The Making of: Little Caroline.

“Create the things you wish existed.”

A couple of years ago, I wrote a short children’s story based on some of the things I learnt from my Teaching Assistant days. As a Reading Mentor too, I must have read hundreds of stories with children, which allowed me to explore the way authors wrote to a young audience and the themes that seemed popular. What I didn’t come across when doing this, was any recent, up-to-date stories that taught children lessons about life, and how to believe in themselves as individuals. To make them want to do better. Okay, Aesop’s Fables were pretty crafty, but to be honest, these stories are getting outdated fast. There are probably stories out there like this, no doubt about it, but I wanted to create something of my own, from my own experiences. How could I create something at a particular level, that also taught a lesson to the reader? Little Caroline was born.

Little Caroline is a creative child who just wants a little praise and attention. A bit like any kid, really! She does the things she loves to do, and is actually rather proud of her achievements until she shows them off to her peers. They mock her efforts and say that what she has created isn’t up to standard. She doesn’t just give up altogether and think she’s not capable of doing any better, she goes back to the drawing board and improves what she did originally. The people who mocked her didn’t seem so cocky when they saw her brand new efforts! All she needed to do, was believe in herself.

Unfortunately, you have to deal with a lot of bullying and teasing  in a school environment, and it’s not very pleasant when you can see the effect it’s having on the victim. They don’t want to go to school, they seem very withdrawn and sometimes you can see a lack of effort in their work. However, writing a story about bullying isn’t particularly appealing. Writing about a bully is very ‘obvious’ and I didn’t want my story to be all about negativity. What child wants to read about that, really? I wanted to create something that promotes and encourages positivity. Something that a child could read and automatically think about the things they’re good at.

I’d been thinking about ideas for a children’s story for a while, but wasn’t really sure on the angle I wanted to take. Do I just follow the footsteps of authors that have written child-friendly content in the past? Risk writing something that is already out there and create something that’s not much different? No. I had my idea cemented in my mind for a while, it was just a case of putting pen to paper, (or finger to keyboard, as it was…)

The idea of Caroline’s character always makes me smile. I had a particular child in mind to base the character on, who was my ultimate favourite in all the years I’d worked with children. Not that you’re supposed to have favourites, but this very child always brightened my day. I still think about the things he’d come out with on a daily basis that made me laugh and the progress I saw in him over the years was really heart-warming. He always made an effort, no matter how many times the other children told him his handwriting wasn’t neat, or when he spelt a word incorrectly. He would always try, try and try again. He is Caroline. I changed the character to female, purely to fit with the image of how the story looked in my head. I still have an image of what she looks like in my imagination, but have yet to find an illustrator that uses the right style that I’ve imagined. I’m sure it will jump out at me one day!

The thought of getting a single copy of my current story published for myself only is so exciting to me – an idea I’ve thought about often. To be able to hold a physical copy of something I’ve written and created from scratch? What more could I want?! The fact of the matter is that I wouldn’t know where to start. It’s something to think about more in the future, especially when I’ve found the right illustrator… 🙂 There is the option of finding a publisher, but that wouldn’t be happening for a while, if at all. There’s a good few edits to be made before I get to that point anyway!

My future plans for Little Caroline include a range of ‘feel-good’ stories all about encouraging youngsters to do their best, and emphasising that doing their best is all they can do – and it should be enough! Future stories will tackle some of the topics that are relevant to the children of today and perhaps some of the regular issues that teachers have to deal with on a day to day basis, such as how to deal with bullies, the stress of tests and exams and maybe even the sensitive topics of home life. Again, something that will need more thought and planning.

I guess my advice to anyone who is thinking of creating a children’s story would be to do some research, and think hard about what’s already been done. Think about what is popular and what works, as long as it isn’t another book about the ridiculous adventures of Biff, Chip and Kipper. I think we’ve all had enough of those to last a lifetime.

Perhaps you have some little characters in mind that have really stuck with you, or you want to create a totally new character that is purely fictional. Whatever it is, have fun with it and see what you can come up with. It’s why we all do this writing malarkey after all…

Have any of you got your own stories published? If so, how did you go about it? I’d also love to see any links to stories you may have written yourselves in any genre! 🙂

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