I am Moon-Face: Writing characters for children

Why Moon-Face?

‘Come and give Mummy a hug,’ I say to Little Sunshine Girl.

‘You are not Mummy. You are Moon-Face!’ she cries.

I have been Moon-Face for nearly a month. I miss being Mummy.

Funnily enough, my name has nothing to do with the shape of my face. It is far from round. I would go more with Crescent-Moon-Face, if you want to be accurate.

Moon-Face is the round-faced fantasy character from The Faraway Tree books by Enid Blyton.

Moon-Face

Not really me. Source.

There could be worse characters than Moon-Face.

But I wonder what it is about Moon-Face, specifically, which has so captured my child’s imagination?

He is quite a simple character. He is loveable. He is a friend to the children. He is kind, generous and loyal. I feel like being asked to be Moon-Face is symbolic of my friendship with my daughter; she wants me to play with her as a friend rather than a mummy.

Engaging with children’s book characters, and with children through characters

Playing a character is the easiest and most enjoyable way of engaging with my daughter’s imagination. I find playing games with children surprisingly difficult, but this is a game I can play all day long while doing the house chores and other activities I need to do. As long as I answer back in character.

There is something about bringing children’s books to life which is magical. Since we began reenacting The Faraway Tree, Sunshine Girl has ceased asking to watch television or use the iPad. Her little mind is stimulated and engaged. Some of the story lines come directly from the story itself. Some are completely imagined.

Our play is a stream of consciousness. We move from one character, one world, to another, like a dream.

Through character reenactment, I have the privilege of understanding what my daughter likes in a character, what she identifies in a character, what she wants a character to do, and her idea of an entertaining story line.

Where do children’s book characters originate?

Reenacting characters and stories has been fun for both of us. It’s also been creatively advantageous to me. Occasionally, a little pearl emerges as we play. I capture it, by writing it down. These little pearls become fodder for the children’s stories I am writing. Actually, that’s a bit misleading – we clearly write them together. My daughter suggests a line, or a character, a phrase or a setting, and I use it to tell a story. She responds with a modification or an elaboration. Back-and-forth, the story goes. Stretching out. Lengthening. Twirling. Refining.

We have created some magic between us, we really have.

Writing for children is about getting into a child’s world, and into their mind. I am in the perfect place to create characters for children’s stories. I live with an articulate and imaginative three-and-a-half year old, who’s mind is still so fresh and fluid. And thankfully, she tells me what’s going on in there. She tells me about the characters that interest her. Through my daughter, I get to understand how the characters need to think.

I take notes when we play, and when we read together. As much as possible, I am trying to tap into this magical time. It’s a privilege. When my children are older, I will have to get better at imagining what children actually enjoy reading to be able to write for them.

What makes a good children’s book character?

Although the fantasy worlds captured in storybooks are often far removed from reality, the best stories for children are those that speak to the heart of the child. They usually have a very human element; deal with a complex emotional problems, or a real experience the child is dealing with. The classic example of this is Max from Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Little Max is frustrated, and feeling aggressive. Sent to his room, he disappears into a fantasy world where he is in charge of wild creatures. Although the setting and characters are partly fictional, Max’s emotions are very real.

The same could be said of the Harry Potter series, aimed at older children. I think one of the reasons why this series is so appealing to so many age groups is that, fantastical as the setting is, the characters and their problems are very identifiable.

The character can be magical – a wizard, a talking animal, a Moon-Face – but to work, they need to have a heart like a child.

This post was inspired by Ashley Howland from Ghostnapped. A group of bloggers are playing a little “Secret Subject Swap” game, where each blogger gives another a secret subject on which to write. Ashley’s subject was very appropriate – ‘writing for children & creating characters for children’.

Other participating bloggers include:

  • OH moon face, adorable! Kids authors are amazing aren’t they? To be able to tap into such creativity and then have that shine right through onto the faces of the little readers is so beautiful. I love watching my girls as they read or are read to – their little faces become alive and I can almost see their imagination running away with them.

