Friday, March 14, 2008

Keeping Up with the Kids

Here’s a photo of Jodi "helping" me read a manuscript. She sure seemed to like it, so hopefully I will too and will want to buy it. :) She's growing and changing every day. She just started crawling a little bit, but she tries to use her feet too much rather than focusing on getting her hands and knees in sync. She sure is proud of herself, though!

Many Heartsongs have children as secondary characters, but sometimes in first drafts they don’t age like they should as times passes in the story. Usually this happens with infants and toddlers. I’ve seen stories where the baby starts out cooing and being cradled in chapter one, then several months later in chapter nine, he’s still just cooing and being held all the time. Well, every mom knows a matter of months brings drastic changes in a little one’s development! That same baby surely wouldn’t be cooing and content to be held constantly. He’d be babbling, maybe even talking some, and eager to crawl or toddle around (depending on how much time has gone by, of course.)

In stories where more time passes, authors need to watch their older child characters closely, too. Would a five-year-old at the beginning of the story act the same after a year or so has passed? Or a twelve-year-old who turns fifteen by the end? No, her actions and dialogue should reflect that she’s maturing as time elapses, even if it’s just ever so slightly.

I know authors don’t intend for their young characters not to age, but since these secondary characters aren’t as essential to the story, their development can get overlooked. But they’ll stand out to your reader, especially ones who know children well.

So, just remember to keep an eye on the children in your books. If any significant amount of time goes by, make sure the kiddos are keeping up!


Janet Spaeth said...

Your daughter is such a cupcake! She's incredibly cute! (Like I have to tell you that, right?)

And you're right--children do change at a rapid rate, especially when they're learning new things. Like crawling!

Mary Connealy said...

Such gorgeous pictures, JoAnne.

I just recently finished the edits for my Heartsong coming this fall, Buffalo Gal and Rachel, the editor, really caught things like this. Not babies, though, older children. My six-year olds and my teenage.

I know why this happened. It was because I didn't have a clear enough picture in my own mind of those secondary characters. The teenager was treated like a 13-year-old half the time and a 16-year old the other half and that was just me, not being consistant, not really deciding how old she was for a while because she wasn't in the book that much. Then, when I did settle on her, I didn't go back thoroughly and find all the references to her.

I keep a separate document will pertinent info on it like hair, eyes, age, etc. but mainly focus on main characters, but I'm doing better at that for secondary characters, now, too.

I appreciated Rachel's help very, very much and promise to try and make her job easier from now on.

The Write Life said...

Oh JoAnne, Jodi still has those wondeful, kissable cheeks! She's such a doll.

My son and dil just had a baby last Friday (on my baby son's fifth birthday!) and they live with us, so I've been having a blast with our new grandbaby.

Lena only weighs 4 lbs 14 oz, so it will be awhile before she gets cheeks to match Jodi's, but she definately has potential.

Thanks for the reminder on characters aging properly. There are so many other things to think of, sometimes that type of thing slips by.

Anyone else doing headstands trying to see if they recognize words on that manuscript, to see whose story Jodi likes? LOL.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mary! Those are sweet words.

Paige, that's too funny. I admit, I did it too, to see if it was something I'd be working on! I wonder if I'll recognize it if I eventually get it. :-) It's pretty fuzzy though, even if you blow it up to 400%.

I wonder why God made us such curious creatures? Or should that read "nosey"?

Rachel O

JoAnne said...

Haha, I wondered if you guys would be looking at that manuscript! I purposely cropped out some of the bottom where the header on the page might have been clearer! It's a secret for now. If I decide to contract the book, maybe I'll tell! :)

Thanks for all the sweet comments about Jodi's pictures. I sure do love her and think she's a cutie-pie!

Debby Mayne said...

Jodi is SO precious! Just seeing her makes me want grandchildren!

Pam Hillman said...

I can't tell whose ms. that is either! I don't suppose Jodi can tell us either? lol

My boys are teenagers, so I would need to be pretty careful about writing babies right now.

Stopping by the pediatrician's office and picking up one of those baby books would be a really good idea. They usually list what most babies will be doing during the first 12 months.

Lisa Harris said...

Jodi is so adorable. Love those cheeks! :-)


The Write Life said...

Ah, JoAnne thwarted our plans by cropping. LOL.

I guess our curiousity is what makes us love to write and edit and create. In that case, it's a good thing, huh? And obviously, JoAnne expects it of us. *G*


Cara Putman said...

Great photos of Jodi! She looks like a doll. And good advice as I get ready to incorporate a child into this next book :-)

Patti said...

I've never left a comment on this site, but had to after seeing your Jodi!! What a little doll!! Please enjoy every minute with her - - before you know it, she'll be a teen-ager and then college-age. I feel like mine should still be Jodi's age, but they're 16, 20, and 23! (gasp!). Great reminders in your article too! Blessings, Patti

Vickie said...

What a cutie pie! I imagine with those sweet cheeks she'll have more than her share of cheek-tweaking.

I love putting kids in my stories. They add a fun element. Thanks for reminding me to make sure they grow and change as the hero and heroine do.

Ettina said...

This is one thing that the Buffy the Vampire series does very well. The show follows Buffy and many other characters from their mid-teens to late twenties, and they mostly all 'feel' like they're growing up throughout the story. And not all in exactly the same way, either. Willow gets powerful and confident but also gains a dark side, Buffy gets to be a war-hardened veteran, Cordelia grows from a vapid popular mean girl to a snarky but sensible heroine, etc.

Though I do wish they'd managed to make the vampires act their ages, too, instead of acting whatever age they appeared to be.