Welcome to the second installment of C. S. Lewis’ essays and today is Three Techniques for Writing for Children.
Three Ways of Writing for Children
- Writing what children like to read, but not what the author likes.
- A story told to a particular child with the living voice.
- “Writing a children’s story because a children’s story is the best art form for something you have to say…”
The third option is how Lewis wrote his Narnia series.
In addition, the stories we write need to be enjoyable to not just children, but adults as well. Think about Narnia, his original audience was children, yet I’m not sure if you could classify them as “childish” books. They are simply stories of adventure in a another realm, something readers of any age can enjoy.
When Lewis wrote his essay, fantasy books were being relegated to children by critics, something that he certainly didn’t agree with.
Arguments Against Fantasy Because of the Fear They Could Bring to the Child
- The possibility of phobias
Lewis agreed that we should not give children phobias, or an uncontrollable fear of objects. But if critics meant #2, Lewis disagreed.
2. The knowledge that we live in an evil world.
If readers read books which never have good and evil, heroes and villains, aren’t we giving them an unrealistic view of what our world is like?
“Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”
I heartily agree with Lewis when he says, “Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let the villains be soundly killed at the end of the book.”
Should Books Have Morals?
Lewis says that instead of asking what do modern children need?” We should ask, “What moral do I need?”
In addition we should let the moral grow from the story and not tacked on just to make it a Christian book.
If we just tack one on it, “Is likely to be platitude, or even a falsehood, skimmed from the surface of your consciousness. It is impertinent to offer children that. For we have been told on high authority that in the moral sphere they are probably at least as wise as we.”
“The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author’s mind.”
I’m not sure if I completely agree with Lewis, because I want my books to contain truths that can impact lives. But, in addition, a moral tacked on just for the sake of having one, without it being an integral part of the story, isn’t good either.
The Child as a Reader
“The child as a reader is neither to be patronized nor idolised: we must talk to him as man to man. But the worst attitude of all would be the professional attitude which regards children in the lump as a sort of raw material which we have to handle. We must of course try to do them no harm: we may, under the Omnipotence, sometimes dare to hope that we may do them good. But only such good as involves treating them with respect.”
We have a responsibility to our readers, not to write down to them. Instead, we should just give them a story that speaks to our souls.
(All excerpts taken from On Stories And Other Essays On Literature; Harcourt Brace & Company; copyright 1982, 1966 by C. S. Lewis PTE Ltd)
Thank you for reading. I hope these few points have been enlightening. Essay #3 will be coming out next week. If you want to read the essay search for, On Stories And Other Essays On Literature. Our library has a program where they can order books from other libraries across the state. That’s how I got my hands on my copy, so there’s my helpful hint today. 😉