Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Writing Children

Writing realistic children is one of the hardest things to do. I've spent considerable time in the company of small children and I still find it so hard to get across their sense of innocence, adventure and mischief. The most difficult thing is dialogue. Children often speak in their own dialects and it's very hard to write that without sounding to cutesy. But seriously people - little kids are adorable. Is it wrong to write them that way?

What are your thoughts on kids in fiction? Have you seen any portrayals that really worked for you?


LesleyW said...

I don't think it's wrong to write them that way as long as it's appropriate to the plot. LOL - now I'm thinking of the twins from StS and VoH. They are adorable. Too much cuteness can have the opposite effect though, leaving you hoping the kid is going to get locked up or fall through a time warp and not reappear until they're 18.

Have to say looking at my bookshelves I can't see any books where it leaps out that they had a child character. There are my Miles Vorkosigan books but he always had a remarkable amount of self possession even as a child. The Archive (Ivy) in the Dresden Files series was kind of ancient and childlike at the same time.

Savannah in Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series I always thought was a well-written teenager (brat).

Oohh I've thought of one. Teddy in Susan Elizabeth Phillips Fancy Pants. He was very well written.

Elle Fredrix said...

Hmm, it's the ones that don't work for me that stand out. (not that I can think of any specific examples!)

I hate it when a supposedly normal 4 year old sounds like baby Einstein. I start thinking "has this author ever been in the presence of a child?" Do they realize that children rarely converse in stilted, formal, dialogue?

If, as an author, we should be giving each of our characters a distinct voice, why would we give a child the voice of our old, maiden aunt?

Can you tell you hit on a pet peeve? :o)

Amanda Ashby said...

Timmy from Julie Kenner's Carpe Demon and Californian Demon is amazing. He's the same age as my son and it's almost like she's been living in my house for a week (of course she would have to wade through the mess first!!!!)

On the flipside, I once read a baby bathing scene that was so far removed from any of my experiences that I lost all interest in the rest of the book!!

Nalini Singh said...

LesleyW - I actually drafted this post after writing about the twins *g* LOL about too much cuteness. Yes, I have to agree - there is a point where it becomes a bit saccharine, but a little bit now and then and I'm okay with it.

Elle - I always wonder about that when I write. Would a normal 4year old say this? Then I sometimes realize I haven't given them enough credit - I just spent lots of time with a 4 year old and man he was SMART! But yeah, full, complex sentences all the time would be a bit hard to swallow.

Amanda - haven't read those books but I keep planning to pick them up..to you know, add to Mount TBR!

Casee said...

My favorite fictional child is Nick in Linda Howard's MacKenzie series. She is so well written and believeable. Her dialogue is definitely appropriate to the age she is.

I have two kids (6 & 5) and when an author is writing a 6 year old that is talking like a 3 year old, it is really annoying. I mean it pulls me out of the story, annoying.

I love the twins. My opinion is that when the reader actually smiles and/or laughs while reading about children in the books, you're writing them well.

Just my opinion, though. :)

Nalini Singh said...

Casee - I have read LH's series but for the life of me, I can't recall Nick. Must reread! (Gee, what a hardship *g*).

And thanks for your comment about the twins. They always make me smile, too.

Kaitlin said...

I like the way Nora Roberts writes kids. Sometimes they're snarky, sometimes they're sweet, but they fit each story they're in. The one that stands out is Seth from the Chesapeake Bay series. He was so wounded, but turned into a great young man. :)