1. NamelessFaceless
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    NamelessFaceless New Member

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    Child's POV Question

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by NamelessFaceless, May 25, 2010.

    Hi all,
    I've never really written anything before and am currently writing a short story as a hobby. I've only just discovered these forums and had a good poke around and have learned a lot of new, very helpful things.
    My story is from a first person perspective (not a conscious choice, it just happened that way), however the story starts when the main character is 6 years old and follows them until their mid-life. The first few chapters are from the main characters POV from age 6-12.
    My question is about how to narrate the story through someone so young. I figure to make it more realistic I'll have to "dumb down" the narration at the beginning to make it seem like a 6 year old is really thinking those things (I'm finding this difficult and it seems very sloppy!). Would this kind of writing be very annoying to the adult reader?
    Or should I change it all to the 3rd person?
    Alternatively, should I have the character's childhood in 3rd person and switch to the 1st when they reach adulthood? Or is that too confusing and a big no no?
    Any help would be great!
    Thanks heaps :)
     
  2. Tamsin
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    Tamsin Senior Member

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    If you decide on using the first person, you can still narrate the story from an adult's perspective. Imagine if you were telling a story from your childhood to someone, you don't automatically start sounding like a child. It depends on when your character is narrating the story - are they an adult now or are they still a child at the beginning?

    A novel that does this very well is The Color Purple but it is told in a series of letters. The child's voice is captured at the beginning without any 'dumbing down' of the story.

    I would not suggest switching from third to first person in a novel. It would be confusing for the reader and ultimately has no purpose in the type of story you describe.

    If you choose to write from a young person's perspective and slowly start to 'mature' the narrative voice (which could be done successfully provided you organise chapters or different parts well) I strongly suggest reading some fiction of a similar style. The Knife of Never Letting Go is a great novel (for teens) which uses a very convincing first person narrative from the perspective of a young teenage boy.

    I suggest (as you are new to writing) to write the novel from the grown up character's perspective, recounting his youth and subsequent mid-life written in the first person. It is a simpler option and can allow for a more reflective narrative without any awkward changes or, like you say, sloppiness in the narrative voice.

    Good luck with it :)
     
  3. NamelessFaceless
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    NamelessFaceless New Member

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    Thanks so much for your help!!
    I considered doing it as a reflective piece, but couldn't think of a reason to have the character reflecting on their life (I didn't want to do letters, therapy, etc).
    If I did do it like that though (say, it begins with my main character as an old man, telling his grandchildren about his life, or something to this effect), would I have to remind the reader at the beginning of each chapter (or there abouts - sort of similar to Water for Elephants) that the story is actually a story within a story, if you get my drift? (So in the above example, would I constantly have to revisit the grandfather and grandchild?)
    I'm not a big fan of time jumping, so would this be necessary?
    Thanks again :)
     
  4. Tamsin
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    Tamsin Senior Member

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    Hey,

    I don't think it needs to be a reflection as such. I meant in the sense that as an adult the character now perhaps sees things differently from when he/she was a child.

    For example, 'Although I didn't know it at the time, this would be the last thing I said to my grandfather.'

    You still need to focus on just telling the story. There must be some reason for including such a long period of time in one novel (age 6 to middle age) ? You should only focus on what is necessary for the story, no need to chart the whole life of the character if the interesting part of the story happens when he is 30. You are going to have to 'time jump' a bit, otherwise you have approx 40 years of story there which is rather a lot for one novel. For example, Jane Eyre starts when she is about 10 yrs old and an orphan but finishes when she has achieved (in the Victorian sense of course!!) love and some kind of independence, so there is a clear reason for it only ending there.

    Your novel, if it begins when the character is 6 yrs old, needs to have some reason for carrying on into the character's middle age (ie. he/she has completed (or about to complete) a significant change or development from the beginning.

    Story within a story is unnecessary I think. I suggest doing some kind of plan (a timeline might help) of your character's journey.

