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Writing in a 'young' voice...

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Jano View Drop Down
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alias author Jan Hawke

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  Quote Jano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Writing in a 'young' voice...
    Posted: 02 Dec 2011 at 1:38pm
... so dialogue for children ...

Just had a discussion with Sivan over something she wants to write that needs to 'sound' like natural kid-speak, so it got me thinking how you can do this reliably - especially if it's a long time since you were a kid or had much to do with them if you've been a parent...
 
This is what I came up with anyway. Smile
 
I was going to say JK Rowling's 'voice' is pretty good, but they're older and English so maybe not too useful. The premise is good though so maybe scale down a bit and go for children's authors aimed at younger children maybe? Someone like Roald Dahl is a better and more literate example (don't know how famous he is in the US though he was a Hollywood scriptwriter and married to US actress Patricia Neal - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach and Matilda (Danny daVito's version) are probably his best known international works).  So any children's author you liked at the age you're going to be writing for would be worth reviewing as that's likely to be in the 'right' voice.

TBH I don't think kids have that much of a different manner of talking these days with TV and media blasting them 24/7 in most households, or at least in school if they have parents with 'views' on too much screen exposure and aren't living in an Amish community for instance? It's more an 'awareness' issue I think - so generally not so switched on, more innocent/gullible maybe and fascinated with getting into tricky situations - something like the Goonies is also a kind of marker for characterisation, even though again that's an older level, but it's more mainstream than HP of course.

Really it's still down to character background and upbringing as with writing adults - just not so hardened or worldly-wise, so you emphasis the naivety and wonder of new experiences more than you would for an adult? With really little kids learning to talk it's a whole new ball game in that really it's rare for babies to speak much before a year old and then it's mostly rubbish, copying how their parents are talking to them. I was talking just past 9 months apparently and was able to say nursery rhymes reasonably coherently quite quickly. I do have fairly good recall from around 18 months of age (my mum yelling at me over potty training actually Embarrassed) but really I can't recall that it's too much different to adult speak because they're your model anyway.
 
Vocabulary would more limited in general, though again nurture kicks into this - things like swearing are copycat rather than actively aggressive for instance (not necessarily malicious in other words, just used in a similar context by example, without realising the full nuance of what's said). I once told a dirty joke at the family dinner table without realising how very rude it was as a for instance LOL.

One thing that is reasonably common in younger children are quirky speech impediments like lisps (r's and s's are common ones) or stammers - because they have trouble saying particular sequences or sounds. Stammering in particular is often rooted in embarassment/anxiety issues or even psychosis of various types and can be very persistent and verge on afflictions for some people into adulthood and beyond. Often it's simply a question of maturity and they grow out of 'bad' habits, but it's an interesting area to explore as a writer and can be very character-forming, like with the real-life Emperor Claudius (stammer and possibly poor enunciation as he was slightly deaf) and Winston Churchill (lisp) to mention two of the best known.
 
Interesting exercise so let's open it up for more comment - please do let me have your own thoughts on this or similar aspects Thumbs Up
The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one
will do ~ Thomas Jefferson
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  Quote Jano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Jan 2014 at 6:56pm
More than overdue for a 'bump'!

Let's hear it from all you YA writers out there?! Wink
The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one
will do ~ Thomas Jefferson
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  Quote Miah Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Jan 2014 at 9:45pm
I think I could get away with writing a young adult book, or children's book. I work in a school and I see all the new books the librarian gets for them and it does not seem like rocket science to me. Put in a picture on every second page and they seem captivated by that alone Tongue

The words are simply put as a child would understand so it is just coming up with an idea or icon for them to follow and comprehend. I could make up a character of say... an animal, real or fantasy and send that charrie on a journey that a child could relate somehow... sometimes their are themes or "something to be learned" at the end of the story... like, be kind to others... Ok, now I'm just rambling, but yes I've thought of writing children's books. Guess its just a matter of putting it into practice eh? Wink


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  Quote Jano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Jan 2014 at 10:55pm
Picture books need good artistic skills alongside writing - not always so easy to put the two together but certainly the message angle is a very good thing to have at the heart of your story.

And, from experience - do some thinking but also get on with the doing! Wink
The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one
will do ~ Thomas Jefferson
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  Quote angel7090695001 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 May 2014 at 8:22pm
For children's picture books (see gillianfindlaybooks.wordpress.com) use simpler words. You usually look for better, more sophisticated words that have the same meaning but do the opposite. Look for the most basic word that has the meaning you are looking for. 

The pictures would be hard to create I imagine but I do know one thing... they are hell to format into an ebook correctly. A template from the Book Designer is a necessity.
Louise Findlay
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Exclusive Tales: patreon.com/authorlouise
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  Quote Jano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 May 2014 at 10:37pm
 Smile There are some good templates and guides out there on how to set eBooks. It does help to have some 'specialist' software, especially Adobe products like Acrobat (for PDFs) or InDesign which are compatible with the Adobe ePub format. You can do it with other good digital publishing applications like Quark too and even with MS Word although it does help if you know your way around graphic formatting, particularly with the better Photoshop editions.

I've yet to try setting an illustrated book for eReaders, but from the guides I've found online it's not too problematic after a little practice. There's also a new software product out called PUBml which merges eReader formats with web browsers so it's interactive and you toggle in and out of webpages, maps, galleries or albums from the same screen - will put a thread on about that in a few weeks as it's an interesting and flexible development in eBook formats for all kinds of devices and platforms Smile
The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one
will do ~ Thomas Jefferson
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