1. RainySunnyEnding
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    RainySunnyEnding New Member

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    Writing in the voice of a child

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by RainySunnyEnding, Oct 13, 2013.

    Hi.
    I am in the process of a big writing project. I usually nowadays write fanfiction, when I write weekly and upload on a set day every week. This one is no different in the fact that it's based on pre-existing characters (the same pairing as always) but I am going to finish this one before publishing it. This has lead to, I think, overplanning. However, that's just an overview of the idea. Let me lead into my query.
    I start with a 'prologue' chapter one, the second chapter following over ten years previously. In this first chapter, my characters meet as children. My narrative is third person, and will remain so as the fic progresses, but I want to stylize the narrative as I continue through the story. Most of the bulk of the fic will follow one person, but as he grows closer to the second character, we will see more of the second character on his own, and the style of the narrative will change as such, too. Please bear with me if you can't understand what I'm trying to say. Essentially, the narrative style will change as the character grows up and the scene moves from character to character.
    NOW to the meat of the question. I ramble too much. How do I achieve a childish narrative in the first chapter? What do I call this style? How can I pull it off without confusing that there may be an onlooker (there isn't) or making it too young, and therefore uncomfortable to read?
    My boy is six years old as the story opens, but I wouldn't mind him sounding a bit older. Does anyone have any tips or tricks?
    Thanks.
     
  2. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    What is your character doing in the first chapter?
     
  3. RainySunnyEnding
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    RainySunnyEnding New Member

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    He doesn't want to go to the park; he can't make friends easily. But he does and he meets another boy and they become good friends. They go on the swings, play tig, listen to music. I have a scene where he's waiting for his friend, thinking how sad he'll be if he doesn't turn up. He does, and they play. But then one day he doesn't, and he doesn't see him again.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how do you explain the changes/growth in the character's narrative voice?

    it makes no sense to me for him to be changing his 'voice' unless the entire book is clearly made up of diary entries, as he can't be telling the story to the reader from different periods of time, all in one book...
     
  5. RainySunnyEnding
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    RainySunnyEnding New Member

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    It's not any character narrating, but completely third person. I guess I just wanted to try something different. The characters are very closed off, and as the narrative changes to focus on them, it'll show them opening up, and a further understanding of the character as the narrative style changes beyond that.
     
  6. RainySunnyEnding
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    RainySunnyEnding New Member

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    Using character names isn't going to make this explanation any easy as two share, so I'll do initials instead. B is the main character, and his friend in the park is C. The guy he later meets is K.
    Chapter one: childish narrative, B and C are kids.
    Further chapters: more adult narrative, mainly focusing on B. As K opens up to B, we start to see more inside his thoughts, and the narrative will follow him a bit more at times. The narrative never follows C, showing his closeness to B just isn't there.
    I hope this helps to explain both the idea and my reasoning more successfully.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I've come across this recently with my critique group. It's a common complaint my character's voice is too old for her age in the scene. They suggested putting in some more childlike dialogue, not necessarily changing the whole exchange. Throw an age appropriate phrase in here and there (this girl is 13). As I went to revise the chapter, I added her climbing a tree, like a preteen might. So I'm using an action to create the voice. I like how it came out, it works with everything else that's going on.

    You can play around with the narration as long as the action and dialogue are age appropriate. Even an intelligent 6 yr old isn't going to have very intensive internal dialogue, so I'd stay away from the character contemplating anything serious. He can think kids don't like him but he shouldn't process the 'why' in any kind of depth.

    My 10 yr old scene has the character fantasizing all sorts of things, she's a scientist, and engineer, a beauty, a hero, and definitely not a princess. ;) I think pretend play is even more pronounced in a 6 yr old so that is an option to show age with.
     
