Aaron McCarver suggested the blog topic of writing children in your fiction, so here goes. One thing I often see when an author has a child as secondary character in a book is that the child doesn’t seem very realistic for his/her stated age. Especially for writers who are moms, I’m sure it’s easy to just start writing a child character thinking, “Oh, I have kids, this will be a piece of cake.” But unless you have a child that’s the age of the one you are currently writing or you have an incredible memory, it might be harder than you think to recall exactly what your child was doing at each age. It’s already hard for me to remember what stage Jodi was in just a few months ago. And unfortunately I have not been very diligent about writing everything down. (Thankfully we have lots and lots of video!)
For example, I recently reviewed a Heartsong where a young boy was stated as almost four years old, yet most of his dialogue consisted of one-word responses or requests. To me, that action seemed way too young for an almost-four-year-old, as Jodi is just over two and rarely speaks in just single words anymore. She uses mostly sentences and comes up with new things to say all the time. Granted, all kids are different and I’m not trying to brag on Jodi, but I know that most of her friends around the age of two and three are also speaking in at least very short sentences. And I know that some almost-four-year-olds might have developmental delays, but if that’s not stated in the story then readers are going to wonder why the child is not acting normally. And by normally I just mean what the majority of kids are doing at that age.
So, if you don’t already do these things, I have a couple suggestions for research as you write child characters. First, for young children ages infant through 9, check out www.babycenter.com. You can find lots of typical behavior charts like this one here and loads of other information. And even better than internet research, spend time with kids that are the age you’re writing. If you don’t have any in your family, then seek out friends from your neighborhood or church who do and offer to babysit, or simply just sit in during nursery time or a Sunday School class.
I realize my suggestions here pertain to contemporary children. Even twenty years ago, what kids were doing and learning was different largely because technology has changed so much. And a hundred years ago, there was a huge difference! So if you’re writing kids from the past, let us know what good resources you’ve found.
Oh, and I found a blog I posted awhile back (here), about how very young child characters don’t always keep developing and changing as time passes in the book. Keep that in mind as you write, too.
Aaron, let me know if this cover your topic suggestion, or if you have other suggestions, tips, or questions. Thanks!
I’ll end this with a couple recent pics of my kiddo. One of the cute kitty (sorry for the squinty eyes) she was for Halloween and one where she’s decorating her own cupcake. We’ve been having a fun Fall. We hope you have, too! :)