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Writing

How to Write the Plot for a Children’s Book

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 21, 2020 • 3 min read

Kids’ books are more than fairy tales and picture books—they come in all varieties and appeal to different types of children. Before you write your children’s book, you must familiarize yourself with the children’s book market. The age group of the young readers you’re writing for will not just determine the word count of your book writing but also the complexity of your story ideas and plotlines.

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How to Write the Plot for a Children’s Book

From fantasy to mystery to comedy, the same genres that adults read are often appealing to children. However, book plots in children’s literature deal with different subject matter than stories written for adults and contain storylines that are less complex and intense. If you’re considering becoming a children’s book author, it may be helpful to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Think like a kid. The topics that may interest you as an adult may not be as compelling to a young reader. Think back to your own experiences as a kid to help inspire book ideas. Your fears, memories, and feelings are all viable fodder for your own children’s stories. Your plot should include themes that can be universally understood by most children: loneliness, lack of parental understanding, anxiety over making new friends, or any first-time experiences you also went through while growing up. Relatable themes can help you develop your plot, allowing you to accurately set up the story for your young readers.
  • Know the market. Depending on the type of book you’re writing, certain subgenres might be more appealing to book editors and literary agents. For instance, science fiction or romance might be hot categories for young adult novels, or paranormal adventure might be what’s currently popular for middle-grade books. As a children’s book writer, it’s important to know what kind of books your young audience is hungry for—especially because kids’ attention spans do not lend them the patience to stick with something that doesn’t excite them or immediately grab their interest.
  • Create a relatable main character. While creating a relatable main character is a good thing for all novels regardless of the target audience, young children like to read about memorable characters who are closer in age to themselves. They enjoy reading about kids just like them who do heroic things or experience similar growing pains—they would likely not be entertained by or understand the plight and point of view of a 65-year-old. Your plot should be driven by protagonists who possess simple qualities young children can understand, like courage, kindness, and the ability to make things fun. That doesn’t mean the main characters moving your story forward cannot have flaws or undesirable traits, but that they are still redeemable in a way that the readers in your target age range will root for and empathize with despite their shortcomings. Without these elements, your audience is left with a barebones premise—a sequence of events untethered by character development or emotional arcs. This may not be a priority when writing picture books for infants, but many early readers and older children can follow and be entertained by a character’s change as a story progresses.
  • Read more children’s books. Writing children’s books requires knowing how to write in a way children understand. While simple themes and unsophisticated sentence structure are both good ways to immerse your young audience, there are other elements to consider when writing books for children—like pacing and development. A good children’s book can help you figure out how to approach your own story structure. Read the best books for kids by bestselling authors and see how they integrate their premise into their world. Which chapter does the hero get their call to action? When do the protagonist and villain come face to face for the first time? Use this knowledge to inform your structure when writing the plot to your own book.

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