Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WRITER WEDNESDAY: Writing UP Your Characters

I have a total pet peeve. (Actually, I have several, but this one pertains to reading ... and writing) ... It's when authors dumb down their characters.

Now, I'm not talking about your teen main character. We've all heard that you should talk "up" to your readers and that teens are very intelligent beings.

I'm talking about the little siblings (or the best friend's younger siblings). There's nothing I despise more than the description of a five-year-old running around with a lollipop, sticky hands touching every surface as they shout out "poop."

While that may happen every once in a great while, it's a rarity. My four-year-old asks extremely detailed and thought-provoking questions. "Mom, have those mountains been there millions of years?" My nine-year-old has been doing theater for several years and knows more about Mamma Mia than I do.

And most teens don't look at their siblings like they're complete idiots. The older sister may be annoyed, or embarrassed, of her younger brother ... but she's also normally very proud of him.

I know there's a fine line of making a younger child seem too intelligent, but at the very least, opt for interesting. Give her a hobby (most five year-olds I know are already playing sports or are learning a musical instrument). Have him obsessed with a topic (dinosaurs, trains, geography, or pop trivia).

And yes, your siblings can fight. That's a given. Just don't make it over a six-year-old spilling Kool-Aid on your main character's white dress :)


  1. This is a great tip, Nikki! You are so right. My 5 & 6 year old kiddos certainly don't act like toddlers... even if they do frequently pretend to be other people or animals.

  2. Oh my gosh, I hate that, too! I've got two kids (10 and 5) and also have been an early childhood/elementary teacher for 15 years. Even two-year-olds don't walk around saying "mama pease more" let alone 5-year-olds!

  3. (I hate to say it, but sometimes I think the people who write kids this way haven't been parents themselves yet!! It's like their memories are slightly distorted.)


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