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  1. Ragdoll
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    Ragdoll Member

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    How do you talk to children?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ragdoll, Aug 2, 2010.

    I'm writing a story where my protagonist is a 17 year-old boy who wakes up and find he's lost all his memories. Unfortunately, due to a tricky situation, he cannot let anyone know about his memory-loss, not even his closest friends or family.
    But what happens to my main character is he has to walk his little brother,around 6, to school, but then he has no idea what to talk about, although he want to get information about himself and his family.
    So, my problem is, how should he speak to the kid? How can he trick the information out of his brother? How can he ask him how to get to the school? Personally, I have absolutely no idea how to talk to them. Should one be serious, or talk with a really childish voice? (I hate it when people do that -.-)
     
  2. Loaded-Dice
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    Loaded-Dice Member

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    Get the protagonist to play games for rewards. The question you have to ask yourself is how would YOU get information from your little brother?

    'Hey kid. You wanna play a game? If you can show the way to school I'll get you a chocolate bar!!"

    "I always wanted to be a writer. Can you write littlebrother? Can you spell my sisters name? Say it and spell it out how it sounds."

    Kind of corny but works if you're desperate.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Children aren't aliens they respond particularly well to being treated like human beings;) Especially as his big brother is only 17. If they had a good big/little brother relationship just a chummy conversation. He could also let his little brother in on his secret and get him on side.

    How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, How to Listen so Kids Will Talk by Elaine Mazlish and Adele Faber is a good book for ideas.
     
  4. Ragdoll
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    Ragdoll Member

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    Wow, thanks guys, I finally got some ideas. I really have no idea when it comes to kids, since I have no siblings, and I've never really had any contact with children.
     
  5. Chel
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    Chel Member

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    To get the little brother to show him the way to school, the 17-year old could do a test...
    "Why don't you show me you know the way? Soon you'll be big enough to walk it alone."

    Elgaisma makes a good point though. Just talk to kids as you would to adults, but leave out at least some of the very long and complex words.
     
  6. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    I'm sorry to hear that, Ragdoll. Not having any siblings? For me that is unimaginable. I have a few siblings myself, and it really is the best thing. You can never really be alone. There always something fun to do.

    Have your main character sneak out the information in a way from his younger brother. Let him beat about the bush.

    "Hey, uh, Jerry? Are you sure this is the right way?"

    "Uh-huh. I'm sure."

    "Just down this block? Right?"

    "Yup. That's the way."

    Have your two characters switch positions. Have your 17 year old ask a lot of questions, like a young kid. And have your 6 yeard old answer back like a teenager. See what happens.
     
  7. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    It depends on the little brother's personality. Is he your typical little kid, or more of a smart aleck like Charles Wallace from the Madeline L'Engle series? It would be very entertaining if he was, because the big brother wouldn't know and therefore treat him like a baby

    "Big Brother, are you okay?"

    "Sure, Bobby! Why would you ask that?"

    "...I prefer to be called Robert."
     
  8. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Don't be condescending or talk down to them.
     
  9. JoenSo
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    JoenSo Member

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    I'd say that that's the key, yes. I've worked with kids for two years and found that the easiest way to talk to them is, well, just talk. Sure, you might need to avoid some overcomplicated words and stuff. But otherwise I think it just backfires on you when you talk to kids with a baby voice or assume that they don't understand what you're talking about with other adults.
     
  10. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    I work as a teacher... talking to kids is a pretty major part of my job. :)

    Six years old really isn't very old - Year 1 in the UK school system. I'd use a bright tone all the time and give lots of praise. Children at that age are really eager to please and will willingly ask and answer questions if they're encouraged.

    In terms of your story, I'd go the whole hog and have your main character "pretend" he knows nothing. Have him put on a goofy pair of earmuffs and play at being an alien who's just landed on Planet Earth. Have him ask loads of questions in an alien way, and the kid should respond honestly enough (provided he's praised for his answers).

    Belive me, in no way would a six-year-old regard this as strange. For him, it would just be extended play time.
     

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