1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Are kids flat?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Rumwriter, Sep 19, 2012.

    Would it be fair to say that kids are typically flatter characters? I'm writing a short story (which I think in general usually showcases flatter characters than rounder, as we get to see them for a few pages), and it has a 5 year old girl as the protag, centering around her complete and utter reverance for her grandfather. She admires practically everything about him, and looks up to him super unconditionally. Does this seem fair?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    No way, kids have depths, complex emotions. They may not be able to
    succinctly express everything they feel or name what they feel - but then who can without hedging? that
    doesn't mean they don't feel things.

    And I'm not sure I agree with the idea that short story characters are flatter. It's up to a writer
    whether his character will be flat - you can't just say I've got less time to define him so I won't.
    You should be saying I've got less time to define him so I better be precise.

    This is fair, as long as their is some twist or conflict going on. If her mom hated the grandfather and the little girl had to hide how much
    she cared for him that would make her more complex, or she comes to realise he's not as wonderful as she believed etc. A one
    note character is hard for anyone to buy be it a child or a grown up.
     
  3. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    I agree with peach. Kids are not flat, they fall under a different psychological rule set. If you look at child psych you can see the stages and rules of cognitive development during that time. They are complex, in some ways more so, because they make tons of poor assumptions and are still developing broader classification skills.

    Any Protag is 3-D--hang around some 5 year olds, watch 5year old age group cartoons, and look at cognitive levels for a bit. I think that would help.

    Also as peach said, short story characters (Protag Antag) are never 2-D. Their catalysts or symbol characters can be cause of time space constraint. Short stories take a very strong skill set, in some ways its harder then having a whole novel. Especially since it follows the same rules of show don't tell. Many times short stories are more about mastering whats "not" their or the negative space. Hemingway was a master at this.
     
  4. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    If you need help understanding how kids that age work, maybe ask someone who has a child in that age range. Kids that age are pretty funny and it's neat seeing the world through their eyes.

    The key thing to keep in mind when writing from a child's POV, is that they're not adults. They don't think like we do and their brains haven't developed enough to process things like we do, especially emotionally. They have short attention spans and get distracted easily, but that doesn't necessarily mean they don't have good memories either.

    Most kids that age can't read yet either, not really, though they probably know how to read some words (think colors, numbers, and simple words like 'the'). They're usually in kindergarten at that age.
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Writing about children is, I think, more of a challenge, not less, because you have to let the reader know what's happening inside the child's head but you are limited by a child's range of expression. Children are sometimes portrayed as thinking and expressing themselves like adults, but only for comic effect (and even then it wears think pretty quickly - at least with me).
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Only if they make a habit of crossing busy streets without looking.

    Kids are constantly discovering, growing, changing. These are central to character depth.

    If your child characters are flat, maybe you don't know children well enough. Study them. Just don't hang around schoolyards and playgrounds looking creepy.
     
  7. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    LOL hah.
     
  8. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    I think there needs to be a clarification of terms then. I am thinking that flat is the opposite of round, and static is the opposite of dynamic. A flat character as I understand, would be one that really demonstraits a particular character trait, in my case, her total admiration of her grandfather. A round character is one that has many traits, some that contradict one another, say an angry alcoholic, who weeps when he sees opera on tv.

    I consider a dynamic character one that changes throughout the story, and a static character as one that doesn't undergo a change.

    Your description to me, Cog, sounded like what I am considering dynamic, not round. In my story, my character is flat, in that I constantly portray her idolism of her grandfather, but also dynamic, in that by the end of the story she realizes even he is flawed.
     
  9. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Sure but you stated this is a protagonist. Any main character good or bad must be round. Just because she may be allegorical or symbolic too doesn't change that she is round. Look at Pearl from the Scarlet Letter. Sure its a dry work from the puritan period, but Pearl was a child that was both symbol and character and conflict. Flat doesn't mean that the character just represents a trait, stereotype, or mode of thought--it can, but flat characters have no substance that lack depth and therefore as a protag, your lil girl can't be flat.
     
  10. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    I'm sorry, but I don't think any five year old is really old enough to realize flaws like that in an adult in their life. Not like we do. They just don't have the capabilities to do so, their brains aren't developed enough, much less their emotions. Even teenagers don't fully comprehend it like an adult would, especially as teens are riddled with hormones and lacking in the maturity to think of it beyond "my mom is a b*tch" when they don't get their way.

    Also, a child of five, six, seven...they internalize everything. So even if they were aware of a flaw, they would think it's their own fault somehow. They aren't aware like adults are of things like depression in another adult, or bad traits a mother or father may have.

