The Child’s View, Part I
Words by Rebecca T. Dickinson
A third grade class performed an experiment similar to one in my college Geology lab. The students blew my mind as they scratched a penny on graphite and other rock materials. They then used a nail. Each group recorded its observations. Did the nail leave a scratch, or did the penny? The penny left a mark on the graphite.
Courtesy of Google Images.
It is just as easy to leave an impression on a child. I believe some adults—not all—turn into graphite when a child touches them.
As a writer, I enjoy stories with child, prepubescent or teenage characters. It does not mean my stories or my manuscript, Sons of the Edisto, are children’s literature. When a baby is born, he or she enters it unscathed. No influence bestows itself upon the mind. Experiences that shape the child are sometimes dark or humorous in a way not meant for young readers.
The third grade class; my son skinning his knee for the first time this week; and chew your lipstick’s post First “Chapter” Book inspired me. Children and teenage characters star in my stories. If you read my last post, The Family Owned—the first episode in the Bannister Histories from the Sons of the Edisto prescript, you met Oliver Bannister.
Just like Owen Alston and Oliver’s grandson, JD Bannister, in 1924, each child interacts with the world that surrounds him or her. Many times the characters do not have control over what happens to them.
The same is true in some of the books I remember reading as a child such as The Outsiders. In the eighth grade, I read a book about a homeless boy who lived inside a hole within a subway tunnel. He nourished himself with ketchup on crackers. The owner of a subway restaurant gave the boy food when he worked. I do not remember the title, but I remember the story left a mark on me.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of my favorite books. It is about a German orphan girl during World War II and the turmoil in her life. She cannot control the world around her, but she does make choices that form who she becomes.
Formation of the Person
Children characters are exciting to create for multiple reasons. A child is still developing his or her personality. Children also possess more intelligence than we, as adults, realize.
How do you write a story about a mother who struggles to become pregnant, is told she cannot, and then tries adoption from a child’s perspective?
My story, The Only Child, is the most autobiographical of any story I’ve written. The following scene is something I remember as a five-year-old:
The frightened look on Ilene’s face reminded Katie of the times she entered her parents’ bedroom when her mother struggled to have a baby. The bedroom looked like a witch’s chamber from one of the fairy tales Katie and her father read. The only laughter came from I Love Lucy reruns on television. Tears came to her eyes when she saw her father gently apply a needle into Ilene’s arm. When Katie asked why he had to hurt Mommy, he said that it was medicine the doctor gave him to help a baby grow in her belly.
© March 2011-Current, R.T. Dickinson
Now maybe I have not succeeded yet. I’m still editing this particular story, but character development is influenced by what a writer understands and that which intrigues him or her.
I hope to share more about character development. What do you find intrigues you about your characters or the characters you enjoy in books?