Recently I’ve realized that I’ve done almost nothing for children’s writers. This makes less than no sense, because in my opinion, children’s authors are super heroes. You think I’m wrong? I’m not, and I can prove it, too. Think back to your very first favorite book. I am willing to bet it was not an adult book, and it likely wasn’t a young adult book, either. My very first favorite book ever was Where The Wild Things are, by Maurice Sendack. I read that book twice a day on average. I also read Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and it’s thrilling sequel, Pickles To Pittsburgh. I devoured these books and gradually discovered bigger and bigger books. Goosebumps, The Baby Sitter’s Club, Chocolate Fever, The Last of The Unicorns. If I hadn’t learned to love reading with these, I might never have bothered with Philippa Gregory, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, or any of the other adult writers I love so much.
If you write for adults, stick around. We’re going to talk about that too. Today, we are talking about developing a skill that tool me years to master; listening to children. It’s all about character building, you remember, and some of your characters just might be children. So, if you don’t have any of your own kids, borrow some.
Learning the language
Children don’t talk the same way adults do. It’s like a whole new language, or an old one depending on how you look at it. And I’m not just talking about word usage, though that is a big factor. Kids string together words in a fresher, less uniform way than adults, because they haven’t yet learned the way everyone says things. They don’t use cliche phrases or metaphors. They just say it just how they see it. This can also be hilarious.
Learning the ideas
Another thing you’ll learn when listening to children is that they have what they think are all new ideas about, oh everything! Simple things are new to them, and they have none of the structural knowledge that we as grown ups are burdened with. You give a grown up a coffee cup. Unless they spend too much time on pintrest, there are about four things we can do with that cup.
A kid, oh my goodness, a kid will look at the coffee cup and give you ways to use it that you never in your wildest dreams considered. It’s a Barbie bath, it’s a car, it’s literally anything you could possibly think of. So when you’re writing for children characters you have to keep in mind that level of creativity. You have to learn how to see the world like a child sees the world again.
Learning the topics of high importance
Another really important thing to consider when writing for a child character is that what adult considers important is nowhere near what a child considers important. Time moves so different. Remember when it felt like Christmas was never going to happen because there was just no possible way that many days could go past.
Things that are important to children are things like shiny rocks on the sidewalk or finding a $5 bill on the ground. That is a monumental event to a child. Though to be fair if I find a five dollar bill on the ground that’s a pretty monumental event but that’s another story. (A sad one about a starving artist who likes coffee shops too much.)
The point is, children see the world with more excited eyes, they know things that we as adults have entirely forgotten. So when you’re going to write children characters, you need to spend time around children to remember their level of priorities.
So take some time and spend it around small children. They don’t need to be yours. Trust me you can always find ways to borrow other people’s kids if you don’t have any nieces or nephews or friends with kids.
Look for babysitting jobs if you’re still in college or high school. People are always looking for people to watch their kids especially if your affordable, because believe me as a parent, affordable childcare is not a thing that exists.
Take a notebook and just listen to them talk and take notes. The kid will love being the center of your attention and you will be in a better position to write a child character for your next book.
And don’t forget to check us out on Monday on Facebook for the literary agent of the week, and on Thursdays for the discussion of the week.
So what do you think? When you need to write about a child character what do you do to get inspired? even better what was your favorite book of the kid that sparked your love of reading?