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Blue Minnow

Is there really such a thing as "children's stories"?

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Posted (edited)

I read this article right after this question came to mind:  https://www.sallylloyd-jones.com/why-theres-no-such-thing-as-childrens-books/

 

Recently, I reread the Max Lucado book You Are Special.  I still enjoyed it, but I enjoyed it in a different way.  It was like I was reading this book through new eyes that made this story completely different to how I saw it before.  It was like the story grew with me.

 

This made me wonder--why do we even have age groups when stories can grow with their readers?  Have stories always fit neatly into little boxes for different ages throughout history, or is "children's"/"adult's" stories a new concept that had developed along with our modern ways of thinking?  There seems to be a pattern happening here:  It's almost like the more "mature"(aka inappropriate) adult stories become, the more childish "children's stories" become.

 

People have asked me before to define the genre and age group of my short stories, but really, I just like to write stories.  JRR Tolkien didn't have an age in mind when he wrote Lord Of The Rings--some people call Tolkien's stories "children's literature", but I haven't been able to read, understand, and enjoy Lord Of The Rings up until now.  I highly doubt that Arthur Conan Doyle was thinking YA, or NA novels when he was writing the Sherlock Holmes stories--I believe that his stories can be enjoyed from ages 12 to 100.  I also doubt that the creators of The Flintstones had an age in mind when they made this funny family cartoon.  Has anyone else struggled with this question?  Why do we have so many age groups now?  Why can't we just have ageless stories?

Edited by Blue Minnow
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While I agree with you that children's stories are really enjoyed by all ages (Winnie the Pooh, anyone?), we do unfortunately have age groups because of marketing. Where age group classifications are a modern development, it probably ties in to the refinement of marketing systems. And authors today do need to be aware of them if they want to sell their work. 

 

19 hours ago, Blue Minnow said:

Why can't we just have ageless stories?

Let me pose a question to you in response: are there any truly ageless stories? I find that I enjoy Winnie the Pooh a lot more now in my early twenties than I ever did as a child. Is that not just because my understanding of language has grown, meaning that I appreciate the play on words in the stories? 

 

This is just my hypothesis, but I think that children's stories resonate with adults because adults wrote them. Just my two cents worth. 

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Posted (edited)
54 minutes ago, Claire Tucker said:

While I agree with you that children's stories are really enjoyed by all ages (Winnie the Pooh, anyone?), we do unfortunately have age groups because of marketing. Where age group classifications are a modern development, it probably ties in to the refinement of marketing systems. And authors today do need to be aware of them if they want to sell their work. 

 

Let me pose a question to you in response: are there any truly ageless stories? I find that I enjoy Winnie the Pooh a lot more now in my early twenties than I ever did as a child. Is that not just because my understanding of language has grown, meaning that I appreciate the play on words in the stories? 

 

This is just my hypothesis, but I think that children's stories resonate with adults because adults wrote them. Just my two cents worth. 

I also love Winnie the Pooh:)  I never read the books yet, but I have watched the Disney movies, and even today I enjoy them.  I would like to read them someday. 

 

"Are there truly ageless stories?"  That's a good question...  maybe there aren't, but I still feel like today's categories are way too narrow. 

 

I think that the book You Are Special resonates with me now more than when I was little because of it's message about pride and shame.  I have lived longer now than when I was a child, so in general, this means that I've struggled with pride and shame for a longer period of time. 

 

Would my publishing agent or publishers be the people who choose the age group for my stories, or would this responsibility fall on me?  I wouldn't be happy about having to choose an age demographic myself, but if I'd have to I would. 

Edited by Blue Minnow

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9 minutes ago, Blue Minnow said:

Would the publishers be the people who choose the age group of my stories, or would this responsibility fall on me?  I wouldn't be happy about having to choose an age demographic myself, but if I'd have to I would. 

Unfortunately, this would land on you, even in traditional publishing. Much of the marketing will be your responsibility, which includes choosing an age range. 

 

One way to do this would be to look at your themes. There are themes that resonate more with younger readers (friendship, honesty, etc) even though elements of these appear in fiction for adults. 

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4 hours ago, Claire Tucker said:

themes that resonate more with younger readers (friendship, honesty, etc)

Sigh. I think we need more of these themes in adult books too. Some don't seem to have learned them.

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Posted (edited)
On ‎4‎/‎8‎/‎2020 at 2:14 PM, Claire Tucker said:

 

Let me pose a question to you in response: are there any truly ageless stories?

Hi Claire,

 

I think that I replied to your question too quickly before, and I forgot about some very important examples of ageless stories.  How about the parables that Jesus told?  Aren't they ageless? 

 

We also have fables.  Unlike the fairy tales, they don't appear to be altered--if the fairy tales from the dark ages were never changed they would have remained extremely inappropriate for children (or anyone).  However, according to my understanding, it seems like the fables, such as "The Tortious And the Hare" and even the darker ones that involve death, remain mostly unaltered. 

 

The fables aren't perfect, of course.  For example, we have confused some of their messages as being from the Bible when they aren't.  For example,  "God helps those who help themselves" isn't Biblical; in fact, this message had been enforced by a couple of Aesop's Fables.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_helps_those_who_help_themselves).

