Oh yes. As all the old people you see every year at Thanksgiving say, “Children are the future. Which means you and Dan better get started, Nancy!” Children are innocent flowers before they reached the puberty monster. Well most of them.
Children have as much variety as adults and teenagers. So why don’t writers write them like that? Kids aren’t Shirley Temple. They’re Calvin, they’re Philip Hamilton, they’re Lilo, they’re baby Moana, they’re the first years of Hogwarts, they’re Boo! Children are innocent, yes. But they aren’t dumb. They can figure out why their parents are crying.
So what’s the key to writing kids? Well first off, don’t put them into the kid stereotype. Shirley Temple pioneered the art of dumb kids with no personality except cute, dumb, and happy. Whoever wrote Shirley Temple sure hasn’t been inside a room of preschoolers.
When I was helping out in the children’s group of my church, tying the shoes of a 4-year-old boy, he had a lot to say about a lot of stuff. He told me Noah (from the ark story) put the sun into an oven each day to warm it up. He told me that space ends in the morning and begins at night. That’s not right, though. He must be dumb. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
The boy was four years old. He had no way to know or understand how space is infinite, or how the sun covers the stars because of how bright it is. The only gas he knows is the one that comes out of him! He took what he knew and thought them as fact. Long ago, cavemen might have thought the same thing about the black stuff in the sky. They thought the sun was a ball of fire, not gas.
What makes him unique is the fact that he came up with his own ideas. He can understand the world enough to theorize what is happening around him. He knows the sun is warm. He knows ovens are warm. He’s been in church so many times, Noah’s story is nailed into his head. So he made the idea that Noah warms the sun in an oven. Perfectly understandable, don’t you think?
Okay, so a four-year-old thinks a man that had been dead for centuries heats the sun in a technology that didn’t exist when he was around. That’s only the tip of children characters. In order to show you the other parts of children, I have to show my favorite child character at all- Lilo.
Lilo is the young Hawaiian girl living with her sister Nani, who meets the odd alien Stitch and becomes his best friend. This girl, how do I even describe her? She’s funny. She gets angry and doesn’t handle it right (like most kids). She fights with and loves her sister. She has her own crazy theories on the world. She’s smart enough to defeat aliens! Lilo is the type of child character writers should strive to write.
Let’s go over everything piece by piece. Lilo is funny. She is funny not only because it is her personality, but because she is a child. Anything a child does can be hilarious. Their developing attitudes and actions often make us laugh. Even if your child is very serious, they can still be funny with their little emo attitudes.
Lilo gets angry and doesn’t know how to handle it. She lashes out and screams and cries because she doesn’t have the emotional experience adults or teenagers have. She can’t handle her emotions as well, which causes outbursts. Again, your child may be better with their emotions. They are still most likely not as experienced as older people.
Lilo fights with and loves her sister. Children have deep, trusting relationships with their family and friends. They fight with them and care for them, just like adults.
Lilo has her own crazy theories on the world. With a child’s developing mind, they are still learning how the world works. So give your child their own creative, personal theories.
Lilo is smart. Children are incredibly smart! They may not be able to solve complex mathematical equations, but they are still intelligent! Remember what you talked about as a kid? You talked about all these weird things, like global warming, and why penguins don’t live in the north pole, and all these other little debates with your friends over what you know. So remember. Children are little people, with their own personalities and thoughts.