On Writing Children as Children

Children are not little adults. So don’t write them as if they are.

It’s strange how, as adults, we forget that childhood is completely different. Oh sure, we romanticize and are nostalgic. We remember the taste of fresh lemonade on the summer afternoon, just as fireflies started to glow. But, do you really remember what you worried about? What you misunderstood and how it affected your world and your interactions? When writing children, you have to consider how your adult perspective may be limited.

Children base their assumptions about things they have no experience with on things that they do have experience with. Some children take words and phrasing super-literally, and some children grapple with abstract concepts longer than others. Like adults, children vary in speed, intelligence, sense of humor; unlike adults, children do not logically process consequences, conclusions, outcomes, results, or long-term effects. Children do not have words to express their emotions or the way they understand something. Children do not have the experience to contextualize.

Simply, children aren’t little adults.

So don’t write children as if they were little adults.

Writing Tip of the Day:

Spend Time with Children if You're Writing Children.

There’s nothing like spending time with children. Engage them in some games, crafts, or other activities. It can completely reset your mind and refresh your vision. Or it can give you creative new ways to phrase the feelings that accompany frustration, rage, outrage, surprise, and humor. It can give you the truest depictions of joy, an insight into the focus of pure absorptive learning, or a deeper understanding of the constant energy demands that children place on adults.

Whatever you learn, it will improve your authenticity when writing children and parents; it will improve how you tell their stories, speak their lives through their dialogue, and enact them on the page. The best research is hands-on. Observe, listen, and soak up people of all ages if you will be writing about people of all ages; it’s the best way to make them whole.

Experienced Editor who Is also a Mom

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