Writing children

Writing children

Writing children isn’t easy.

Not writing for children, although that isn’t as easy as many people seem to think. 😉

Adults writing child characters often make the same mistakes.

Sometimes, the kids come across as cartoons, in the sense that they are sort of symbolic of a child, rather than trying to accurately display the way children think.

As I’ve said before, I love the Oz books…but Dorothy Gale doesn’t really read to me like an actual child.

There may be some cultural differences there: given when the book was written, and Dorothy’s agrarian enculturation (as you can tell, I might have more in common with the Woggle-Bug), it’s arguable that it would be harder for me to relate directly to Dorothy…but the same goes for all of the children in Oz books for me, from Trot to Button Bright.

Mark Twain is another favorite of mine…but I also don’t find Becky, Tom, and Huck, to be particularly realistic.

Maybe I tend to like books that aren’t exact replicas of my reality. 🙂

There are also times when people write kids just like they are adults. They aren’t…even though they are diverse, just like adults, they still have a different perspective…and not because they tend to be so much shorter than adults. 😉 I’ve always said that there are times when a pre-conversational child is standing there crying just from the realization that, “I’m only two feet tall!” 😉

Still, there are some people I think write children really well…and I still think they write great books.

I’ve just re-read

To Kill a Mockingbird (at AmazonSmile*: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and then read

Go Set a Watchman (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

(you can read my review and analysis ((so SPOILER ALERT)) here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1362361030)

and Harper Lee is definitely one of those people who write children well…and I consider TKaM to be one of the truly great novels.

Stephen King is another one…I’d say particularly in

It (at AmazonSmile*)

That’s not to say that I consider It in to be in the same stratum as TKaM…I don’t (although I think The Stand is way up there). It’s that I think the writing of the children feels realistic to me.

One more, and one who is certainly not as well known as the other two: Derek Swannson, particularly with the first book in the Crash Gordon series.  You can read my

review of Crash Gordon and the Mysteries of Kingsburg

and I would suggest you take a look at that before you read the book…it’s not for everybody.

However, I think the writing of the children is as good as any I’ve read. Full disclosure: I did read the draft of the second book and made some suggestions (and was acknowledged in the book), but I don’t have any financial connection to the book and haven’t met Derek Swannson in real life. I was asked for input because of my review of the first book. I’ve given feedback to a few people on their manuscripts, but not as a paid editor. It’s fun for me to do, and I think I’m a reasonably good amateur at it, primarily as a reader, but also as a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, and a follower of publishing.

What do you think? Are there books you read where you think the author got the child characters right? Was  that in book written to be read by or two children, or to be read by adults? What was it about the writing that worked for you? Do you want your books to seem like real life, or do you prefer them to be a different reality (or perhaps, you like both at different times)? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


4 Responses to “Writing children”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I read your review of “Go set a Watchman” and I pretty much agree with everything you said. It took me awhile to get into it. It’d sad to think that Scout grew up to be the Jean Louise portrayed in the book. I have to view it as the rough draft it was and not the so called sequel that many of us were hoping for. With just a slight bit of editing, it could have easily become a true sequel. For now, I’m treating it as an alternative universe from “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

    For writers who do a good job of portraying children, I’ll nominate Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      I think “alternate universe” is a good way to go. I never expected it to be a sequel, since it was written first. What amazes me is that I think Harper Lee was more the adult Jean Louise at the time of writing…and was able to write from Scout’s viewpoint, even, I think, while not feeling that way.

      I also really understand why, reportedly, Harper Lee had regretted the publication of TKaM, because of events in the family. You can see how, if GSaW represented true feelings, and then TKaM is what was published, that might be…hard to handle.

      Edited to add: I probably should go back and re-read Judy Blume…not sure I read Beverly Cleary.

  2. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I know that Truman Capote was the inspiration for Dill, and that Harper Lee and Truman Capote had a major falling out. There’s a fiction book for young adults in the works that is based on the childhood friendship of the two. It sounds interesting.


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