Okay, so it’s not that drastic. Not all children are illogical (in the adult sense of the word). And not all adults write bores (in the children’s sense of the word). Reminds me of what C.S. Lewis wrote in The Magician’s Nephew: the children are musing about what could possibly in an empty house, and then Polly says, “Daddy thought it must be the drains.” To which Digory responds, “Pooh! Grown-ups are always thinking of uninteresting explanations.”

I was looking over some of my eight-year-old students’ fiction, and it struck me how carefree and without logic most of the plot lines are. I find it hilarious that we, as adult instructors, go in and try to mold the story arc to follow cause-and-effect, emotional logic, and all that good stuff that we learned in our MFA program.

So what about adults who write children’s literature? I’m mainly thinking of Norton Juster (Phantom Tollbooth) and Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland). Even Dr. Seuss, to some extent, is nonsensical, though when he makes up words, we sort of get what he means. Sometimes.

What about “nonsense” that is so appealing to children? If we say that great writers are able to see humanity from a birds-eye view, then beginning writers…cannot, and therefore falls back on writing about personal experiences without knowing how to universi-fy them. Eight-year-old writers do not care so much for cause-and-effect, even in their own lives, much less in fiction. Spontaneity feels like a virtue, like “being the fun one,” and not so much “irresponsibility,” which we adults come to accept, in life and in fiction.

What is foreshadow? What is transition? What is verisimilitude?

However, as a recent MFA graduate, I simply will not admit that everything I have learned is laid to waste. Story structure, story continuity, plot-sense, are, to me, the unifying hand that holds up the spontaneous story, so that the reader feels like he/she is being held by the hand, feels safe, within the dangers of all the twists and turns.

However, Safety is not Bore. Goodness. Safety is trust in the author. So once an author learns the basics of the story, he/she best make it exciting so as to deserve the reader’s trust.


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