  8. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    Writing from a child POV, even in third person, is no easy task. Dumbing down the language would be an obvious solution, but it is a very treacherous one. Many child characters, even from renowned authors, come across as terribly naive and perhaps even a bit stupid. Personally, I think the biggest difference is that children perceive the world much differently than we do. By extension they will name things differently than we adults do, particularly if they don't know the actual word for something. A kid I talked to the other day wanted to make a security system for his door, he told me he just needed an 'attacher' to finish his creation up. Looking out of the window right now, the weather I see could be described as grey and dreary, but to a child, 'thunderweather' might be the preffered description. In short, when describing something, children will have to rely on what experiences or words they have access to, this leads them to sometimes invent words that are a mixture of feeling and/or words they already know.

    Ginger's advice is very sound as well, its probably an easier solution than to try and find a child's voice.
     
  9. RainySunnyEnding
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    RainySunnyEnding New Member

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    Thank you both for your help; you're right, I might look in to dropping it.
    At the minute, I have tended to repeat things a lot, using a word again instead of saying "it", and I might as well show you a bit.

    Kurt wasn't coming. Blaine was alone and Kurt had promised he'd come back to him, but he wasn't here. If he had had that watch he'd asked for for his birthday then he'd know exactly how many minutes late Kurt was. But he didn't have the watch. His mom said he'd lose it. But he wouldn't. Blaine knew he wouldn't, because he'd love the watch and look after it.
    But it didn't matter. He didn't have the watch.

    Does this work? Or does it just sound weird? I have tried to go for a hint of being younger but without being full on "The cat sat on the mat."
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    "Kurt wasn't coming. Blaine was alone and Kurt had promised he'd come back to him, but he wasn't here. If he had had that watch he'd asked for for his birthday then he'd know exactly how many minutes late Kurt was. But he didn't have the watch. His mom said he'd lose it. But he wouldn't. Blaine knew he wouldn't, because he'd love the watch and look after it.
    But it didn't matter. He didn't have the watch."
    First, I would just write the rest of the story and come back to this.

    But say you already had, then you need to ask yourself, what does this scene do for your story?

    We see Blaine is disappointed, alone, and his mom lacks trust in him.
    It doesn't sound like a 6 yr old, 8 maybe.
    I like the whole 'didn't have the watch' part. That is, if you want to set up a lack of mother's trust and a mother who disappointed her son. If this doesn't have a significant role in the story, then it doesn't belong.

    I don't like, "promised he'd come back to him, ..." I think most kids would say, promised to come back to [the place]. If it's a matter of being abandoned someplace then elaborate: "promised he wouldn't leave him alone here". Or just drop, "to him". We already know that by "come back".

    Finally, you should have some reason for telling the reader Kurt didn't return (you don't need to disclose it here, but think about the reason you are showing it). If it's just to set the watch disappointment up, I'd use an event rather than a person. If you just want to show Blaine was often stood up by the other kids, make it more than just Kurt. If there is something you are revealing between the two, it's fine. Leave it and decide later if you are going to keep it or not.​
     
  11. RainySunnyEnding
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    RainySunnyEnding New Member

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    Thank you!
    Your first comment, about his mother? It's more his dad who doesn't trust him, but Blaine doesn't have a good relationship with either parent particularly. Really, this is a first draft, and could easily change.
    I've taken the "to him" bit out; you're right, it doesn't need it at all.
    And as for Kurt not returning: In this scene, Kurt does appear. It's just Blaine scared because he's never had a friend before and doesn't want to lose this one. At the end of the first chapter, Kurt does leave (or rather, Blaine goes to the park and Kurt doesn't appear for months). The rest of the story is based on this separation, with Blaine finding photos of the two of them together at the start of chapter 2 and trying to track down his Kurt. I guess Blaine worrying is foreshadowing?
     
  12. DanM
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    DanM Member

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    Have you read Flowers for Algernon?

    The basic plot is that a retarded man, through the drugs given to him, becomes super intelligent. The narrative is written in the form of diary entries (if I remember), and as his intelligence increases the writing itself becomes better, going from barely understandable to highly stylised.

