Kids are like antagonists. they have no boundaries, no filters, no remorse, they are clever and conniving. Self driven for self-gratification and they do whatever they must to get what they want. They can throw massive tantrums over any little thing. Oh and they usually have boundless amounts of energy and charm.
Like little angelic villains they can waltz in, stir the pot, cause endless chaos and ruin everything… all by being completely innocently honest.
Kids can say the damnedest things, there was a whole TV show dedicated to just that. Their unrestrained views easily bring humor, embarrassment and upset. On the flip side they can be unrelentingly kind, considerate and until they are taught to they don’t hate or judge.
Because of their natural unpredictability they are a fantastic tool to un-jam a situation, bring a little comedy, love, or even a gut wrenching tear-jerk of a moment.
I have children float in and out of my stories from time to time to serve a grander purpose. I write them carefully making sure they come across as their appropriate age. There is a lot of range since some kids are smarter than they should be and some… well bless them they’re just not.
Kids can be tricky to write, but if done well they can be a lot of fun too. However like with all things I strive not to make them cliché. They are little people with quirks, habits, opinions and feelings. Volatile feelings but feelings none the less. I love, love, love reading a story with a small child that has the child behave in a realistic way. Non con-formative to the Hollywood ideal of how children are. Levels of tiredness, hunger, sugar and boredom can factor in. Some kids are good and others just plain naughty.
“Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” The little girl in brown pig-tails tugged at the tired woman’s sweater. She was either unheard or ignored as the woman tended the infant in her arms wailing away at the top of her lungs.
Amber tried not to stare with horror at the scene they made.
“Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.”
The silent young boy, Amber guessed was eight or nine (not that she knew enough to guess), was checking off the grocery list. Satisfied it was all there he moved the cart toward the checkout where Amber stood waiting her turn. The other small boy in the seat of the shopping cart pulled his thumb from his mouth with a loud wet suck sound and reached for the candy bars on display. “Want.”
“No Bobby, no candy.” The woman said in little more than a sigh. “Margo please stop nattering I already said no.” She brushed the young girls hand away. “But mommy…”
Amazed Amber watched the woman tune out the girl again as she began her persistent chant and tug on her sweater.
“Want!” Bobby the toddler started to cry.
“Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.”
The boy finished unloading the cart and nudged Bobby’s finger back in the boy’s mouth. “Shh Bobby.” The boy petted the toddlers curly brown hair.
Amber was next and thanking God silently as the infant continued to wail despite the mothers best efforts to jiggle hush him gently. Amber touched her stomach absently and glanced back at the chaos behind her. She caught sight of a man behind the woman scowling deeply, his face turning a reddish-purple.
“For the love of God, can’t you shut them up?” The man said through his clenched teeth. Amber was thinking the same thing, but the poor woman looked exhausted as frustration, humiliation and anger flashed over her face. “Sorry.”
“The nerve of you, do something about your brats already.”
Amber’s mouth fell open at the mans brazen comment. The woman doubled her effort to hush her baby as the boy picked up his pig-tailed sister distracting her to silence.
Before Amber could say anything the cashier spoke up.
“Excuse me Sir. These children aren’t hurting anyone or being friggin rude or ignorant. They’re kids so whats your excuse?”
“Well said.” Amber nodded and turned her arid glare on the man then looked at the woman and it hit her hard. She could be this woman. Life did not always go according to plan. Her hand rested on her still flat stomach. No things definitely did not go plan. When she looked back at the man she saw herself in him. Glaring, judging and being the bully. With a frown she paid, grabbed her bags and rushed to get to her car before her tears spilled over.
Whether the children interact directly with my characters or not depends on the situation and what they contribute. Amber is on a better path, she may not stay there but for now I’ll have little bits of morality thrown her way. Lessons on karma, understanding and compassion.
My advice about writing children.
If you need inspiration take a walk in the park, go to the zoo, grocery store, library and look about. Babysit or spend time with children if you don’t have them. They are fascinating and frustrating and fantastic.
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