Friday, September 10, 2010

The child's voice -- an excerpt from my article on voice in writing

An excerpt from my article on voice in writing -- the child's voice
 The writing of This Bird Flew Away, written in the first person voice of a child narrator, and a child who we meet at nine and follow for twenty years, brought with the task some very interesting challenges -- the need to capture authenticity in a child's voice and work within those limitations. The following is an excerpt from my recent article on the subject I'd grappled with for over a year.

As an adult, how can you write in the voice of a child?
You must be able to tap into your own past, your own childhood and once again be the person you used to be. You must actively engage with children at any given opportunity, and remind yourself of the special attributes of that unique time of growth, wonder and curiosity.

Authors so often short-change the child’s voice.
Common belief states children are inarticulate; children have no understanding of their emotions; children don’t understand the world around them. Writers who believe this and write accordingly tend to be condescending, or precious, or preachy, or worse – their children sound like intellectual adults, without respect for the limitations of the age. Or worse yet – their children are hollow, void, stick characters from a morality play and infantile rather than just plain kids.

Writing from the viewpoint of the child does not give us the right to make of our character what we wish children were – but to consider them as they are.
Kids go about the business of being kids no matter what goes on in their lives. There’s this wonderful resilience kids have… They stay innocent and keep reinventing themselves despite all the appalling crap. I find the ideal of childhood innocence played against the cruelty of the world very inspiring.
Even in the most despicable of circumstances, they maintain that wonder and magic in their views of life and the world. They are all philosophers, processing everything around them and always ready to ask, “Why?”

They are painfully honest. Up to about age ten or eleven, what goes on in their minds is exactly what comes out – nothing is filtered for politeness, nothing censored for political correctness, and there is never any chance a child says one thing but thinks another. This is a powerful tool for a writer – a complete lack of subtlety, or deviance.

Those qualities in adults that attract, impress or disgust children are so far removed from what other adults see, it is a whole new way to see the world. Writing from the viewpoint of the child allows us to describe our world from a fresh perspective, and possibly, quite possibly shed some of society’s preconceptions along the way.

The false belief that children are inarticulate and incapable of comprehending the world should be the first to go.They do speak their minds (sometimes embarrassingly so) and do understand their environment, but from the viewpoint of a child. 

Who is to say one person’s perceptions are more true than another’s; perhaps the children have it right and the adults see things falsely.
This is from one of nine articles on writing from a series called "Good Writing is ..." You can read the entire article here.

For a listing of all nine of my writing articles visit my portfolio here.

I wish you all good writing and good reading.

Sincerely yours,


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