    Start with where he/she is now then go back all the way to 6 yrs old. You are planning on essentially telling the story from the POV of where your character is now, so what has happened? What has changed? Is it necessary to go all the way back to 6 yrs old to begin the story? If so, then you have to start there. For example, the novel (and film) Sleepers is told from the POV of the adult having achieved some kind of closure on his past but the story starts the summer in his childhood when he committed the 'crime' that changed the whole course of his life.

    Provided you have good reason for telling the story this way, do it. Otherwise, you may need to tweak the plot a little. Keep it relevant to the story as a whole and 'time jump' where necessary to keep it interesting.
     
  5. NamelessFaceless
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    NamelessFaceless New Member

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    Thank you so much! I can't tell you how helpful you've been!! :)
    I'll revisit my timeline and see what I can do.
    Thanks heaps, again!
     
  6. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    I would put it in 3rd person if I were you.

    I also see that Tamsin has given you recommendations so I thought I'd make one. It's a book called "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas". Which is a very good book. You could learn something from it as well as it's taken from a child perspective. If you haven't heard of it it's about Auschwitz.
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is a big difference between "dumbing it down" and being realistic about how children that age think and see things. Know where a child is developmentally, what they are capable of, and how they perceive things. The vocabulary itself doesn't necessarily have to be simpler, either The tone just has to reflect the child's age.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you're up to the challenge of writing this in first person, you'll have to capture the rhythm and worldview of a child. Listen to a child, especially in conversation with other children. It's not just a simple vocabilary. Nor are the sentences all simple declarative sentences, but many will be. What you won't see is a lot of internal debate, or weighing points against each other. Many times, a child's compound sentence will be a bunch of "and" or "and then" clauses, rather than "but" (except simple conflict like, "I wanted to X, but Daddy said I'm too little").

    Children are very intuitive. They pick up on other people's moods anbd feelings, and can be much more insightful than they can adequately express. But they tend to talk in straight lines. They don't skirt the issue.

    Listen to the children.
     
  9. Tamsin
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    Tamsin Senior Member

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    Thanks, glad to be of help. Another novel which I would recommend is 'Reading in the Dark' by Seamus Deane (reading in the sense of reading a book, not the place in England!!).

    It is very well structured in terms of charting a whole lifetime of events. It starts each chapter with a year and a sub-title, then describes each event in a vignette style. It builds up to a massive tragic event in the family and is told from a first person POV (I think - it is about 10 years since I read it!) but it is a great novel and spans a long length of time. It is also a beautifully written and very powerful novel.

    Good luck with yours!
     
  10. Feign
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    With my story, I'll be doing 3rd person with two 12 year old main characters.

    Some things I've thought up of:

    Making their actions deliberate
    Make them a bit naive
    They tend to ask lots of questions

    And some other things I can't think of right now... The problem is with my story, that at least one 12 year old will appear as adult-like. That is to say he'll pretty much be a sociopath... I'm reading books on children and sociopathy, so that should help.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if it's an adult telling the story of his life, it makes no sense to me to use a child's voice for any part of it... it's an adult speaking/writing, not the child, so should be in the adult's voice... so it would be something like this:

    the story would just continue from there, with the adult telling about his life chronologically...

    the only time the voice would have to match the age, would be if you were using present tense, which i would not recommend, since it's both hard to do well and annoys many readers... plus, it would make no sense for a story that covers many years...
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is written in third person, past tense, but follows the protagonist as he grows up, using a narrative voice of about the age of the character at each point in time.

    It's a difficult read because the language and writing style are both foriegn to modern readers, but it does illustrate the approach is at least feasible.

    A more modern example is Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, but Ender is never that young in the story, mentally.
     
  13. Feign
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    I really want to avoid reading Ender's game :/

    Because I fear it already touches on to my own work. And I might accidentally subconsciously add something from it.
     

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