Writing About Little People

A few weeks ago I wrote about teenagers in crime fiction, and I admit that I hope I´ll never have a brilliant idea for a novel which forces me to come up with main characters who are teenagers. Far too risky, and if you get it right today, the story will sound dated tomorrow.

Creating younger children is different in my opinion. Perhaps not easy, but not impossible either. And as I studied children´s language acquisition several years ago, their language and development are subjects that fascinate me.

And as I said the other day, S.J. Bolton handles her young characters fairly well in “Blood Harvest”. Ten-year-old Tom is obviously a very intelligent boy, but nothing is wrong with that – some children are, you know.

Here is what I wrote down about little Millie, however.

Her vocabulary:

´lo (hello)

bic (biscuit)

Doe (Joe)

um, um

Besides, we see that she still lands on her behind quite often and cannot cope with even a few stairs, and I also noticed this sentence:

“Evy held up her arms and Gareth put his daughter down gently on to Evi´s lap. Millie grabbed Evi´s hair and started bouncing”

For you who are parents or just observant adults – how old would you say Millie is?

[Never mind, Ms Bolton, I loved your thriller so you are forgiven entirely]

About Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

I am a Danish teacher. In my spare time I read, write and review crime fiction.
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7 Responses to Writing About Little People

  1. Tim says:

    Millie? about two?

  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Dorte – You’re quite right that it’s very difficult to write child characters well. Some authors do it well, but it’s not easy. And certainly speech patters are one way to show a child’s age. I was really interested in your examples of what Millie says, too; I think it’s because I have a linguistics background. They sound about right for a child who’s about to be (or is) three. Of course, every child is different and develops at a different pace…

  3. Kelly says:

    From what you shared here, I would guess maybe a toddler. Not knowing all the circumstances, though, it could be an older child with disabilities.

    I got this book for my Kindle and might read it for the next RIP challenge (along with several others I “got” from you!).

  4. Laura Root says:

    assuming a typically developing child, and that the vocabulary you quote is being used as single words, rather than part of longer utterances, I’ld say one year old, or possibly a late blooming 2 year old. If the words you quote are part of longer utterances, and you are focussing on them purely from the mispronunication point of view, then possibly 3 or 4. (I’ve no formal background in child language acquisition, but a strong personal interest, having had a language delayed child!)

  5. Laura, these four words are more or less what Millie says throughout the novel (some of them repeatedly, of course) so her language is characterized by single words.

    Thank you for your input; no more from me until more readers have had a chance to comment.

  6. bethfishreads says:

    Maybe under two? Certainly very little.

  7. Pingback: Children & Language | djskrimiblog

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