Writing About Children
Just the other day, I was scrolling through social media, and I saw a post mentioning that it’s very hard to write children. I skimmed past quickly.
It’s not fun to be the only one not in pain.
Because … to me, writing children is not hard. In fact, it’s a lot easier than writing adults!* To me, children hold the true wisdom of the world. Love, faith, innocence, joy, simplicity … all the good things in life!
The world spoils them eventually (or rather sin nature, though of course that is a part of children from the moment they’re born, so I’m talking more about innocence vs. not innocence than anything), but until then …? Well, I say write about them as much as possible! How? Well, here are some Dos and Don’ts!
*this may be because
I’m extremely immature I have a young heart.
Dos and Don’ts of Writing Children
DO: Observe children playing, listen to them talking, and generally spend time with them.
If you have children in your household, this is easy. Just sit down and takes notes! If children aren’t regularly available, here are a couple ideas for finding some.
- Siblings. Siblings sometimes have kids. They’ll pay you to take them. Trust me. They are desperate. #winwin
- Neighbors. Either babysitting … or you could literally ask them if you can borrow them. (Though if they don’t agree and call the police on you, I was never here …)
- Local parks. Go to a playground and sit down on a bench and watch them. (If their parents have a problem with this, come back next week wearing a dark hoody and holding a bloodied knife.)
- Church! (Oh, shush, this is going somewhere.) Sign up to help with youth ministries at your church. Sunday school, AWANAs, VBS … most churches have something. And it’s fun, too!
On second thought … oh, never mind. I’m sure it will work for you.
DON’T: Be a creepy stalker.
This is always a bad idea. HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU ALL??? I feel like you’re not even listening …
WAIT. YOU’RE NOT LISTENING. LIKE A CHILD. OBSERVE. YOUR. SELF.
Example & Application
When I’m at AWANAs, I obviously spend a lot of time with kids. And – besides being super fun and a blessing in my life – it gives me a valuable opportunity to kid-watch. (It’s like bird-watching only you get to actually talk to and play with the birds.) (And the birds are small humans.)
But I don’t take notes. That would be weird. (You should, though … it’d be hilarious if someone else was doing it … but don’t tell them I told you to do it …)
DO: Have them be adorable sometimes.
Because how can you resist?
If you’ve EVER been on the internet, you see millions of posts/tweets EVERY DAY where adoring parents share their exchanges with their smoll beans.
TALK. THESE. PARENTS.
And though you should never directly steal the child’s words (that’s plagiarism, child! GROW UP AND DON’T PLAGIARIZE), it will give you inspiration.
BUT, AND THIS IS A HUGE BUT …
DON’T: Have them be there just to be adorable.
CHILDREN. ARE. NOT. ALWAYS. ADORABLE.
What those tweeting parents aren’t sharing is the fact that the adorable little mispronunciation or naïve observation their child made is something that happened in the 1% of the time the child wasn’t screaming, yelling, throwing, and otherwise being a perfect little brat.
They can’t be good all the time. They are monsters. (Unless you spank them. And then they’re lots better. But most people don’t do that anymore. So.)
Example & Application
I was just reading The Governess of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky (
again), and though little Millie is quite sweet, it’s Andrew who I love.
Why? He’s just so real. He’s an energetic little boy, breaking things and stealing his little sister’s toys and running all over the place like a little savage. It’s so adorably irritating!
DO: Give your children some cool observations to make once or twice.
There is a bit of a truth to “out of the mouths of babes.” Children DO say wise things … or at least honest things. #nofilter When they do, it’s usually because of their sweet innocence.
This can’t happen often, but it CAN happen. However, it needs to happen in a way that is still completely childlike and believable and not just out of the blue. They need to have a reason for saying this.
DON’T: Make your child wise beyond their years.
Um … they’re still kids??? And they’re not going to know everything. They’re going to need guidance. They’re going to need adults in their life to show them what’s right and what’s wrong, to care for them, etc.
(I want more books where kids adore and rely upon their parents …)
Example & Application
I’ve been told that Alice (from my novel The Dressmaker’s Secret) comes across as a little too old for her age. Well, I don’t know if that’s true or not. (Personally, I don’t feel that she is, haha.)
