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  • Writer's pictureChristina Francine

Author Precis: C. S. Lewis

By: Christina Francine


Before reading a precis, here is a precis definition:


The word “Précis” comes from the French language and means “precise” or “to cut brief." A precis is a brief synopsis of another work—for example, a dissertation or a scholarly article. The main purpose of a precis is to sum up any ideas that were stated in the piece, explain the main message, and give readers an idea of how the original piece was structured.


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As you're reading the precis, think about whether you agree? What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my opinion of his thoughts?


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Lewis, C.S. “On Three Ways of Writing for Children.” On Stories and Other

Essays on Literature. Ed. Harper, Walter. New York: Harcourt, 1982: 32-33, 38, 40-42.


Lewis sums up the three ways in which he thinks there are to write for children.


He explains each with an example and how it is done, and then provides his opinion of that approach. The first way is for an author to write what he or she believes the public wants. This is a bad way in Lewis’ mind and is patronizing children. The second way is to write with one child in mind. Lewis believes this is like the first and says, “You are certainly trying to give that child what it wants” (32), and it is idolizing them. Lewis confesses that he deems the third way is best and is what the finest children’s authors have done including him. This method “Meets children as equals” (42). His explanation of this third way is expanded upon in detail starting out with “The third way, which is the only one I could even use myself, consists in writing a children’s story because a children’s story is best art-form for something you may have to say” (32).


With this third way, Lewis goes into a sub-category that is popular with children and surprise, with adults too. This is fantasy. To illustrate his point, he breaks fantasy down into a sub-category and provides the example of Edith Nesbit’s trilogy about the Bastable family. Lewis makes it clear that “The Bastable trilogy provides even adults, in one sense, with more realistic reading about children than they could find in most books addressed to adults” (33). Lewis believes writing for children should be a snapshot from children’s lives and not in giving them something an author doesn’t want to write about (the first way of writing for children) or writing with one child in mind (the second way of writing for children).


When defending his opinion “A children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story” (33), Lewis defends his statement elaborating extensively and even brings in the support of Tolkein and Jung. Lewis writes about the requirements of the form and on how fairy tales are good for children. He then attempts to show how a child has two different kinds of longing. One is more about real-life and concentrates on a child’s self and is serious. It is of the real world and one’s place in it. The other, fantasy, is plain longing. The child concentrates on that longing and is happy at the end of it (38).


Further still, Lewis goes into how fantasy and fairy tales do not really frighten children. Instead, they provide an empowering feeling, which is healthy and needed for and by them. These do not create phobias like a real-life story might.


Lewis ends his piece by stating that “I hope my title did not lead anyone to think that I was conceited enough to give you advice on how to write a story for children” (40). He also enlightens with what he thinks is the best way to write for children again, only with more clarification. Lewis sums this up with the adage “With me the process is much more like birdwatching than like either talking or building. I see pictures” (41). He gives reasons for writers to write this way. One is that the moral lesson will take care of itself, and to write for art’s sake and to write with the thought that children are equal (42).


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