better stuff. Anyways I see his work everywhere, even the schools I think bulk-order his books. But I think they are weak, and soul-less. I even went once to one of his readings when my kids were very young, and my impression of the guy was that he was kind of a jerk and showed no compassion or connection to the kids he was reading to whatsoever. He had a routine that he had done 100 times, and he just went through the routine and couldn't wait to GTFO of there. Really sad.

Also, as a professional illustrator, I also think it's sad how little illustrators get paid for their artwork. I would love to do children's book art for a living, but the pay is stupid low for the hours you put in. It's just not feasible. I often wonder when I see brilliant artwork in children's books how much they got paid, was it more a labor of love, or if there is some corner of the market I don't understand yet where you can make the money to hire great illustrators and pay them for what they are worth.

An underrated/underestimated art form imo.

I hope to tackle it some day perhaps when I'm older and I have more things worth crafting stories about.


- Comic-books are like sterille today. Like the authors dont even know the character they're writing about. Maybe is the new way?
- I rent this space for advertising

Don't be selfish, preserve this world for the next generations.

I'll never long for what might have been
Regret won't waste my life again
I won't look back I'll fight to remain

User avatar
Masato
Site Admin
Posts: 14518
Joined: Mon Jun 25, 2012 3:16 pm
Reputation: 6750

Postby Masato » Fri Oct 09, 2020 5:41 pm

Edge Guerrero wrote:
Masato wrote:Just read it. I've been thinking about the question since I read the opening paragraphs and posted, wondering if the author would take the question in a similar direction

I think the author is still missing something. She is correct in everything she says, but I think ultimately a good children's writer MUST write from an 'adult' perspective, otherwise what's the point?

The article theorizes that you just have to pop yourself into the mind of a child, suppress your adult self, forget everything you've learned, and let the story unfold

But what is the value in a story that is just pure childhood rambling imagination and naivety? Sure it might result in some fantastic, funny, and entertaining scenarios, but I am personally valuing more and more in stories that DO have a point, or a lesson... stories that are anchored in some sort of truth that is worth passing on. Maybe its just me but stories books movies etc just for the sake of entertainment, meaningless rides of eye candy and fluff that tastes good but has no substance, like candy you have actually been a little poisoned by it lol it did you no real good and there is nothing worth keeping from it.

I think the best kind of children's books likely do exactly what the article suggests, but stealthily, hidden in secret behind the curtain, is the wise storyteller that knows the real meaning of the story, is telling it for a reason, and you enjoy the tale even better knowing somehow that you're in good hands, and not just being led by a 7 year old.

There is an author here in Ontario that has somehow had huge success with his books, for some reason all the major bookstores and chains keep highlighting and promoting his books, even though there are so many other amazing authors and illustrators out there making better stuff. Anyways I see his work everywhere, even the schools I think bulk-order his books. But I think they are weak, and soul-less. I even went once to one of his readings when my kids were very young, and my impression of the guy was that he was kind of a jerk and showed no compassion or connection to the kids he was reading to whatsoever. He had a routine that he had done 100 times, and he just went through the routine and couldn't wait to GTFO of there. Really sad.

Also, as a professional illustrator, I also think it's sad how little illustrators get paid for their artwork. I would love to do children's book art for a living, but the pay is stupid low for the hours you put in. It's just not feasible. I often wonder when I see brilliant artwork in children's books how much they got paid, was it more a labor of love, or if there is some corner of the market I don't understand yet where you can make the money to hire great illustrators and pay them for what they are worth.

An underrated/underestimated art form imo.

I hope to tackle it some day perhaps when I'm older and I have more things worth crafting stories about.


- Comic-books are like sterille today. Like the authors dont even know the character they're writing about. Maybe is the new way?


I hope not. I feel the same about movies, the nature of the business has killed the purpose/value of the art.

I hope and plan to see a revolution of storytelling, where we celebrate real storytellers again not fake soul-less formula crap from big corporate producers.

I have been mulling a new idea for a short book. I think I would rather make something honest and true and have 100 people enjoy it, than make something phoney and value-less that gets a million viewers.

User avatar
Masato
Site Admin
Posts: 14518
Joined: Mon Jun 25, 2012 3:16 pm
Reputation: 6750

Postby Masato » Fri Oct 09, 2020 5:42 pm

Edge Guerrero wrote:
- Never thought about that. Was DR Seuss from a adult perspective?


Good question!

The article brings up some interesting puzzles. Did you read her explanation of why her first children's book failed? I thought it was super interesting.

