1. stormcat
    Offline

    stormcat Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Somewhere beyond the sea

    Making a likable child character.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by stormcat, Aug 27, 2014.

    Lets face it, little kids are tough to love. They're messy, rather simple-minded, don't always make it to the bathroom in time, ask too many questions, wander away from you in crowds, scream in an octave no human voice should be able to reach, throw tantrums and seem to enjoy making bedtime a hassle. But then again, they'll be the first to say "I love you", will usually share their things, learn fairly quickly, and can be damn adorable when they try. I'm writing a character, a boy about six years old, who should be likable and make everyone really sad when he dies at a young age.

    Having never had kids of my own, nor spending a great deal of time around them, how do I prevent "Cousin Oliver" and make instead a character people will miss when he's gone?
     
  2. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,821
    Likes Received:
    2,378
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Any child that dies at a young age will be missed regardless if he was a saint - which he wouldn't have been. Just make him a little person with dreams ( at that age they frequently change ) desires, and habits. Treat him like any other character. Just throw in more kid stuff. One of my favorite literary children who wasn't all that good but was relatable and likable was Ramona from the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary.
     
    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh and Renee J like this.
  3. cutecat22
    Offline

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    2,431
    Likes Received:
    1,059
    Location:
    England
    Make him into a character that doesn't deserve to die. And if it's an illness that takes him, make him be understanding of his illness to the point of acceptance and not being afraid to die.
     
  4. PensiveQuill
    Offline

    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2014
    Messages:
    358
    Likes Received:
    210
    Location:
    Australia
    [QUOTE="stormcat, post: 1265494, member: 64062"how do I prevent "Cousin Oliver" and make instead a character people will miss when he's gone?[/QUOTE]
    By realising that kids are people too and their personalities are usually more vivid than adults because they have not yet been socially conditioned to cover them up and subdue them. I don't have kids but I work with them a lot. My observations...
    - Children will outright tell you exactly what they think of you. No holds barred. They may not always doit in words but the facial expressions, the wanting to converse with you or not, the contents of the conversations all telll you exactly where you stand.
    - Personal quirks, likes and dislikes are very apparent even at age 6. I do not believe the BS about children not having developed personalities until they are much older. I see children all the time without full sets of teeth with distinct and interesting personalities. Some of the more fun ones are the little old men. Children who see through everything and say quite astute things at exxactly the right time.
    - Peersonal expression is very noticable in children. Even figures of speech. My nephew is autistic but he has his own way of using language which gives him a very particular expression. He is difficult to engage in the usual ways (by addressing by name) and he cant always verbalise his frustrations in meaningful ways. But then he has moments of utter lucidity in which he seems to converse with you on a completely adult level and he also has bags of charm. He's very beguiling and can easily win you over.

    If you want cousin oliver to be likable, make him into a full and complete character that is something other than a whining screaming brat. Give him turns of phrase, a means to charm those around him and certainn likes and dislikes. You can't help but like a character you know well.
     
  5. Empty Bird
    Offline

    Empty Bird Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2014
    Messages:
    85
    Likes Received:
    42
    I think it's hugely possible to like any character you read as long as we understand why they act the way they do, or we see vulnerable sides that the other characters don't get to see.

    Like that character in so and so book who's just annoying and all the other characters frown at him. But us- the priveledged writers- get to see that he goes home to an empty house or mourns a broken promise,a stupid mistake. Then, the trick is leading some of the other characters into seeing small things then- BOOM!

    We're already in love with your character.

    Don't make him loveable. Make him understandable. What we fully understand we tend to love.

    (apart from nasty vegetables. I understand them plenty but don't love them at all)
     
    Reptile Hazard likes this.
  6. Mike Hill
    Offline

    Mike Hill Natural born citizen of republic of Finland.

    Joined:
    May 12, 2014
    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    70
    Location:
    Finland
    Others have said and I agree that showing kids dreams makes death horrible. It leaves writer wondering what could have been.
     
  7. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    To add to the consensus, showing his ambitious and idealistic dreams is probably the best way to get the reader to care about him.
     
  8. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Children who die at a young age tend to be more mature than kids of the same age. I saw recently a little blog post about an 11-year-old who died of a brain tumour, and it was written that he'd said something on these lines right before he died, regarding his decision to donate all his organs upon his death, "There're people who make a difference in the world, and they're great. I want to be a great kid too."

    Anyway, let's see - well, here are some examples of cute little kids.

    My first grader, upon seeing me come into her classroom just this Thu, came up to me and promptly hugged my legs. In the past she's done this too and said, "I love you." She's also a really chatty kid who goes completely off tangent so it's actually pretty hard to teach with her in class sometimes, but she's just eager, that's all. And she's always correcting people about her name - "My name's Hanon. Not Hana! People call me Hana, but it's Hanon!" lol

    I think with kids, you love them because of their simplicity. Like the other day when we were playing games in class - 2nd graders - and we ran out of time and one of the kids didn't get a turn. The way he looked at me, poor thing, but he wasn't whining - he just looked at me really longingly and sadly with his mouth opened, like he wants to go "Ooooooh." And I said sorry and that he'll get a turn in the next lesson and he just nodded at me lol.

    You love kids cus of their bubbling joy I think, and then you wanna strangle them because they won't sit still :D looool
     
  9. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    It's worrying that you are again asking how to make a character extract emotion from the reader, while seemingly having no interest in creating a three dimensional character.
     
  10. stormcat
    Offline

    stormcat Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Somewhere beyond the sea
    You mean my Edward Cullen Expy? I think his one-dimensionness will be okay as long as everyone else has multiple dimensions.
     
  11. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    Why would you think that? The antagonist should be the most dimensional character. If people don't understand his motivations why would they invest emotionally in him?
     
  12. stormcat
    Offline

    stormcat Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Somewhere beyond the sea
    He's not even the major villain (Who will be multi-dimesnional and possibly relatable), and I want people to hate him and not invest emotionally in him. Furthermore, this thread was created to create the poor child he'll kill as part of his plot to emotionally destroy my heroine.
     
  13. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    If the child's supposed to have emotional impact, then he better be a proper character that's necessary to your story - the actual story, not your mission to make your villain hateful.

    I dunno, stormcat, I feel there's something seriously, seriously off about what you're trying to achieve. I know that nothing I say's gonna stop you writing this, or going about it the way you already are, but I fear that maybe by the end, the person the reader's gonna hate is you, the author, for subjecting them to a bad plot... lol
     
    daemon likes this.
  14. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    Hatred is emotional investment. That is the definition of the term. You cannot both hate and be indifferent to a character.

    But you're still back here, asking what will make people like a child instead of developing a child and letting the reader get attached to them.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2014
  15. DromedaryLights
    Offline

    DromedaryLights Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2008
    Messages:
    113
    Likes Received:
    87
    Location:
    Boston
    Probably kids, like any other character, are likable if we can understand them, identify with them, and believe in them as real people. I think Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes is a great example -- extremely annoying, but very likable. As long as they aren't totally malicious like Dudley Dursley, or something.
     
  16. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    This is so important. Creating a character just to show how evil another character is, is a cheap trick. It certainly proves in an intellectual sense that the villain is evil, but you want the reader to be genuinely scared for the protagonist, not to think "I am so sick of reading about this contrived straw man that I just want to be done with the story." And to achieve that effect, it really helps to get the reader to perceive the villain as a dynamic human being who plays an important role in the plot. Try to demonstrate the villain's evilness by doing things that threaten the protagonist for reasons that at least make sense in the villain's mind.
     

Share This Page