1. Crimson Dragon
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    Crimson Dragon Member

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    Is it possible to have an older or adult protagonist in a children's story?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Crimson Dragon, Oct 8, 2013.

    As the title asks. Is it possible to write a children's story where the main character is an adult, teen or tween? I mean, with the many videogames, television shows, animated movies and cartoons aimed at children that have adult and teenage main characters being out there it seems that children are able to connect with such characters at least in visual storytelling mediums. Thus, I am wondering if such a thing be possible with children's literature as well? If anybody has an answer I'd appreciate it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2013
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Depends, I would think, on the story and how the angle of an older protagonist benefits it. The trouble with some kids is they
    like the freedom of the adult world - but not the responsibilities. If your protag had to go to a job everyday- unless he
    was Willy Wonka - it could get rather dull. What kind of story did you have in mind?

    Also, some of the best children's stories have had grown ups for characters, but some were masquerading behind anthropomorphic
    animals - Wind In the Willows.
     
  3. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure it is possible to write a children's story without infantilising the adult protagonist. Sure, there are stories that feature adults that children might understand and enjoy, but they typically involve, like peachalulu said, anthropomorphic characters who don't live in the 'real world'. It all depends on the age group, really. A bona fide children's story as I see it, is for kids up to 8 or 10 years old and I am not sure a fully fledged human adult would fit into that milieu. After puberty hits they are in the transition period to adulthood and will typically seek more 'mature' literature, incrementally, as they themselves mature. Here you have scope for 'young adult' novels and old classics like Bronte sisters, Dickens and the like.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Willy Wonka is a great example. A lot of adult super hero protags are used in children's book, Batman, for example.
     
  5. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    How dare you say that comics are for children! :p

    Edit: on further reflection, I realise that I myself am a child trapped forever in an aging body, and so my comment above does not stand.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    I watched the batman craze for young boys be passed like a torch for years. While a lot of fads came and went, when my son outgrew his batman phase, the next crop of little tykes would take it on.

    And now that I'm thinking about merchandising, all the Disney Princesses are young adults. Sheesh, I almost forgot, what about Barbie?

    Voltron, Thundercats, HeMan ....
     
  7. Crimson Dragon
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    Crimson Dragon Member

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    Yeah, it's funny anthro animals are mentioned because that's what this story has. It's cast is almost entirely anthro animals, robots and other odd creatures; there are no true humans to be found. By "adult characters" I am not saying that the story will have the same tropes and conventions of adult literature. The story itself is very much something that a child could understand since it is based on games my friends and I played with our action figures when we where in elementary school. Of course, the plot has been significantly altered from what we crafted as children but it's basis is still in the epic tale that a bunch of kids weaved together with action figures and a lot of imagination. As for the "adult" characters and why they are nessicary, that comes from the fact that a child could not logically do the the things that the story calls for the characters to do, even in a science-fantasy setting like this one.(Such as being part of and/or leading a rebellion, or acting as a "Dark General" in the army of an evil villain and so on and so forth.) Since superheroes where mentioned, I will say this, the story is a lot like something you'd find in a children's comic book or action cartoon. It is altered to better fit a non-visual medium but if I had the financial resources to hire an artist I'd rather see this as a cartoon or comic book due to that. However, as funds are limited, I've been forced into making it into a written work rather then a cartoon, and have altered it accordingly. So yeah, hopefully that gives you a better idea of what I'm talking about.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2013
  8. Darrell Standing
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    Darrell Standing Member

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    Most of Roald Dahl's childrens' booksfeature adults, witches, giants and the like...The Twits - can't remember if the protag was The Twits or a child...
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what age range are you targeting?... and is it to be a picture book, or chapter book?
     
  10. DanM
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    A children's author once told me that the reader likes to see the main character a few years older than them.

    So for example, if the reading age is 6-10, then may want to read about a protagonist in their early teens; if they're aged 10-14 they may want to read about 16-18 year olds, etc

    Also, with Roald Dahl stories (from what I remember), even though there are adult characters (Willy Wonka, The Twits, etc) isn't there always a child character who is the protagonist? e.g. Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
     
  11. SarahD
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    I suppose it depends on the setting. The Hobbit is supposed to be a children's story and Bilbo Baggins is not a young person. I studied children's literature as part of my degree and from thinking back through the books I studied, I can remember that the protagonists were quite often a similar age to the intended audience. For example, The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo is aimed at 12 years+ and the main character was about that age.

    Not that I think its a hard and fast rule, I worked as a youth worker for a few years and nearly all of them had read Twilight even though they were 3 or 4 years younger than Bella.
     
  12. Crimson Dragon
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    It would be a chapter book since the story in question is not fit for very young children. It's simple enough for slightly older kids, but at the same time too complex for kindergarten-age children and the like. 8-10 would be about the age range I'm shooting for, though it could possibly be edited for older audiences if the fact that the cast is all anthro animals, robots and other assorted fantasy creatures would not be a turn off to that audience. The protagonist and "leading lady" are both teens while many of the side characters and basically all the villains are all adults, in case you where wondering about the ages of the characters.
     
  13. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    It's been done very successfully many times . . .

    The Lone Ranger
    Roy Rogers
    Sky King
    Sergeant Preston of the Yukon
    Hopalong Cassidy
    Zorro
    The Rifleman
    The Cisco Kid

    The list goes on and on . . .
     
