How to Write a Story For A Child
Instructions for writing a story for a small child, as a gift.
First, consider the child.
Is it small and sticky, or tall and clumsy? Does it prefer pickles, or ice cream? Pants or sequins? Measure it: first, from top to bottom, second, from belly button around to belly button. Is said belly button an innie, or an outie? If an innie, how deep? Does the child commune with other creatures? Real or imagined? What are these creatures’ names, ages, habits of mind?
Second, secure materials. Paper, scissors, glue are essential. You may steal them from the child in question, and return them later by express post. Most children are delighted by things that come in the post. As are adults. And foxes. Stamps, stickers, leaves, dirt, pencil shavings are all useful equipment. Bubbles are good, though temperamental. Writing in the bath will soften the blow. Writing at a table, while definitely unusual, will steady your hand. Useful if you are inclined to wobble. The best place to begin is in the garden. Take the first turn to the left and go on from there. Go around that thing in the corner. Sorry about that: we have been meaning to get some burly fellows in and have it removed. [We accept no liability for injuries incurred whilst writing].
Consider what form the story should take. Roundness is good. Anything resembling a cake, or an animal small enough to be held in a hand or on a lap, will delight the average child. But who cares about them? A story in the form of a bird will entertain most. Stories in the form of elephants, while dangerous, are beloved. Stories in the form of a bottle are, in equal parts, involving and endlessly peculiar.
Now, here is the difficult part. Remember that this story is not about you, or for you, or for the injured child you remember yourself once being. Or even for the secure, happy, loved creature you were. Or the child you wish the child you are making this gift for really was: better, brighter, prettier, smarter or kinder.
This story is a gift. For a true child. All horns and drool and spit and teeth.
A gift is a thing you give away. The best gifts are things drawn out from deep inside the soul of the person to whom they are given. They are like beautiful photographs taken of the recipient while they were sleeping. A true gift is something you always needed, even if you never knew it existed.
Consider the child. Picture the child in its room, on the floor perhaps, lying on a rug in the sunshine. Loose and happy as a hot-limbed cat. Look at the book spread over its sleeping belly. One hand lies protectively on the cover. Or perhaps the book is underneath the child. Perhaps the child is sleeping on top of the book, in order to secure the book to the world. The pages are broken and dog-eared. The spine of the book is broken. Its back is bent.
Don’t be concerned. The book you can see is not the real book. All of the book you must write is inside the child. The pages spread over the child’s belly are just the shell in which it was once contained.
Lie down on the rug, spread the sunshine over yourself. Let it dig itself into your bones. Let the sunshine eat you. This is not as painful as you think. When you are completely dissolved – when you have become those little spots of drifting *stuff* you see when you close your eyes and look into the sun – you will feel the story come into your arms.