Getting the child’s voice right in writing for children is easier than using a child narrator, or child’s eye view in free indirect discourse when writing for adults. If you have a child narrator in adult fiction, you have to decide if the narrator is looking back with hindsight or whether they are pretending to still be the child they were. There are plenty of examples of both of these approaches and some narratives that fall between the two extremes.
In the news recently, Anthony Horowitz reveals that his editor has warned him off writing a black character into his next book. As he comments, that would be a pity, because if he only wrote characters that he represented himself, he would be restricted to 62 year-old white, male, Jewish men living in London!
I’m always amazed when students who have probably mostly grown up with the rhythms of pop music in their ears, say they can’t detect strict rhythms in the poems they read, or reproduce those rhythms in the poems they write. But perhaps if we don’t get used to rhythms through hearing and reciting a lot of nursery rhymes from day one, then it’s harder to recognise and reproduce strict metre when we come to write metric poetry later in life. Without continuous practice from birth onwards we may well lose our sense of perfect pitch and our sense of rhythm.
“Show don’t tell” is an old piece of advice which a lot of tutors use to get their students writing with power and effectiveness. It’s perhaps most important in writing poetry but it’s a useful idea to have in mind when you are writing prose fiction or script. Of course, many famous published writers break the rule, if it can be called a rule, but then the first rule of any art or craft is to be able to follow the rules before you start breaking them. The most commonly quoted example of the “Show don’t tell” advice is what Chekhov wrote to his brother in 1888: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”