User avatar
Edge Guerrero
Posts: 6166
Joined: Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:14 am
Reputation: 2560
Location: Smackdown Hotel at "the corner of Know Your Role Blvd

Postby Edge Guerrero » Sat Oct 10, 2020 3:10 pm

Masato wrote:
I hope not. I feel the same about movies, the nature of the business has killed the purpose/value of the art.

I hope and plan to see a revolution of storytelling, where we celebrate real storytellers again not fake soul-less formula crap from big corporate producers.

I have been mulling a new idea for a short book. I think I would rather make something honest and true and have 100 people enjoy it, than make something phoney and value-less that gets a million viewers.


- i agree with you. The Jurassic Park franchise died. Even thought i dont consider Jurassic World part of the franchise. Bland characters. People say the same about Star-Wars, but i didnt watch any of the new movies.

I think they fond a formula and are gona milk.

Thats is whyi i cant see Police Academy or The Land Before Time working today!
- I rent this space for advertising

Don't be selfish, preserve this world for the next generations.

I'll never long for what might have been
Regret won't waste my life again
I won't look back I'll fight to remain

User avatar
Edge Guerrero
Posts: 6166
Joined: Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:14 am
Reputation: 2560
Location: Smackdown Hotel at "the corner of Know Your Role Blvd

Postby Edge Guerrero » Sat Oct 10, 2020 3:13 pm

Masato wrote:
Edge Guerrero wrote:
- Never thought about that. Was DR Seuss from a adult perspective?


Good question!

The article brings up some interesting puzzles. Did you read her explanation of why her first children's book failed? I thought it was super interesting.


- Because of personal gratification? Its strange because some characters become phenoms by lucky maybe? Super-Man is a prototypal good guy and stil around today. Garfield is a douche-bag and still aroundtoday. And others characters with similar characteristics died! :?:
- I rent this space for advertising

Don't be selfish, preserve this world for the next generations.

I'll never long for what might have been
Regret won't waste my life again
I won't look back I'll fight to remain

User avatar
Masato
Site Admin
Posts: 14518
Joined: Mon Jun 25, 2012 3:16 pm
Reputation: 6750

Postby Masato » Sat Oct 10, 2020 3:39 pm

Edge Guerrero wrote:
Masato wrote:
Edge Guerrero wrote:
- Never thought about that. Was DR Seuss from a adult perspective?


Good question!

The article brings up some interesting puzzles. Did you read her explanation of why her first children's book failed? I thought it was super interesting.


- Because of personal gratification? Its strange because some characters become phenoms by lucky maybe? Super-Man is a prototypal good guy and stil around today. Garfield is a douche-bag and still aroundtoday. And others characters with similar characteristics died! :?:


Yes! I find these questions all fascinating. Why do some things become sensations, and other flop? (other than the propaganda budget$$$ that is :? ) Hollywood says no one can predict, but I'm not sure...

Did you ever read or listen to Joseph Campbell? He is famous for analyzing and comparing MYTHS around the world.

His basic theory is that a true MYTH is a story that helps point out some truths about human existence that feels true for everyone at a collective or subconscious level. This is why the same myths keep repeating through different time and cultures - the names and details change but the basic myth remains the same, and if the writer understands what is behind it, it WILL have an effect on people.

The very first Star Wars movie was written exactly to Joseph Campbell's formula, and because it was done so loyally and deliberately to that structure, the theory is that this is why it became such a phenomenon. It tapped people's collective unconscious, and it affected their spirit because it echoed some deep truths that we all somehow sense.

This is why imo the new star wars films failed so bad. The writers had zero sense of myth, they lost the spiritual/mythical foundations and were running around trying to satisfy other more mundane goals.


So are simpler characters like Garfield etc popular in the same way? Because he somehow shows us some truth about ourselves? Does Superman represent some deep human subconscious myth that triggers us in a positive way?

When someone tries to copy a success, but is not connected to the mythical source, is this why remakes feel empty or flat?


I think moviemakers and storytellers should be much harder on themselves to ask themselves WHY they want to tell this story? Does the writer feel that it connects somehow to a mythical truth? Even if he doesn't fully understand, our heart will tell us imo if there is substance there. Otherwise, I think so many films and books are simply seeking fame and fortune, and trying to construct their stories with parlour tricks and dishonest motivations. You may come up with a fun ride but its a house or cards because there is no soul in it. Soul cannot be injected into a project, it is either the source of it or it's not there.

We don't tell the muses what to do, they tell us :D




Another thought that I just realized writing this; are there EVIL myths? Do the demons in Hollywood resonate with different 'truths'? Do they construct movies based on DARK myths, as deliberately as Lucas did for Star Wars with a LIGHT myth?? :shock: :shock: :shock:



"It might feel good, it might sound a lil' somethin'
But damn the game if it don't mean nuttin'"


Return to “Creative Evolution”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests