A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks
An Element of Curiosity
A few years ago, when my book Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published was released, a friend inquired, “Gee, Tony, you spent over 300 pages helping writers craft a children’s book. Is it really that intense?” I smiled in response. He continued, “Okay, I’m curious: What is one of the most important things prospective authors need to know in order to write a good book?” I responded by informing him that his question was actually the answer.
As naturally inquisitive creatures, we are fascinated with the unknown; we are transfixed with the mysteries of life that surround us; and we are amazed at all that we have to explore. The mysteries of the world around us have always been an impetus for us to peek and poke and prod for answers—learning something about our surroundings as well as about ourselves. Nowhere is this truer than when we watch the youngest among us—our children.
Young children are known for sticking their fingers in places where young fingers should never be. They are famous for putting all manner of objects and substances in their mouths . . . everything from plastic blocks, the pet dog’s ears, and any object in the room not nailed down or sufficiently weighted. As any parent knows, children will expand their curiosity by reading new books, looking under rocks, or creating “music” with pots, pans, and other kitchen utensils. Theirs is a world full of unknowns propelled by a desire to discover and learn.
In adults, curiosity guides us toward a lifetime occupation, it drives us to search out potential partners with whom we may want to spend the rest of our lives, it stimulates us to travel to new destinations, and it holds our hand as we move into old age and the unknowns of the future. By and large, we are relentless question-askers. We want to know more than we know. We want to expand our horizons, try out the new and undiscovered, and pursue experiences that deepen our comprehension (and appreciation) of the world we live in.
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” —Albert Einstein
Interestingly, as authors, curiosity drives, not only our creativity, but the quality of our writing. Our inquisitiveness propels us to describe characters with greater detail, craft imaginative events with spirit and intent, and ask questions that have never been asked before (by adults, at least). Our authorial curiosity injects passion and heart into our stories—a constant search for revision and improvement that will turn a simple tale into a compelling book and an intent to go where “no author has gone before.” When we celebrate and utilize our natural sense of curiosity, we give our readers an opportunity to see behind the scenes, observe behaviors that define our characters, and propel a narrative into new dimensions and territories. Our curiosity is the fuel that can power a story beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary.
Curiosity drives creativity; creativity ignites imagination; and imagination is the foundation of all writing.
Most importantly, curiosity injects intent and zeal into a story—it is a transformative process that changes mere words into compelling literature. Asking the questions our readers ask as well as offering magnificent responses is part and parcel of our craft. Young readers know, intuitively, whether an author has crawled inside their minds and satisfied their own innate curiosity. The authors who do, capture the hearts AND minds of their readers.
When we ask the right questions, we can generate the “write” answers.
Tony is the author of more than 50 children’s books—many of which have won national writing awards (i.e., Outstanding Science Trade Book [Children’s Book Council], Isaac Walton Book of the Year, etc.). He has also authored the recently published From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them (“. . . the author supplies an endless array of examples to enhance creative thought.” —5 stars) [https://amzn.to/3HESeVO].