3 Things Writers can Learn about Storytelling from Children

children

HOW MUCH EFFORT DOES IT TAKE YOU TO TELL A STORY?

I don’t mean with regards to practice and skill—it’s important to produce quality writing when your storytelling medium is the written word. Readers can usually tell when we haven’t paid attention to quality, and few things are more irritating than starting to read a book and discovering it has sloppy writing.

What I mean is, could you tell a gripping story to someone in the elevator? If a person was blind and couldn’t read, would you still be a storyteller? How dependent are you on letters and perfect phrases to transport your audience somewhere else?

I hope to one day be able to tell stories in everyday speech with the ease and enthusiasm of a child—here’s why.

THE HEART OF STORY

Though books consist of words on pages, they’re so much more than that. A good book hinges more on truth than the words recounting it. I’m not downplaying the importance of talent, but there’s a difference between quality writing and complicated writing.

Take a moment to put the notebook away and think: What’s the heart of a story?

Consider a child with limited vocabulary who won’t stop talking. I’m sure you’ve met one who told a story so vivid the narrative blew you away. How could a six-year-old’s words impact you when they probably don’t make sense all the time?

The difference is a fearless passion we lose growing up. Children don’t worry about the order of their words; something has happened to excite them. They want to share the excitement—it’s so great that it can’t wait, and everyone needs to hear it!

This is the passion storytellers should aim for. We want our audience to experience tales and love characters as we do.

3 SECRETS

What qualities make a written story powerful, like one a child may tell?

Children don’t filter their stories. They don’t rearrange words to make them sound better, nor do they worry about offending. Because of this, it can be difficult to follow their stories, but the beauty is that they don’t care—they keep going.

How thoroughly do you ‘clean’ your words to keep others happy? When that clean-up is finished, is it the same story you started with? Be careful with overediting, for it can change everything.

Children don’t compare. They aren’t trying to sound better than anyone; they just want to be heard if something has caught their interest. They speak what’s in their heart and care little about how much better that other person tells it.

How much do you compare yourself to other writers, envying their talent or audience? Try telling your story simply to be heard; if you’re passionate, improvement will come naturally.

Children are unapologetic. A child tells his story the way he sees it, unfiltered and raw. It’s worth asking yourself if the worldview that matters most is that of a child; there may not be a clearer mirror in which to see yourself.

Have you changed your point of view to keep from hurting someone’s feelings? A story that walks on eggshells with readers risks becoming weak. Instead of worrying about the reader’s opinion, tell things as they are to you; that honesty might accidentally make you a bestseller.

HAVING COURAGE TO DREAM

Children allow room for imagination. They haven’t wandered into the trap of real life; they can see the world outside the box. Hearing a tale from them is a real gift, a flashback to that innocent world we’ve long outgrown. They remind us there is magic, and growing up is optional.

Are you afraid to daydream and apply that magic to real life? This is a tumultuous world where people crave escape; be the one to write a story that’ll help them return to their childhood dreams.

One sentence told with the passion of a child could touch a listener forever, because children are so real and human! It’s never too late to see the world in all its magic once more; you just have to be brave enough to see with the eyes of a child.

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