15 comments on “On Writing Child Characters for Adults.

  1. Bill Watterson always managed to write children with alarming accuracy without making them stupid or nonsensical. I think the way he once put it (and I paraphrase) was that he inserted every immature thought that he’d ever had. I always thought that that was excellent advice for figuring out kids.

  2. I’m not familiar with Bill Watterson, but will check him out Eliza(?).

    It sounds like an interesting approach… the problem for me would be that I’ve had far too many immature thoughts for one novel :) My approach is to drift along on the childhood thoughts but rein them in a little. Kids have remarkable insight but can’t always express it — I try to play with these elements. How successfully I don’t know.

  3. ‘Peter Pan’ is the best example of a book about children that was definitely written for adults that I can think of. Like ‘Frankenstein’, it’s a novel that suffers from having a movie version of the story that is more famous and much less interesting than the original.

  4. Don’t overplay the “childishness”. Be selective and remember that fiction is merely real-life with form and well-defined boundaries.

    Good one! Levi says some of the most profound things and is brutally honest.

  5. I know exactly what you mean, jimsmuse… though I’d never though of PP as being for adults. It is, though. It’s obvious now you mention it.

    Yes, that’s kids for you, Selena! Why I love writing them :)

  6. I showed my seven-year-old “Searching For Bobby Fisher” because she enjoys chess, but about halfway through it I realized that although the children in the movie are seven, the movie is written for adults… from the perspective of the parents.

    My daughter said she thought the movie was “okay,” but she prefers “Spy Kids.”

    – Sean Hood

  7. Writing completely from a child’s point of view can rob the work of necessary perspective. Try to allow for adult exposition etc. (for example, I tend to have my narrator looking back from a future place, slipping the odd insight in here and there — though there are other methods.)

    I once tried writing a child based on myself as a kid. I struggled with it because in order to tell her story, she had to be wise beyond her years. So much so, that she wasn’t at all believable.

    Maybe I’ll try again one of these days, using the method you describe, and see how it goes.

  8. The trick is to make it a retrospective, reflective piece — that allows the child to be a child whilst the adult author observes and interjects, adding weight. Give it a try ;)

  9. Hello,
    I’m writing an essay on the use of child characters in delivering key morals and themes in novels. Would you mind if I used your post as a source?

  10. Pingback: Looking Forward, Looking Back. « Gary William Murning Online

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