I think I've stated before that the biggest influence on my writing has been my family. I have eleven siblings. I've told them stories all their lives. So, in a way, writing for children comes rather easily to me, because most of the time, I'm just writing down stories I've told them. My six youngest siblings range in age from ten to two. They in particular, have been a huge influence on my writing the last few years. A great deal of what I've learned about writing for children has come from their reactions to stories I told them.
As I've also said before, the inspiration for my fictional world of Quara came directly from my younger siblings. Without them, it would never have been written. It all started one night a few years ago when four of the six were having a camp-out/sleepover outside and just would not settle down and go to sleep. The tomboy (see below) was especially wild. I needed something that would calm them down and fast. Hence, a spur of the moment story focusing on this mischievous little princess, a fictional version of said tomboy sister. Within a few moments of beginning the story all four siblings were quiet and listening eagerly. I made up the story as I went along, adapting it to the interest of my audience. Were their eyes sparkling? I continued in that vein of the story. Were they looking bored and growing restless? Spice it up with some unexpected twist. By the end of fifteen minutes, I'd spun a short story about the princess and her pets hiding in an abandoned part of the castle, and everyone else spending half the day looking for them, along with a fairly realistic explanation for how they could hide without any of the numerous guards having seen them go into hiding.
The children liked it so much they insisted I write it down- and thus evolved this fictional world. My biggest inspiration continues to be them and their everyday play worlds and games. The Royal Family of Esidaraq is a fictionalized version of my own family. Each sibling is represented by a sibling in the Royal Family, though some details have of course been changed, to protect the guilty, er, innocent. :)
The likes and dislikes of each child have also influenced the events in Quara. The eldest of the six younger children is sensitive and easily bored. Yet, being a boy, he likes violence. So, I have to write violence in a way that will not scare him, but will still give him the thrilling excitement he's looking for. Also, I have to keep things moving at a pace that holds his interest.
The second boy is All Boy, as we like to call him sometimes. Teasing, tormenting, rough and tumble. However, he is also a bit of a dandy- he's very particular about his clothes (his dress clothes anyway). I have to write plenty of adventure for him as well as include details about the princes' clothes, not just the princesses'.
The eldest girl is of the six loves princesses, fancy gowns, dancing, tea parties and etiquette. She is definitely a girly girl. So, for her, I put in plenty of balls, tea parties and the elaborate etiquette of the Court of Esidaraq.
The next sister is a tomboy through and through. For her, a princess who rides and fights with the boys, but still behaves like a girl. (Which also happens to be the kind of girl I love to write. It was my favorite type to read about when I was younger, too.)
The youngest girl is a very precise, orderly type- much like myself. Looking at her, I find it easier to remember what I was like when I was younger, and that in turn, guides the story.
The baby is a little too young to have played a major role yet, but there are little habits of his that add color and inspiration to the story.
Consistently, after I've been working on worldbuilding in Quara, I go to the children and ask their opinions on what I've done. I read them each chapter as I finish it. Their reactions help me know what is working and what isn't in the story. Between the five of them (the baby is a little too young yet to weigh in) I have all the help and advice I could wish for.
They have been invaluable to me, and I'm very thankful for them- and not just because they help me with my writing. :D
Miss Melody Muffin