I’m currently reading T. J. Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea. It’s unlike anything I typically read, or that I’ve ever read before. And I mean that in a good way. While the book is intended for adult readers, it incorporates elements of storytelling that are traditionally incorporated into children’s stories, which is much more difficult than it seems at first. And it’s made me realize that gleaning inspiration from children’s stories so that you can write for adults will not only challenge you as a writer but reintroduce you to the underlying magic of storytelling in general.

Relive the storytelling magic of your childhood

If you were fortunate enough to be read to as a child, you’ll likely remember being entranced by the characters of each of your favorite stories. They were likely incredibly vivid to you. And still are. You can likely envision each character’s facial features and clothes, personality, where they lived, etc.– all in vivid detail.

You’ll also likely remember the specific dilemmas your favorite characters needed to overcome in each children’s story. And who or what stood in their way to overcoming those dilemmas– the villains or antagonists of each story. You might even recall the fear or worry such villains and antagonists caused you.

What you may not remember, however, or perhaps you do, is the overall moral or point of each children’s story you encountered as a child. The key takeaways from each story were likely moral instructions like: be persistent, be kind, don’t judge someone without knowing them first, learn to be self-sufficient but ask for help when you need it, and that doing the right thing leads to good results for everyone in the long run, and so on.

Take a moment to think about some of your favorite stories from childhood. Can you remember why you were so entranced by them? And what key storytelling elements they had?

Key elements of children’s stories to remember for your writing as an adult

After you reminisce about stories from your childhood and pinpoint what made them so magical, make a list of key elements they included. Then consider how you can incorporate those same elements into the stories you write for adults now. Here’s a list of key elements and instructions I came up with for now:

  1. Introduce your main characters and the worlds in which they live as vividly as possible, as soon as possible.
  2. Develop your main characters so readers will want to follow their story. Make them interesting yet also easy to relate to.
  3. Make sure each main character overcomes some sort of dilemma or obstacle in the story. And have the main plot of your story revolve around their progress in overcoming that dilemma or obstacle.
  4. Create believable antagonists that instigate or create each main character’s dilemma or obstacle. Have their development mirror or diverge from the main character’s development.
  5. Include a key takeaway or message in each plot or story, likely uncovered by the main characters as they overcome their dilemmas or obstacles.

What’s on your list? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page so we can discuss it.

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