by Diane Robinson
When writing children literature, finding your own child voice is the only way to create realistic characters, believable dialogue, and succinct narrative that will grab your reader’s attention and keep them involved in your story.
Students often ask, “How do writers find their child voice?”
My answer is, before you can find your child voice, you must think like a child. To think like a child, you must play like a child, even if it is only in your mind.
Seems like a relatively simple thing to do, right? But as adults, we often let go of (or lose completely) our childlike attitudes and behaviors or tuck them away in a memory box.
So, open the box. Remember. Put on a costume and dance around the room, go to a park and cruise down the slide, visit a classroom, read children’s literature, or hang out with some kids and just observe. Soon enough, your own childhood memories will come flooding back about what it was like to be that age, what was important, what wasn’t important, how you acted and how you talked, what the world sounded like, felt like, and tasted like.
Once your own inner child is awakened, you will be able to immerse yourself into your character’s head with more freedom, with more pizzazz.
Another good exercise to get into child-mode thinking is to look at things, people, situations and emotions and write various approaches to express them with originality. Then, break the sentences down again and again until the emotions and situations are expressed simply, with the innocence of a child’s heart.
Here are some examples of my child voice that I’ve used in my own stories:
Excited: He felt as if a herd of jumping bugs were doing cartwheels in his stomach.
Sad: My heart fell sideways and stayed lying down all day.
Descriptive dialogue: “I know grandma can fly. She has that flabby, flapping skin under her arms that turns into her after-dark wings.”
Descriptive narrative: The wind pricked him, jabbed at him, finally becoming so mean with all its yelling and howling that he decided the wind just wasn’t worth playing with any longer.
So if you find yourself dancing and twirling around the kitchen, doing cartwheels across the yard, or finger painting like a four-year-old and somebody says you’re acting immature, take it as a compliment and start writing.
*Diane Robinson is an award-winning children’s chapter book author and a writing tutor at Creative Writing Institute
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