    I'm speaking from experience. I have two children, one is six going on seven. She's really smart and creative, but all that 'adult stuff' goes way over her head. As it should at this age.
     
  11. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Rum,

    Like Steph mentioned I agree and my son is 3 but you're right--psychologically we are all an extension of them--in their mind. Thats why they don't understand WHY can't I have it? It's like why would I deny myself, it makes no sense. By 5-6 They are separating off gender roles, and they understand individuals act on their own, but still take it all personally and internally. (Masters in Lit with a minor in Child Psych here), but remember this makes the character more complex to portray, not easier. This means you have to consider if this is your protag of doing first person internal dialogue--and to get that authentic will take a lot of work. Like Steph says kids ARE geniuses really. We reign them in to reality unfortunately and limit their perspectives. They are creative and smart and you really need to think outside the box to write a as 5 year old. In fact I would suggest interviewing one. Ask questions, get them to tell you a story--see how it fragments, yet to them internally they have threads that connect it we can't grasp.

    This is why I write youth fiction teen+ Dark Fantasy usually. Not that I won't ever try, but its going to take a dedication. Stephen King wrote about towns that reflected his experience. You no doubt have limited memory of being 5 that would be accurate. I always get push back on this, but I have the privilege of being friends with several published authors and my uncle is a former soap actor turned theatre junkie.

    So heres my tidbit, agree or disagree this comes from pros that I respect: Too many writers try to write a cool entertaining story. Ask yourself, so what? What do you bring, what are you trying to say, what perspective on reality makes you different that your hoping to instill or pass on? Your story is a vehicle, a wrapping for that theme. Don't start with hey I wanna write about a wizard cause I love wizards. You start with--hmm people today seem to listen blindly to the government as they did with the church in the 18th century--which was the plot for Tartuffe by Moliere. How can I reflect my point of view and what is the theme and focus of that message.

    Now you can wrap it with a wizard, zombies, business men, lawyers, cops, aliens--whatever. Take "The walking Dead" , "Falling Skies" , "Revolution", "Lost", and "Once Upon a Time." All TV shows with the same people focused theme or redemption, choices, what is good or bad--does it matter? They all play on the same universal themes BUT They have a different skin or vehicle--and target a different audience. They also each provide a different outlook and perspective--they offer the viewer new ways at looking at social issues or life.

    The purpose of writing is not like climbing a mountain--because its there. Poetry--stemming from the Romantic period is the essence of trying to capture the moment--but you are writing a novel or novella etc.

    So once you know what you want to share with the world you need your vehicle--you chose a lil girl 5 years old. Ask yourself why? Is it that you want to portray innocence to get your point across? Heck this can be shown with a dog, or a love blind teen. Point is when you pick your vehicle, pick one you love, and you better know it in and out--that is what gets you published.

    The craziest fantasy relies on realism. Star wars has politics, racial issues, messages warning against nazi propaganda, historical bases like the revolutionary war. This man knew history, knew his message and his issues--and he chose to hide it in a fun fantasy, a capsule or pill that helps your message go down smooth. You can also lure people in with comfort only to jar them at the end in order to disturb people into action. Point is, you won't know your vehicle without defining your purpose.

    I would never try to convince you to not use a 5 year old. But, if your having issues of flatness from the start, you need to do a lot of work--and not be afraid to put in the research needed, the interviews, the notes, and lots of time--probably countless drafts.

    Anyway this is how I think and what I've experienced and talked about with some smart individuals--take it with a grain of salt. There are always new ways, exceptions etc. If you disagree then maybe you're onto something special or unique, I can't know or decide that for you--but, from my typical experience what I mentioned I think can be really helpful to you.
     
  12. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I'm so glad someone pointed that out! I have written several novels that I'm not able to get published, and I find short stories a lot more difficult, but yet most of the easy ways for a beginning writer to showcase writing are looking for short stories, not novels. It's so frustrating.

    I would disagree with that. You can certainly have a round static character (many never-changing cartoons have these) but I don't think you can write a believable shift in a character's personality unless they're rounded. In order to have the shift take place, you need to get deep in the character's head and figure out all the nooks and crannies relevant to that change, and that makes them a rounded character.
     
  13. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Ettina,

    Exactly, a character needs to change through lessons that represent the theme or they change through whats called "pressure change" -- a severe lesson that causes a remarkable change in character core. Opinion>Dominant Attitude>Values>Core Belief -- you have to soften and break each layer to reach the next thematically. Obviously some personalities are resistant and pressure changes are fantastic tools and also dramatic. I mean if a fire kills your loved one and changes your core belief that Life is about Hope to Life is Hopeless -- its believable and super fast.
     

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