The Dancing Puritan

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

C.S. Lewis: Writing for Children

Remembering C.S. Lewis: Part One

November 29, 1898--November 22, 1963



It is usual to speak in a playfully apologetic tone about one's adult enjoyment of what are called 'children's books.' I think the convention a silly one. No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty--except, of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we out to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all. A mature palate will probably not much care for crème de menthe: but it ought still to enjoy bread and butter and honey. C.S.L.

One of the reasons that the writings of C.S. Lewis continue to capture the imagination of children and adults is that he saw pictures as he wrote.

With me the process is much more like bird-watching than like either talking or building. I see pictures. Some of these pictures have a common flavor, almost a common smell, which groups them together. Keep quiet and watch and they will begin joining themselves up. . . I have no idea whether this is the usual way of writing stories, still less whether it is the best. It is the only one I know: images always come first.

Lewis did not think that the best way to write was to imagine a particular need that a random person might have and then to write about it. His writing was much more personal than that. He said ". . . I think we can be sure that what does not concern us deeply will not deeply interest our readers, whatever their age."

His writing for children grew out of his sense of commonality with children. "We must write for children out of those elements in our own imagination which we share with children: differing from our child readers not by any less, or less serious, interest in the things we handle, but by the fact that we have other interests which children would not share with us."

Lewis writes:

Once in a hotel dining-room I said, rather too loudly, 'I loathe prunes.' 'So do I,' came an unexpected six-year-old voice from another table. Sympathy was instantaneous. Neither of us thought it funny. We both knew that prunes are far too nasty to be funny. That is the proper meeting between man and child as independent personalities. On the far higher and more difficult relations between child and parent or child and teacher, I say nothing. An author, as a mere author, is outside of all that. He is not even an uncle. He is a freeman and an equal, like the postman, the butcher, and the dog next door.

Quotes above are from Of Other Worlds: Essays & Stories by C.S. Lewis