Ways Fiction Writers Can Unlock Their Inner Child

Today’s guest post is by John Cabrera.

Fiction has few if any concrete rules. It is the product of imagination and is fueled by a sense of awe and wonder that has no boundary and thus cannot be defined by one definitive voice.

Children are born masters of fiction.

The mind of a child is not set by any boundaries until they grow older and form concrete ideas of the world around them. Through the eyes of a child, the world is a wondrous and amazing place, filled with new and exciting experiences that have yet to be discovered.

As adults it is too easy to allow cynicism and experience to take over. This is what a fiction writer must resolve in his own mind before putting pen to paper or fingers to keys. The world that is known must be forgotten in the creation of fiction.  

Learn from Children

Examples of this abound on playgrounds, in school classrooms, and through the simple uses of imagination that children put to use every waking day.

Children are not bogged down within the overlapping layers of life experience that can stymie the creative genius of adults. Despite their lack of the finer points of fiction, children are able to employ their imagination without benefit, or detriment, of what has come before or will occur as a result of their fictitious musings.

This is where adults tend to falter, as life experience and the perceived knowledge of how the world works can intrude upon the creative process.

Whereas children can produce a character and their origins from imagination alone, an adult will seek a detailed and complex backstory so as to gain the attention of readers.

A child does not worry over plots and subplots with any more concern than is required to move from beginning to end, but as adults we will seek to create various subplots that will better explain the story. Such subplots are often necessary to make a story more believable and even relatable to the reader.

Children don’t worry overly much about their environment either when pursuing a piece of fiction. It is a byproduct that belongs to the story, not the other way around.

Adults will lose themselves in the environment occasionally in an attempt to show the wondrous, awe-inspiring world they have created. Far too often I have found myself describing one piece of the fictitious environment, only to realize that I have, in essence, painted a vivid picture of one small part of the story at the expense of the reader’s attention.

There is a lesson I recall having learned in my high school years, and maybe you’ve heard it too: Keep it simple.

What My Inner Child Has Taught Me

So often I find it necessary to keep simplicity as my constant and handy tool to cut down on any extraneous description and out-of-control subplots.

Readers will only follow a story so far if they become metaphorically dizzy with description.

My own child has taught me a valuable lesson in this manner. The title of this piece is no fluke. I have seen the genius of children more than once in life and have marveled at how the simplicity of fiction is so well represented by those who cannot even spell the word.

The manner in how a child weaves one story into another is astounding as well as impressive. Children know so little of fiction, and yet they understand the common boundaries and the imagination required to tell a potentially epic tale.

There is no complication within fiction for children, there is just a story to be told.

For grammar, form, and possibly the chance to publish and become successful, it is wise to pay attention to savvy writing instruction. But as to the writing process I have two words that encapsulate my belief in writing: let go.

Yes you read that correctly. Let go of everything you know and everything you believe.

Fiction is not bound by natural law or even the limits of human imagination. It is a tool that can be whatever the writer needs it to be and can fix or destroy whatever the writer requires.

Children understand this, and adults tend to forget. I have forgotten a time or two that fiction is not a faucet to be turned on and off but rather a constantly flowing stream. Let go of everything else, and the idea of what to write and how to do it will come with time and practice.

The best writers in the world weren’t worth the paper their words were printed on in the beginning.

The moment you learn to let go, the ideas will be there. In that moment it becomes the responsibility of the writer to grasp the idea and run with it or let it go. How you write the story isn’t as important as the fact that you write it.

Children understand this concept, so why can’t we as adults do the same?

I value very much the simple wonder of children. Their capacity for wonder in a world that is new to them inspires me. To all aspiring writers I have much to say, but I will instead leave you with two distinct thoughts of my own.

First: if you wish to write fiction, just let go of your preconceptions and dive in. Let go of the safety rail and head for the deep end, where the greatest ideas are born. Second, and this is a personal motto of mine—three simple words that I live by and would recommend to anyone: Just write, dammit.

John Cabrera head shotJohn Cabrera is freelance writer, web content writer, editor, blogger, content strategist, and ghostwriter. He is the cofounder of Freelance Writer Opportunities, a blog dedicated to writers’ financial growth. Want to know how to create passive income from your exiting writing? Download the free digital guide Create Passive Income from Your Writing. Connect with John on Twitter here.

5 Responses to “Ways Fiction Writers Can Unlock Their Inner Child”

  1. vivienne Havalant-levijonhufvud September 7, 2016 at 3:52 am #

    My imagination as a kid led to incredible stories I acted out in the attic ( I loved to play in the attic as I could see the sea and beyond) I took long walks by the sea and hence more stories came. I am creating a new blog page for my book which I hope will be picked up by a publisher. I simply can’t afford to pay one of these new self-publishing promoting companies to get my book out there. I should be going live next week. Have one epic poem for kids about a little girl who meets a Dragon Cat and befriends a she wolf along her journey – Ylva is the Swedish name for she wolf cub.

  2. vivienne Havalant-levijonhufvud September 7, 2016 at 3:58 am #

    Shared widely on all mys sites.

  3. Sheila Good September 7, 2016 at 11:09 am #

    This is such a good article and reminder. We adults have a habit of making things more complicated than necessary. As they say, “Out of the mouths of babes.” Thanks for sharing. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

  4. Susannah MacDonald September 7, 2016 at 4:03 pm #

    This is very true. Since going back to working with children (art teacher) on a regular basis I’ve found I’ve relaxed a lot. I like what you say about children not being worried about plots, subplots etc. I’ve always written like a child would in that regard – never sat and planned. Life is not like that anyway. I can’t say I’ve ‘learnt’ from children in the strict sense of the word, but what has happened is that I’ve been taken back to that place before the layers plastered over me. I went right back to some of my original characters who have grown with me in my absence. What experience does for us is to ply us with tools and that is what has happened for me. A great article!

  5. John Cabrera September 8, 2016 at 8:02 am #

    There is nothing more satisfying than sharing something that is of value to my dear fellow writers. I guess being part of a great community brings the child in us.
    Thank you Vivienne, Sheila, Susannah.
    And thank you for sharing it on all your sites Vivienne.

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