1. SusieD.Nym
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    SusieD.Nym Member

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    Jargon of a Five-Year-Old

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by SusieD.Nym, Feb 13, 2014.

    I'm writing a novel form the perspective of a five-year-old boy. Any suggestions from people who spend time around five-year-olds about how they talk? I'm trying to make it more realistic and I'm fresh out of five-year-olds to talk to.
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is going to be very difficult. In order to adequately convey a depth of thought needed in a novel, the protagonist needs to be particularly erudite. Many authors are criticized for this when they have teen-aged protagonists, as they have to be exceptionally smart, observant, and intellectually mature -- somewhat of a prodigy. And most people can accept this. It has been done with younger protagonists, but it is very, very hard.

    Five year olds are not very intellectually mature. They're still very focused only on the "me," and often will say things that don't make any sense, or are obviously untrue. Often, when people need to tell a story about something that happened when the narrator was very young, they'll start out with the adult relaying the story, so you can use an adult's language and sensibilities, yet still describe what had happened while the character was very young.
     
  3. SusieD.Nym
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    SusieD.Nym Member

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    What I was thinking was having him make incorrect observations about his world but still allow the reader to pick up what is actually going on.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    being a mom of 7, grandmom of 19 [at last count], i don't see how you can write a readable novel for the adult market, with a 5-year-old narrator...

    just imagine sitting down with a child that age and asking him to tell you what he did and what he saw happening over the past few days... how long would he hold your interest?... ten minutes?... maybe fifteen at most?
     
  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Read, Room by Emma Donahue. It's taken from the perspective of a five year old boy - I haven't read it yet. My mom did and loved it.
     
  6. Wyr
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    Wyr Active Member

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    I think that writing an entire novel from a five-year-old's perspective is going to be a major challenge, especially if you don't hang out with many five-year-olds. I would suggest doing some research first. Ask a friend or relative that lives close and has a child the right age (make sure to explain in detail why you want to, you don't want to be that guy.) I would also start with something less ambitious than a full-length novel; try a short story, you can always expand it later.

    That being said, the five-year-olds I've know best (my two nieces) are both extremely articulate... when they want to be. They are incredibly unpredictable and swing from lying through their teeth when it's obvious they are doing it, to being some of the most brutally honest people I've ever spoken to. You have to remember, they are still figuring out the difference between right and wrong, let alone polite and rude. My younger niece actually turned five just yesterday. I called her to wish her a happy birthday since I couldn't be there in person. My sister had to drag her to the phone (they had gone to a "fun center" with games, pizza, bowling, etc.) and as soon as she came on the line she blurted out, "I really, really don't want to talk to you right now."

    My sister scolded her for being rude (after she stopped laughing) and tried to get her to talk to me, but she would only speak gibberish until her mom let her go back to playing. Other times, I barely walk in the door and they scream and run to me and jump on me and basically maul me in their excitement to have my attention.

    Spend time with a five-year-old, I guarantee you he/she will be the most ADHD, self-centered, unpredictable person you ever met.
     
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  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Their Theory of Mind is also still rather new. This might explain the obvious lies and the brutal honesty. They knew there's difference between what you want, think, know, need and what they want, think, know, need but the details are still being sorted out.
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Kids 5 and under need to be cute, or they'd never survive. Dealing with them can bring you to the brink of insanity.
     
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  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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  10. SusieD.Nym
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    SusieD.Nym Member

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    Thanks everybody! I really appreciate the input.
     
  11. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    I think kids this age begin to ask the "why" question a lot. Also, consider that a five year old will make up words for objects that he or she doesn't know the name of. My neighbour's kid called a screwdriver an "attacher" for example. Like others have said, they swing between being articulate and mature to being a slightly silly kid. Most authors dumb down the children too much, if you can have the protagonist be slightly silly one moment and rather brilliant the other, you might be able to mimic that. As far as I can tell, their attention span isn't too great either and they are not easily embarrassed. Social conditioning holds little meaning to them.
     
  12. SusieD.Nym
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    SusieD.Nym Member

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    Thanks! @Macaberz That's actually sort of what I'm doing. Glad to here I'm on the right track.
     

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