5 children's book clichés to avoid
Here are Ethicool, we receive a LOT of manuscripts every day, but you'd be surprised to learn that a lot of them are very similar! Why is this, you ask? Well, one of the reasons is that a lot of aspiring authors try to replicate in some way, shape or form older classics, but often fall down in the process.
And while rehashing what's been done a million times before might be what other publishers are looking for, that sure isn't Ethicool's way! We pride ourselves on publishing inspiring, progressive and beautiful NEW stories that capture little one's hearts and minds, and become new classics.
With that in mind, here are five clichés all aspiring authors should try to avoid:
1. Using animals that act like humans
Here at Ethicool, we make no secret of the fact that we LOVE books that feature animals. In fact, some of our most successful books feature animals, including our all-time best-seller Remembering Mother Nature.
One thing we see a bit too much of, however, is animals that act exactly like humans. We think that perhaps this is because authors have read a bit too much Dr. Suess? But we're not sure really.
For example, see below:
Two elephants live together in a house and they love to play tennis and go to school. At lunch they hang out with their friends and eat their favourite ham and cheese sandwiches. After lunch, something bad happens!
In this story, you could literally replace the word 'elephants' with 'humans' and the reader would barely notice the difference. So what's the point of making those characters elephants?
Whenever you're using animals in a story, don't just do it for the sake of it.
Ensure that their use aligns with the plot, setting and character intentions of the story you're crafting.
2. Finishing a story with 'the end'
We receive soooo many stories that say at the end, 'the end'. Despite what you might think, us publishers DO actually know when a story has ended, even if we don't think it should have ended where you ended it. So frankly, it's just not necessary to put 'the end' at the end.
I mean, you can do it, but you risk just pointing out the obvious, and with subtlety the key in successful children's publishing, we certainly recommend that perhaps you leave it off.
3. Start a story by telling and narrating who the protagonist is
When it comes to writing beautiful children's literature, we've said it before, and we'll say it again: subtlety really is key.
Children are a lot more sophisticated an audience than you give them credit for, so it simply isn't necessary to tell them everything and show them nothing.
One example of this we see quite often is authors who start the story by telling us who the narrator is.
Often, this goes a little something like this:
Hi! I'm Ella, and I love ice cream and dogs. I'm going on an adventure today to a castle and I'm going to be a fairy princess!
By meeting Ella so early and in such an obvious manner, the reader's intrigue isn't piqued. A better way to introduce Ella might be for the reader to discover her name through dialogue with her mum, and then later discover her interests through interactions she has as the story unfolds.
4. Forcing magic into a story where it doesn't belong
Let's be honest, who doesn't love a bit of magic in their lives?! After the success of many smash-hit children's books, including the world-famous Harry Potter series, we here at Ethicool can see just how magical magic can be in a story. However, what we often see instead is magic forced into a story where it doesn't belong.
For example, an author might submit a beautiful story about the struggle to make friends. But instead of using actionable and realistic behaviour to solve this problem, instead the author might insert a magical fairy that forces everyone to be friends. In this case, sure, technically the problem is solved, but the message and intention of the story gets lost as there is no lesson learned.
5. Always using the AABB rhyming scheme
For all the authors who are reading this, we're going to give you a bit of an inside tip here: lately, we've started to move away from commissioning mostly rhyming books to more of a focus on beautiful prose. This is because extremely often, we're seeing authors again and again forcing rhymes, and their manuscripts are really suffering as a result.
But if you are going to write a rhyming story (and note: we do still accept them!), there are many different rhyming structures you can use that aren't the AABB rhyming scheme.
Beyond this, even if your story doesn't rhyme, there are many poetic devices available to you to ensure that your story has a special literature feel. For example, try using alliteration or assonance in your story.
We think (or, we know!) that a lot of authors look up to Dr. Seuss, and he sure was an incredible rhyming expert. However, know that if your book doesn't rhyme, there are many ways that you can make it just as - if not more - special.
Do you have a manuscript you'd like to send our way? If so, get in touch now as we'll soon be looking for our 2023 books (here are our submissions guidelines and instructions).
And don't forget to book your manuscript assessment!