But … I suppose you could make a case for Alice being a little old for eight, especially for a modern-day eight-year-old (which she is not, but I digress). She does tend to be very observant – and of course she’s intelligent.
IN OTHER WORDS … you all are gonna be just like me and want your children to be perfectly intelligent and mature, but they can’t be. I like to think of Alice as the exception to the rule, but people won’t see it that way. They’ll see it as a little girl who’s too big for her britches, to coin a phrase.
DO: Remember that children are just small human beings.
It’s kind of like, “The problem with kittens is they grow up to be cats.” You gotta think about the adult that child is someday going to be.
They aren’t fairies or some different race – and they’re especially not an inferior race! There’s no need to treat them as such. (This applies to real life situations, too, stupid people who don’t have patience with kids.) (You’re the ones who are really immature.) (Grow up.) (#rantover)
DON’T: Write them as adults.
Children and adults aren’t the same, and it’s not fair to write kids as little mini adults. ‘Cause they’re not.
Children don’t really think the same way adults – or even teens – do. It’s not a matter of intelligence, though – children are almost always very intelligent.
They actually learn faster than adults and even teens. They just haven’t had time to pack all that learning in – and, of course, they don’t have the street smarts yet. (Or at least most of the time …)
Example & Application
Let’s take a moment to consider Judy Kee from my very own The Lady of the Vineyard. (I was gonna use Alice as an example, but I think she is wise beyond her years, sooo?)
When I was writing the climax of the novel, I started having Judy bring up all the things she had against her mother … but it just didn’t work out.
After thinking about children for a while, I remember that I’d read that small children tend to blame themselves for rejection from parents (or at least that they sometimes do; it’s not universal or anything). And they sometimes pick strange reasons for their parents’ supposed hatred of them.
Soooo … Judy’s fixation on the tea and toast was born!
DO: Give them personalities and goals and put the same amount of time developing them as you would an adult.
You can’t just slap a child or two into your book and let them float around. I know kids have lived a considerable amount less than adults … but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a backstory, even if the backstory is, “Last week the cat scratched me so now I won’t go near the cat.”*
It’s important to give them personalities. Interests. Goals. And yes, children are growing and developing and therefore certain things about their personality, interests, etc., are all very up in the air, but there are still lots of things about them that make them different from every other child in the world.
*not that this would ever happen to most kids … #fearless
DON’T: Let them be the same-old cutesy little creature you stole from every book or movie with a child in it that you’ve ever read or watched.
WE NEED MORE VARIETY IN THE FICTIONAL CHILDREN WORLD.
Did I not scream it loudly enough???
WE NEED MORE VARIETY IN THE FICTIONAL CHILDREN WORLD.
Especially in the young adult & adult fiction world. (Confused yet?) I think it’s important for young adults and adults to read about realistic, interesting children with lots of diversity in personality, tastes, etc.
Because, to be honest, not enough people care about children. (I honestly do think this is true.) (Oh, shush.) (It is.) (Adults are brats to kids.)
Example & Application
As I work on developing the character Patty Oglivy for Water on the Rocks, I realize more and more that I can’t just ignore her! Originally, I was truly going to just write her as I went … but more and more I realize that she deserves all the attention an adult deserves … maybe even more!
(Though I’m still struggling with her in a major way. Trying to let her personality develop while not making her cliché is harder than I thought it’d be!) (She’s just not coming out right yet …)
Well, those are my tips for writing children! I hope you enjoyed them. May your child-writing be fruitful! <3
How many children characters would you say you’ve included in your stories? Do you intend to include them in the future? Were any of these tips helpful to you (or are you already a child-writing ace)? How many do you already know/use? ARE YOU A KIDNAPPER/STALKER/CRAZY PERSON?
WE CAN BE MENTALLY UNSTABLE TOGETHER.
Kellyyyyyynnn! This was soooo cool! You did such a good job! I really love this. Totally good for my writers ideas list. Even though I may not remember where I read it or who said it, this will stick with me!