    • Yes, it’s so beautiful Jodi!

  • Emily Morgan

    Awesome! It sounds like so much fun – I can’t wait til my little girl can play such games with me. Funnily enough, I did use to have very ambivalent views on Moonface – he used to annoy me!!

    • I actually remember feeling like that too when I was younger Emily!

  • Oh I just love children’s characters. My boys go from character obsession to the next. Grug a few weeks ago. We were putting on Grug concerts almost every day! Now it is Maisy. That dear little mouse had me scouring eBay for plush toys and props so we can host the next round of concerts! That is the magic of children’s characters – in every infinite detail, children believe that they are real x

    • Grug! Fun. I love the idea of Grug concerts. Yes, Maisy is popular here too. This evening though it was Princess Holly…not sure where that comes from. Sounds like you really through yourself into it xx

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  • i have such wonderful childhood memories of reading that book with my mum. You have made me all sentimental xx

  • Wonderful post! I can definitely identify with your notes about good children’s book characters. My favorite author as a child was Roald Dahl, mostly because his characters were usually children my own age with personalities and problems that I could relate to. I remember having so much fun reading about Matilda, a young girl who loved reading and who was so frustrated by the grown-up world around her that she developed telekinetic powers to help her deal with it. Thankfully, my family was much kinder and more loving than hers, but it was still enjoyable to imagine what my life would be like if I could develop the same powers as her!

    • We love Roald Dahl too! Just reading James and the Giant Peach at the moment. Poor Roald Dahl children always start life in a bad place unfortunately. 🙂

  • AParentingLife

    Moon-Face is such a lovely character and I particularly love how he is passed on through the generations. I imagine most of us had these childhood books that we are now delighting in sharing with our children. Well done on a wonderful post

    • Yes, few characters have made it through four generations…Amazing! x

  • Ashley

    Well done, wonderful post! I’m glad you embraced my topic it is very dear to my heart. My girls are so involved in my writing, They help develop the characters, give me ideas for the plot and I even read it out loud to them to help me edit. They love to see my name on the front cover! Glad to hear you do the same with your daughter!

    • What a magical process Ashley. I would love to read your books one day!

  • Ahhh crescent moon face 😉 I love the relationship you have with your daughter. She sounds like the sweetest little thing. We’ve been doing lots of acting out today too. Today, she was cinderella and I was the fairy godmother.

    • Can’t go passed Cinderella. Think we may have done that too a few days ago. Some fairy tales like that, and Billy Goats Gruff, never get ‘old’. x

  • Erin @ Coffee Talk with Erin

    That is wonderful that you are collaborating with your daughter to create beautiful stories. I am writing a YA book and miss my teaching days where I was immersed in their world so am using my memory to recreate their voice. If I was teaching Im not sure I would have the time to write so it is the best I can do. Lovely post. x

    • What is your book Erin? Is it your first? Keen to know more!

  • TwitchyCorner

    How beautiful that you want to, and have the time to ‘create magic together’. Writing all these things down will be a treasure for you both in the future. Clearly, both our daughters adore the Faraway Tree and characters 🙂 I wish I felt inspired to write our own stories but I haven’t as yet.

  • moonduster

    So true! The main character does have to have the heart of a child, and such wonderful hearts they are! As a mom of seven, I know too well how purely the hearts of children can shine. Great post!

    • Seven! How incredible. x

      • moonduster

        I never would have guessed, when I was younger, that I would have a large family, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it now. 🙂

  • Maxabella

    Sometimes I think that knowing as much as we know is inspirational and sometimes I think that it holds us back. We question everything!! I bet Enid didn’t… That said, a beautiful children’s character for me is questioning and accepting. x

  • I loved reading this Zanni – children’s books fascinate me and I treasure the moments I sit down with my boys over a good book. I don’t think I’ve thought about the characters that my eldest might associate with, though. We always talk about the story and the emotions, but I’m really interested in this, so I’m going to explore this a bit more. I love that your daughter calls you Moon Face!

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