I hope you’re having a fabulous Monday because mine started off with anxiety! 😀 I needed to record a video of an informative speech, but had no better means of doing that than with my lousy computer camera. Ah, well. That’s behind me because I did it, submitted it, and now just have to worry about the grade (and how my poor professor will respond to all the “um’s” and “so’s” and “essentially, what that means is that’s,” and grammatical errors – me!
The Writer! Sheesh.).
Is it just me, or do weekends feel like a pause from a video game and returning when all the bad guys are about to attack?
But I digress.
Today, I want to talk about dialogue. And not just any old dialogue. But a child’s dialogue.
One of my biggest pet peeves when watching a film is when the script writer gives a child too-mature-lines. For instance, my family and I recently watched The Judge with RDJ and Robert Duvall. I really enjoyed it (minus the language and a couple scenes)! It was brilliant!
But I kept cringing when the daughter came on screen. At one point in the film, she asked her dad if he and his wife (her mom) were getting a divorce. He asks why she would think that. And she says that that’s what happens when x, y, and z takes place.
A kid doesn’t get that.
A kid (generally) isn’t that mature or insightful or analytic.
So I want to keep you from making that mistake. Here are a few tips I hope can help your child sound like a child.
Tip #1: Give ’em a speech impediment.
But don’t let it get obnoxious. If they’ve got a lisp, write that in! Mark Twain gave his southerners southern accents. It makes the book more realistic.
Tip #2: Their smarts should suit their age.
Unless this is about a genius kid, keep ’em simple. Kids like to have fun, play, eat bugs, and snot all over the place (if they’re boys). They like to play with dolls, dress up, twirl, dance, put on Mommy’s clothes, ruin her make up, and fall in the pool (if they’re girls, although this last point can go for boys too).
They’re really not that insightful. Unless someone tell them, a five year old isn’t going to catch on that Mommy’s afraid of Daddy, okay? They’re happy to see Mommy and they’re happy to see Daddy. That’s it.
Tip #3: Develop their voice.
This is probably the chiefest characteristic of writing a child, in my limited experience. Develop it in a way that accurately portrays a child. Watch some kids. See how they talk, act. They’re typically not angelic, graceful beings. I certainly wasn’t. I had such a problem with balance that I walked into walls, tables, chairs, and I wasn’t smart enough to realize that I’d fallen off my dresser.
I thought it hit me.
Or maybe I was just a liar.
Either way, give them personality, but not a mature or overly-smart one.
See, the thing is, even if a kid is smart in real life, writers need to exaggerate the childishness in a book so the reader can see that that’s a child, not a know-it-all. Writers exaggerate a lot of stuff to get the point across.
Buildings don’t burn all around us right now. But in books, they do. Because we need to feel the sense that the world is in chaos and falling apart.
Know what I mean, jelly bean?
Children are innocent, oblivious, awed by everything, curious, fearless, and magnificent. Sometimes they’re shy; sometimes they have no problem walking up to a stranger and telling them they love them (or don’t). They’re honest and know they can get away with crap if you train them to.
You don’t need to make them stereotypes, but they should be fleshed out enough so that we can see that they’re a normal (if that’s what they should be) child and not get peeved that they’re too smart or too obnoxious.
I hope these help! 🙂
Check out my new page, The Writer’s Toolbox! It’s a compilation of some of the most helpful resources for writers. Hope it helps!