 

However, this doesn't mean that the fables lack meaning. 

 

Even as adults we use morals from the fables, and especially Christs parables, to help us to move forward through this complicated life. 

 

If a story was never altered does this mean that it's ageless--that it can never fit into an age category? 

Edited by Blue Minnow

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I was the kid that looked up English ecclesiastical history while reading Gulliver's Travels and could tell you why the "Fury Said to A Mouse..." poem in Alice in Wonderland was different from the works of e.e. cummings. I've memorized Dr. Seuss stories.

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The Narnia stuff by C. S. Lewis was all Children's stories.  You find LOTS of adults reading them, as well as the Hobbit too.

 

The same with Harry Potter.

 

I challenge anyone to speed-read aloud Fox in Sox, and claim that this is not a book for a skilled reader...

 

 

 

 

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I would say that there are stories written for children as the audience, but that doesn't mean the story couldn't be rewritten in a manner that resonates more with adults. I think it depends on how you write it. An exceptionally well-written story can resonate with both. But, like @Claire Tucker mentioned, generally you have to pick one or the other for marketing reasons.

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Quote

“I do not write for children, but for the childlike, whether of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.”
― George MacDonald

At the same time one of the universal principles for designing any product is to have an ideal person in mind. So, while anything well written will connect far beyond that person, we feel the intimacy of the author-single audience member. I write for children, but am aware of the parents and pastors who read as well. Mostly what I do is talk to the 11 year old nerdy boy I picture and make sure anything I say will resonate well with the adults he interacts with. 

And I love reading 'children's' stories for their more limited depiction of evil while allowing for platonic relationships of all kinds. Most of the things that make a story 'adult' I don't want to let in my downtime. What do I care if the protagonist is younger than my kids?

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, Celebrianne said:

 

Most of the things that make a story 'adult' I don't want to let in my downtime. 

If I understand you correctly, are you saying that most so-called "adult" stories include content that we shouldn't fill our minds with?  Because if so I full-heartedly agree with you.  It seems like nowadays the word "mature" means anything that's condescending, and demeaning towards adults.

 

I really like your mindset Celebrianne.  🙂  I'm a little different in that I like to write stories with main characters who are adults without defined ages, but I try to create personalities that resonate with many different ages.  This is because growing up I felt a little sad whenever I grew older than a character I loved.  I think that part of the reason that feel this way is because I didn't reach certain milestones as quickly as other people.   I would watch these characters reaching milestones such as graduating, driving a car, and year-after-year would pass and I didn't reach these same milestones.  

 

What I want to instill in my readers is that it doesn't matter how long it takes to reach a certain milestone--what matters is that they are working towards something that they know is God's will for their lives.  What matters is that they are persevering, but not driving so quickly that they will crash, and injure themselves and the people around them.   

Edited by Blue Minnow
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53 minutes ago, Blue Minnow said:

What matters is that they are persevering, but not driving so quickly that they will crash, and injure themselves and the people around them.   

A good goal for life.

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58 minutes ago, Blue Minnow said:

What I want to instill in my readers is that it doesn't matter how long it takes to reach a certain milestone--what matters is that they are working towards something that they know is God's will for their lives

This sounds like it's worthy of a novel, @Blue Minnow

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Claire Tucker said:

This sounds like it's worthy of a novel, @Blue Minnow

Thank you Claire.  :)

 

This message isn't going to be in a novel, (at least not yet), but right now its an undertone that's woven throughout my short stories.  

Edited by Blue Minnow

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4 hours ago, Blue Minnow said:

I'm a little different in that I like to write stories with main characters who are adults without defined ages, but I try to create personalities that resonate with many different ages. 

Sounds like I would enjoy your writing, Blue Minnow. I had actually meant 'scary' as well as the gross underbelly of our broken current world.

I had the opposite feeling when I first read Anne of Green Gables and she got way older than me by then end even though we started out at the same age. But if I had a way to guarantee a genre of books wouldn't be too gritty/dangerous/immoral, I would enjoy reading a book with no child characters. 

But I love to write for kids myself, it keeps me young!

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Posted (edited)
30 minutes ago, Celebrianne said:

Sounds like I would enjoy your writing, Blue Minnow. I had actually meant 'scary' as well as the gross underbelly of our broken current world.

I had the opposite feeling when I first read Anne of Green Gables and she got way older than me by then end even though we started out at the same age. But if I had a way to guarantee a genre of books wouldn't be too gritty/dangerous/immoral, I would enjoy reading a book with no child characters. 

But I love to write for kids myself, it keeps me young!

Thank you so much Celebrianne!  :)  Oh, I think I know the feeling that your talking about.  I also felt like she grew up too quickly for me.  She was still younger than me when I tried to read the later books, so I had this strange feeling like I couldn't keep up with the milestones she reached.  I recognize that this isn't a healthy point-of-view for me to have.  I just have to remember that age is just a number.  Maybe your writing would help me to see things in a more positive light.  

Edited by Blue Minnow

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