You have decided on a fabulous idea. You are going to write a children’s story about Johnnie Rabbit, and he is going to be anthropomorphic. Although you have seen rabbits in the backyard and at the petting zoo, you really do not know much about them, except that the meat is eaten because you have seen it at the supermarket. How are you going to write a convincing story about a rabbit and not seem stupid? You must research, and do it diligently.
Research is a major part of writing for children. You must research your subject and the market place. First, the subject. What are rabbits? What do they eat? Are they herbivores or carnivores? Where do they live? (You don’t want write in your story that Johnnie Rabbit lives in a sty!) How large do they become? What are their habits? Gathering this important information not only provides meat for your story, it gives it authenticity and makes your character real even if Johnnie Rabbit is fictional.
When I decided to write my children’s story, Nosey Charlie Comes To Town, the only thing I knew about squirrels is that they are always hiding nuts. I had no idea what they ate—it could not be just nuts! —although I have observed a determined little squirrel who regularly visits my backyard and tries every trick in the book, including lying vertically against the fence, in order to eat the seeds in the bird feeder. My research taught me that their diet consists of nuts, fruits, and seeds. This information was handily incorporated into the story and will certainly be used again and again in other episodes of The Nosey Charlie Adventures.
Second, you must research the children’s book market. Are there books about rabbits and similar animals? How many are there? Tapping into Amazon.com and Google will give you a good idea. You should also check how recent the last book on the subject was published. Are rabbits a popular subject in the children’s book genre? Read pop culture magazines and watch recent cartoons to get a sense of trends and speech patterns. Once you are satisfied with the answers to these questions, and it appears that there is a market for your rabbit story, get set to take step # 3.
Next article: Buy, Borrow, but don’t steal!