    Although that's in the first person, it does sound a little like what you're trying to do, and it may be worth checking it out to see how it may be done. It's also a fantastic book :)
     
  13. RainySunnyEnding
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    I haven't, but I have just downloaded the ebook; I'll check it out. Thanks :)
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    It's good foreshadowing. Sounds like an important chapter and belongs in the story.

    You wrote, "mom said he'd lose it", if the relationship with Dad is more important, maybe change "mom" to "dad".
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    I'm not so sure about that--well, depending on what you mean by "intensive". If you mean intelligent and mature, sure, but if youre referring to a lack of frenzied activity, I'd probably disagree.

    When I was five, I remember my kindergarten class lining up to go to lunch, along with other classes. I was new to the school, and wasn't clear on the rules. I remember standing there trying to figure out whether I was standing in the right place:

    "Well, she's a girl and I'm a girl, so it's good that I'm standing where she's standing."
    "Did I do it wrong? Am I in trouble?"
    "And we came out of the same room."
    "Did I do it wrong? Am I in trouble?"
    "But there are girls with those other kids *and* with these kids here. And boys on that side and on that other side. So maybe I'm standing in the wrong place."
    "Did I do it wrong? Am I in trouble?"
    "But my hair is the same color as hers, so that's good."
    "Did I do it wrong? Am I in trouble?"
    "And our shoes are sort of alike. That's good."
    "Did I do it wrong? Am I in trouble?"

    And on and on and on. Yes, I was a nervous and probably OCD child. :) But my point is that there was a whole lot of internal dialogue going on.

    I also remember the day that I got confused between a quarter (brought to pay for lunch) and a nickel (brought to pay for afternoon milk) and brought my nickel for lunch. The Cafeteria Lady wouldn't take it, and I remember trying to explain that later I'd bring the quarter for the milk, so it would all work out. And puzzling for hours afterward about why she didn't accept that.

    (No, I didn't starve. I don't remember who paid for my lunch, but somebody did.)
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    Those are good examples, CF. Things like, why doesn't he like me and what not all make sense in a child's voice.

    I was referring more to things like, "my dad doesn't trust me with a watch because he couldn't be trusted with one when he was a kid." A young child might say, "just because he lost his," but not the more exploratory thinking about it.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if the narrative is not meant to reflect any character's pov, then it's a neutral observer's, so there's no reason for its 'style' to change as the characters age, is there?
     
  18. RainySunnyEnding
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    You've got me!
    I'm young and still experimenting. This could work horribly. Or it could work for me and nobody picks it up. Whichever way this goes, it's only fanfiction, and I am never going to publish it.
     
  19. kburns421
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    kburns421 Member

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    I don't have a lot of experience, but I feel like third person limited can, and often does, take on a style, for lack of a better word (maybe tone?), based on the character the story is following. By telling the reader the thoughts of the character and writing those thoughts in a certain way, the narrative is reflecting that character's POV, isn't it? Is there really such thing as a neutral observer when you are sharing the thoughts of your characters? I just feel like I've read a lot of third person, and none of them have seemed like neutral observers. The ones I'm thinking of right now seemed to reflect the personality/perceptions of the characters they were talking about. Maybe we are referring to different things though because describing a characters actions in third person might sound the same regardless of age whereas the way their thoughts are portrayed might sound different.

    In theory I think it makes sense to use this to make it more childish-sounding when your MC is a child and more adult-sounding when he is an adult, but it's hard to say whether switching from a childish voice to an adult one will actually work well without reading the whole thing. I do think the excerpt given made sense and sounded like a child's voice though.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's what i was saying, kb...

    i was referring to only the narrative, not dialog or a character's thoughts... and it would make no sense for the narrative 'voice' to keep changing when, as the op stated, none of the characters are doing the narrating...
     
  21. kburns421
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    Makes sense. It was just that the excerpt given used the portrayal of thoughts, the way they were written with repetition and simplicity, to make it childish, so that's what I read into the question.
     

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