And thanks for sticking up for kids, and YES SUNDAY SCHOOL! I teach three year olds and they are EVERYTHING you just said about kids. Except the brat parts, but yes, they are loud, and annoying, and confusing, and honest (my little sister asked my friend yesterday what was on his head and he said “Acne”. *cringe* I’m like, Lillyyyy! You don’t ask stuff like thatttt!!!” XD XD
THANK YOU! I’m glad you liked it! I never know if my posts make sense, lol. Awww, thanks! That’s sweet of you. <3
You're welcome! I always will, haha. ;P That's awesome! So much fun. I think I have four and five year olds and maybe a couple six year olds at AWANAs? I think. I'm not sure. XD But anyway, yes, loud and confusing and honest … but a little … older than three-year-olds. *can't think of any other way to explain this*
OMW! That's so hilarious! My brother does things like that … he's ten … XD
Kellyn, you make me laugh so much! I don’t have kids around me very much, but it does seem that my sister sometimes is desperate to get rid of her son. (Not literally, but you know what I mean) In fact, I don’t think I ever met a little kid before my nephew was born. (except people my age, and I don’t consider them kids)
I loved Andrew, too! I’m reading The Daughter of Highland Hall, and he’s still great. 😉 Kids definitely have a different perspective on life, but it’s great because it’s simple.
Thanks, Hanna! XD I … feel like I almost take it too far. BUT YEP. THAT’S OKAY.
Really? No kids? *jaw drops* BUT HOW DO YOU SURVIVE YOUR LIFE??? 😉 Do you not leave the house …? 😛 Just kidding. But that’s awesome! Nephews can be fun.
Yes, it’s definitely amazing! Huh, that’s funny, I just finished The Governess of Highland Hall and was gonna start Daughter sometime soon … though I might not because I have a lot of review copies. 😉
No need to kid–I pretty much don’t leave the house. I leave the house approximately once a week, when we go to church. There are a few small children there, but I never interact with them. (Is that just introverted-me, or is it because there’s no reason/opportunity to?) But we didn’t even have a VBS last year. And basically nobody lives on our road. We live a very secluded life. 😛 But then my sister visits, and my nephew is enough to make anyone exhausted, especially when he wakes me up at 7:30 in the morning. That helps me to survive. 😛
All my review copies are hovering over my head, too. 😀
Well, there are lots of good things about a secluded life … sometimes I wish I were a lot more secluded! I think I must get a lot of kid-exposure because I also have a job working with children – kinda … it’s fun. 🙂
There’s good things about a secluded life?????? Tell me!!!!!!! 😀
My family is run by introverts, and they never want to leave the house. 😛
*smacks head on table millions of times*
Being alone and getting lots of stuff done … and not having to be with people … 😛 #isalsoanintrovert
Haha, that’s funny! My mom is an introverts, but my dad isn’t, sooo!
Hahaha! Alone? What’s that????
My Dad’s an extrovert, but mom and the oldest girl is an introvert……………. 🙂
Ah, cool! But yeah, lol, I bet you don’t have a lot of quiet moments …
Of course, there are many good things about a secluded life! 😀 I second Kellyn’s reasons. I don’t have solid evidence of this, but I’m fairly certain that my whole family is introverted. (Except maybe my mom, but that might only be because she easily talks to people :P)
My brother is also extroverted … and I think my other brother is somewhere in the middle. My mom is an introvert, though …
Such good advice, Kellyn! 😀
I am around children everyday, all-day, and all night. So, I have tons of experience(but I never write about children……………..).
So right! Adults do treat children like they don’t know nothin’ and they ain’t worth a thing(I had to put in the Western twist…….Sorry). Guess what people! You were a child once!!!!!!!
Anyways…………… Thank you for the wonderful advice(Even though you’re pushing me to write about children once and awhile)!
I’m glad you like it! Haha, that’s funny! I think I might want to escape if I were around kids all day every day, though … 😉
YES. That’s so awful. People need to grow up and realize that they were kids, too. (And the Western twist was awesome!)
(YOU SHOULD. 😛 )
Well, they’re not too bad………….Nevermind. They’re screaming again……. 😛
I don’t really write about children, but I can see that these are all great tips! ?
I think I’m with you in that I don’t find writing about kids all that hard. This may partially be because I have a kinda photographic memory and distinctly remember a lot of not just what happened to me as a kid, but also my mindset at the time and how I saw the world back then.
