You can do a lot with child characters when writing a book. Authors love using them for humor. And certain writers have created a reputation for masterfully using child characters with symbolism and irony by combining innocence, alertness and idealism – characteristics children have in the real world. Whatever your approach might be, everyone thinking about writing a book must understand the difficulties that arise when you choose to work with child characters. Children are unique and individualistic people. Yet many authors take the wrong approach by painting them with the exact same brush. 

So how do you go about creating child characters? The answer is – you just have to know your characters inside out. It’s not enough to have a general picture of a character in your head when you start writing a book. You must know the very intricacies that make each child character individual and unique. Consider the following do’s and don’ts when creating a child character:  

  1. DO spend time around children

It’s quite simple – if you’re writing a book with child characters, you absolutely must spend time around children.  It’s not nearly enough to think back on when you were a child because chances are you probably don’t even remember. And unless you’re writing some sort of biography involving your kids, I wouldn’t suggest using them (and their parental-appointed innocence) as character models for your book.  Try volunteering a few days at child-care centers or non-profit organizations that interact with kids.  Doing so will give you a vast insight into the minds and thoughts of children from all backgrounds and nationalities.  You’ll get to see up close and personal how each child is very different and unique in his/her own way.

  1. Say NO to Stereotypes

Children are individuals just like you. So treat them as such. Make an effort to fully realize them as individuals. Do not simply lump them into a single category: cute, innocent, impulsive, annoying, etc. Break the stereotypes. Try crafting curious, determined and appropriately smart little people. This requires putting yourself in the shoes of a child and looking at your story from their perspective.  This can often be a struggle for some authors.

  1. Say NO to Sage Wisdom

Many authors make this mistake when writing a book with child characters.  Even the most experienced writer has been known to craft that one child character that is simply too smart for his or her age. It’s true that children can have the sort of objectivity that might allow them to make profound statements.  However, you may want to avoid giving them the type of sage wisdom and calm, witty personalities that aren’t generally associated with children of such a young age. Remember, you want all of your characters to be convincing and believable – including the younger ones.

  1. Say YES to Intelligence

Yes, it would be a mistake to make your child characters smarter than they should be for their age. However, that doesn’t mean you should make them stupid. Children are human just like you and your friends. They are unique individuals with their own brand of intelligence. 

This is the easiest pitfall to stumble into when writing a book – to create children that just stand around with blank expressions, their fingers in their mouths. Give the children in your book some interesting personalities. Let them think and mentally work their problems out. Don’t confuse a child’s lack of experience with a lack of intelligence.

  1. Say YES to Personal Goals

Give your child characters a purpose. Unless they are so insignificant in your story that their presence adds nothing to your book, give them something to do. Every character in every book needs a reason for existing.  They should all have a purpose for being present within the confines of any given story. Child characters are no different. Give their existence some sort of meaning.

If you are writing a book with child characters, then you are embarking on a territory with potential pitfalls that even the most experienced authors fall into. However, don’t be dismayed.  You do not need to be a child to successfully craft child-like characters in your story. Most authors fail because, rather than creating child characters, they write adult characters in children’s bodies.Your goal should simply be to make your child characters actually sound, look and act like children.

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