  14. lixAxil
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    lixAxil Self-Proclaimed Senator of the RPG subforum. Contributor

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    How about Hook.
    The peter pan pseudosequel created by Steven Spielberg in the one Peter Pan is a grow man working as lawyer with a family interpreted by Robin Williams
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    david k and asune...
    those are all movies or tv series for kids, not prose... and the audience age ranges for film/tv are not quite the same as for written fiction...
     
  16. Crimson Dragon
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    Yeah. That's the issue I'm having. I can't quite figure out whether or not such a thing would be ok for LITERATURE. Having the characters all be anthro animals and other non-human creatures may help in some respect, but I'm just not sure if that's enough. The issue with simply making the main characters children is that it is just TOO ridiculous for children to do the things they do. This is very much a "good vs. evil for the fate of the world" kind of story and I can't see young children taking down an evil empire all on their own, without adults or at least teens to help them. Out of all the main characters, only one of them could actually work as being a very young character, and even that would require a slight alteration of the story's timeline or some kind of plot device to explain away their too-young age in relation to the timeline.(which would be something that could be done and done well) The issue with doing that, though, is that the one character who could be made a child is a girl, and as an action-y story about fighting an evil empire it would largely appeals to boys. We all know what young boys thought of girls at that age; so having a story that largely appeals to boys with a young GIRL as the main character would potentially be even more of an issue then that story following an adult or teenage male.

    The only other option would be to make a totally different story set in the same general setting from the perspective of child characters. Instead of telling the story of the rebellion and it's teen-adult age fighters I tell a different story going on at the same time with child characters. Doing this would create a far more serious narrative, though. While the main story is very much "good guys vs. bad guys" this one would probably be more along the lines of Anne Frank's diaries, a story showing how children deal with living under an oppressive regime and how that regime effects the life of their family and friends as well as their own. Of course, it would be put on a level children could understand and given a cartoony coat of paint with it's anthro animals and all, but would still be a fairly dark narrative despite. So yeah..I do have "options" but I'd like to know if the "older protagonist" thing can be done before I throw out the other idea and peruse a different story.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2013
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dorothy did it. (Wizard of Oz.)
    And the Pevensie kids. (Lion, Witch, Wardrobe.)
    And Margaret Murray, though she is fourteen. (Wrinkle in Time.)

    I think I'm forgetting several others.

    I'm not saying that it would work for your story, just that it has been done.
     
  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Some of those were books before the TV versions.

    The Lone Ranger
    Disney got all his first kids' movies from books, some of them may not have started as kid's books but some of them did. Lots of adult protagonists were among Disney's choices.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i doubt the lone ranger books were aimed at 8-10 yr olds... plus, they didn't appear till after the radio show had become popular, so it doesn't help this op with the work being discussed here...

    and disney's choices of adult protags and their popularity don't relate in any way to books for children of 8-10...

    cd...
    so you've aimed the writing at 8-10s and arranged it as a chapter book... what's the word count?

    and why do you think you can't introduce your future child characters in the first book?... wouldn't that be the best way to hook young readers and get them to eagerly await the next books in the series?
     
  20. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Amazon lists a slew of classics (with adult protagonists) abridged for young readers ...

    The Adventures of Robin Hood
    The Odyssey
    Gulliver's Travels
    The Time Machine
    The Three Musketeers
    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
    Journey to the Center of the Earth
    Robinson Crusoe

    ... and many more. Children can read some of these in their original editions. I read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories as a child.
     
  21. Crimson Dragon
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    I never said there where future child characters in the story, so I apologize if one of my statements sounded like that. The discussion of "timeline" was more about changing a specific character's backstory to accommodate them being a child instead of a teen. The character's backstory as it stands puts them as a teen age-wise. However, I was saying that the story would not be effected in a large way if they where younger and all doing that would require is changing either the timeline or their backstory around to accommodate the age change. The only issue is the character in question is a girl, and as an action-y "save the world" story with robots, dragons etc...this would most likely appeal to boys and not girls. Thus, making the leading female into the protagonist would be even more difficult a sell then the current teen hero since I highly doubt young boys would want to read something with girl MC.

    While you can mention Narnia and the Wizard of Oz, both evil empires in those where fairly small-scale compared to the one in this story. Also, at least in the case of Narnia there where a lot of adult characters to help out the young leads and the children didn't take the evil empire down with direct combat. They may have played a part, but they had Aslan and an entire army to do a lot of the work that children just can't do on their own. In this story, there is no massive army to fight the forces of evil because the forces of evil have basically won already. The heroes are not part of a large, powerful legion of good but a rag-tag band of rebels, which is why having the main characters be children is problematic. Unlike Narnia where the heroes had a massive support system behind them the heroes in this story have no such luxury. Thus, to have children as the main characters they would have to be unusually skilled both physically AND mentally, since they'd be directly fighting the bad guys rather then having others do the fighting in their stead AND would have to be coordinating and organizing the whole operation as well. Thus, if they where children, they would have to be just as smart and strong as teens or adults, which would land them squarely in Mary Sue territory.

    Of course, I already mentioned another option which is to tell a different story all together in the same general setting, but before I go that route I want all the input I can get on this issue.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm still a bit confused on exactly what is contained in the current book...

    how old is the main character/protag?

    do children figure fairly prominently in the story?
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It belatedly occurs to me to ask why this is a children's story? I'm sure that there's a reason, but so far everything about it makes it sound more like a book for adults.
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!
     

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