When I was a kid I used to sneak into people’s coat closets when visiting with my parents, hoping to find a Narnia world on the other side. I would huddle in the dark, beneath winter coats, imagining an older world long gone as I hid among musty wool. If I sat long enough would I be transported there?
Now, as a children’s book author and writer of fantasy, I get to step through doors into other worlds. The easy part is stepping into that new world. The hard part is creating a world, characters, and story from a child’s point of view. How to get into that view? By finding my childlike wonder again.
Do you remember what filled you with wonder as a kid?
I do. I walked along rock walls under the stars when the world was asleep. I climbed trees and sang songs to the woods. I swam all day becoming as brown and leathery as an armadillo. I hid away in rose bush caves to write – all the while believing that magic existed, and every day held little miracles.
But what evokes childlike wonder now as a grownup? And as adults writing for children, can we even recapture that?
Regaining a childlike sense of wonder isn’t about returning to a childlike state, it’s about letting yourself be awed by the little things in your grownup life. Our mundane responsibilities can often dull our wonder, but just because every day is filled with little things it doesn’t mean they aren’t miraculous.
However, keeping our childlike wonder can be difficult when grownup duties mount. In order to do my job well as a children’s author, I often need to rekindle and sustain my kid wonder. But how?
11 ways to evoke childlike wonder:
- Re-visit pictures of ourselves as kids. Search through specific memories. Journal in our voice from that moment. What were we excited about? What did we most desire? What made us sad?
- Did you write diaries as a child or teen? Re-read them to inspire that voice of youth in your own writing.
- Look at the world from an unfamiliar perspective. Make a snow angel. Hide in a closet. Climb a tree. Be pulled along in a little red wagon (if you can fit!). There are Big Wheels for grownups now. Try it!
- Create a new bucket list with your kids or grandkids. What do they dream of doing that you could do together?
- Do your kids write stories? Read them to grasp a worldview through their own words. What do they notice? How do they feel?
- Revisit the age of your characters. Go back to that time in your life and draw a map of your neighborhood. Walk through it in your mind and journal about it. What do you see? How do you feel? How did you react to events there?
- Do a stand-up dramatic read-aloud of a scene in your story.
- Face a childhood fear (mine was going down in our creepy 200-year-old cellar where I was sure bodies were buried).
- Engage in child’s play with your kids. Hide-n-Seek, Tag. A favorite of my son and mine was battling sock wars to Irish music.
- Eavesdrop on kids at the mall or park. Take notes of their conversation.
- Visit those places you spent time at as a child. Walk in your childhood shoes again.
I did this last one not so long ago. I resurrected an old manuscript rich with one of my childhood settings. It prompted me to go back in time to the campground my parents owned and operated in New Hampshire. When I drove up, I was zapped back to the 1970s.
Suddenly, I was nine-years-old again. I swam in the pool, fished with my dad, romped through the woods, collected dead butterflies and shotgun shells, whizzed about on strap-on roller skates, played pinball machines, and spun 45 records on the jukebox.
Returning was an emotional gut punch. I could be a child again in that place of innocence but just as it resurrected joyous moments from childhood, it also brought back painful ones.
What did I take away from this trip for my writing?
- Vivid feelings of childhood – the good and the bad – to enrich my writing.
- Revisited my creative foundations and reinforced my yearning to write for kids.
- Fortified the connection from childhood to adulthood.
- That I can mend my past while forging my future from it.
- A renewed sense of childlike wonder, boxed up with a crooked bow and broken seams.
Most importantly, I remembered how awesome it was to be a kid again, to be lost in the moment. And that every day as a kid held magic. By renewing my own sense of childlike wonder, I could once again be lost in it while writing – and tap into the magic of the little things.
Have you ever thought of writing for children? And if you do write for children, how do you write from their point of view? Share your tips!
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Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. She attended an English school housed in a magical castle, where her wild imagination was held back only by her itchy uniform (bowler hat and tie included!). There she fell in love with the worlds of C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl, and wrote her first fantasy about Dodo birds, wizards, and a flying ship. She’s lived in other exotic locations, including Hawaii where she served as a U.S. Navy photographer. She lives with her family and two crazy cats in an old farmhouse, and dreams of returning one day to a castle.
Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She enjoys teaching at conferences on writing craft and marketing and presenting at elementary and middle schools. Visit her at www.elementtrilogy.com and www.donnagalanti.com.