Prepared by: Valerie Nell
Posted on: September 29, 2002
Reposted on: November 1, 2003
Reposted on: March 6, 2005
Reposted on: April 30, 2006
In writing we create worlds inhabited by
characters - characters
in age, class, nationality, creed and much else besides. A good
writer makes readers share directly in the experience of his/her
by showing them the world *through* a given character's eyes. This is
we mean when we talk about a certain character's point of view (POV).
should be believable, distinctive, and consistently sustained for that
character throughout the story.
Children present a particular challenge as
POV characters. They are
different enough from adults to merit special attention to their
Their perception of the world differs
greatly from ours. Their
are always active. Their senses allow everything in. They haven't
developed the intellectual filters that adults have.
They're less concerned with social
niceties. They often cut straight
In many ways, they are "freer" than we
are. The world is their
they are at the centre of it.
The world probably also feels very large:
things do seem bigger when
Lastly, children see things in more
concrete terms than adults do.
They are more concerned with objects and events than with abstract
(Five years appears to be a landmark age at which all the fundamental
for using language are in place. For these first five years,
proceeds very fast. After that, it's more just a question of increasing
sophistication and enlarging vocabulary - building on what is already
For those who are interested, the stages
of language development *up
age five can be found at the URL's below:
And here are some examples from published
works of fiction. Note
these children are all well over the age of five:-
From "Angela's Ashes",
by Frank McCourt:
We ran to the church. My mother panted along behind with
Michael in her arms. We arrived at the church just in time
to see the last of the boys leaving the altar rail where
the priest stood with the chalice and the host, glaring
at me. Then he placed on my tongue the wafer, the body and
blood of Jesus. At last, at last.
It's on my tongue. I draw it back.
I had God glued to the roof of my mouth.
Out of the mouths of babes! This has the
irreverence, the vitality, the
no-nonsense approach to language, and the tumbling out of words and
impressions straight from the gut, that I can imagine an energetic
From "Confusion", by
Elizabeth Jane Howard:
Neville leaned over and put his hand gingerly on the
old man's forehead.
The skin felt cold. "I'd better try and feel his pulse,"
he said, trying to sound calm, but his voice was shaking.
But Mr.Wren's wrist was cold as well, and when Neville
let it go, it dropped back onto the bed so quickly that it
almost made him start. Tears rushed to his eyes.
"He must be dead," he said.
"Oh, poor Mr. Wren. He much have died awfully suddenly if
he didn't even have time to shut his eyes." Lydia was crying,
which he was glad of because it stopped him.
"I think we ought to say a prayer for him. I think the
people who find people who are dead ought to do something
"Well, *you* can stay and pray if you like. I'm going to
find Aunt Rach."
"Oh no, I don't think I will," Lydia said hastily. "I'll
come with you and pray on the way."
The effect of youthful candour here is
achieved almost solely by
In 300 words or less, write a scene, a
description, or a story from
child's POV - where you both see the world, and express your
in a way which is convincingly childlike. Try to keep the focus on
you present the content, rather than on merely story line alone. Try to
a sense of the child's individual personality, and the things that
his/her attention. For the purposes of this exercise, we will create an
age limit of between five and thirteen.
When critiquing a submission, highlight
good use of childlike
viewpoint, and moments where your understanding of the child's unique
experience of the world felt particularly rich, and - most important -
Have fun with it. Now your chance to be a
Valerie Nell's wrap-up
Posted on: October 7, 2002
Thank you very much to Admin for helping
with the development of
exercise, and for the opportunity of presenting it to the list. I
learnt a great deal.
It was a productive week for submissions
and crits, and the subs
widely. Some came down very firmly on the side of being a child; others
showed a mixture of styles, with childlike moments interspersed with a
slightly more adult approach. I think we all learnt a bit about point
view (POV), and how slippery it can be. The most important thing I
that if you write anything that could be viewed as subjective thoughts
coming straight out of a character's mind, then you can't at the same
expect the reader to think that those thoughts belong to anyone else.
the odd moment where thoughts seemed to emanate from the child, and yet
rather too adult for it.
We also learnt that it is nonetheless
possible to take a looser
to stay close to the child's POV, but at the same time have that
interpreted by a narrator. However, it emerged that if you do assume a
definite voice at the outset (like the simplistic language of a
four-year-old) then suddenly departing from that voice will seem like a
wrench to the reader, and you will lose believability. The younger the
child, the more difficult it becomes to occupy any sort of middle
Some subs gave just a slice of life;
others were more ambitious and
full story. We saw ages ranging from four or five, to preteen. We met
tomboys, abused children, naughty children, bored children and a great
charming children. But whatever the approach, all the subs captured an
essential childishness - the ingenuousness and candour, and the
sensory awareness, that seem to be such an important part of being
Well done to everyone who participated!
Grace Skibicki's wrap-up
Posted on: Mon, 14 Mar 2005
Some very good writing this past week. I
know it isn't easy to find
the child's voice. It can be a struggle.
I found the submissions presented some
unique stories told from a
child's perspective and in a child's voice. Some were able to stand
alone as a completed short short, others could be part of a larger
piece of writing. All of the submissions were very interesting to
read. A good diversity of ideas and execution.
Occasionally the adult voice crept in, but
in most cases,
quickly as the child's voice gained dominance, again.
I learned it isn't easy to find that
child's voice,the adult wanted
to take over, edit, 'improve' what the child was saying. The minute
I let that happen, the charm and innocence of the child's voice was
lost and the focus of the paragraph changed.
I feel the submissions were well executed.
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