The main difficulty I’ve found is that everybody has different opinions on how kids of certain ages should act, probably biased by their own experiences at that age. For example, the Snow White in my retelling is 12 years old. One of my betas had no problem with how I portrayed her and neither did my mom, but my second beta thought she was coming off way too young. I did agree with some of second betas opinions and changed things accordingly, but I disagreed with others because it felt like she was thinking of how she was at 12 years old and my Snow White was clearly more sheltered and innocent than that beta was at that age. So, I think that’s an important thing to remember when writing children: One kid of a certain age can have a totally different personality and level of maturity than another kid of that same age, and that’s okay. You have to decide what’s right for your individual character, and if someone else experience that time in their life differently, it doesn’t mean you wrote your character “wrong”, it just means that one person didn’t connect with your character. This opinion has been reinforced by my years of working with first graders in Sunday school. The group I have one year will be WAY more mature than the kids in the group the following year, and so on. Kids are individuals, just like anyone else. 🙂
Yeah, so true! Generally, I feel that children are portrayed as too childish … or incredibly wise. 😛 But every child matures differently based on experience … and they’re individuals, right!!!
These are all AMAZING tips and hold true. 🙂 I don’t have any issues writing kids… I actually wish I did it more. xD I live next door to my two – going on three soon! – nieces and in fact… they help ME brainstorm novels…. like once, I asked Reyna (age 3-4) what made the monsters scary. She answers: “They’re scary because they’re real.” SO YEAHH…. 0-0 *dies laughing*
That’s hilarious! But true … if they were real, they’d be super scary! xD Seriously, so cute …
Haha, this is awesome! 😀 (Especially the creepy stalker parts…is that a bad thing to say? But they were funny….)
How many children characters would you say you’ve included in your stories? …Um, not many? I don’t think there are any in Battle Song, though I suppose one might crop up somewhere…probably not, though. I did start writing a novel from the POV of a…six-year-old, I think it was? But it didn’t get very far…although those characters are adorable and I need to write something with them in it!
Do you intend to include them in the future? If they end up being important… 😛 Haha, I should probably write more children into my novels but…it just doesn’t end up happening…but there are sometimes parent-child relationships even though the child is a young adult…totally counts, right? 😛
Were any of these tips helpful to you (or are you already a child-writing ace)? I am not a child-writing ace, and they were helpful!
How many do you already know/use? I am pretty good at having them be both adorable and annoying…at least with that one novel I was talking about earlier with the 6 year old. Like she was cute sometimes but she also was really annoying at times. Although for side characters, I kind of like the wise-beyond-their-years cliche? It’s just so fun to have the children know everything! Hmmm…there’s a novel idea, where as people grow up they know less…that would be weird, haha.
Thanks for sharing, Kell! This was a fun post. 🙂
I honestly don’t know how those parts got in, but oh well … I’m glad you liked them! XD I must have been in a weird mood when I wrote this post … or just a what-do-I-care-what-I-write mood. 😉
*tsks* Sounds like you don’t include a lot of children. 😛 Haha, seriously, though, that’s perfectly all right … I probably made it sound like children were necessary for a successful novel or something, when that’s not true at all. 😉
Buuuut … 24% of the world’s population was children in 2010 and it’s probably around the same now, soooo they’re in there somewhere even if you’re not writing about them specifically. 😉
Well, that does sound cute! I mean, the wise-beyond-their-years cliche is there for a reason? It is super adorable! I don’t know how realistic it is … but there is something to ‘out of the mouth of babe’s’ after all. 🙂
Ooooh, that’s fun, actually! I would read that!
Love this post! And I so agree that we need more variety in the fictional children world! Some of my favorite aspects of books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Jane Eyre are their dynamic children main characters.
I personally get more annoyed with kids that are portrayed as too “babyish,” but maybe that’s because I was extremely observant and perceptive as a child… then I would intentionally pretend ignorance because that was the safe thing to do. 🙂 So now I wonder how much more they understand than what we give them credit for.
Maybe one day I’ll write an epic novel from the perspective of an observant little spectator… 🙂
Oh, yes, To Kill a Mockingbird and Jane Eyre were both amazing for their child characters! <3 They're quite amazing …
Yes, that makes perfect sense! Kids CAN be super babyish – or immature – or whatever, but they can also be very observant and such!