I absolutely adore my younger characters. They make me smile and laugh…and they’re incredibly cute. I think having young children in my series, really helps to balance my main characters. When my one character interacts with his five year old nephew, he acts very differently than when he’s around his friends or co-workers. He’s a little more laid back.
In real life we often alter ourselves slightly, depending on who we are with. It’s the old, “know your audience” thing, that we aren’t always aware of in our day to day. I’m still me, but I reveal different aspects of myself to different people.
We act differently when we’re with our boss, a friend, a stranger or a family member. The same also applies with when we interact with people in different age groups, or even how we act around animals.
I like using this in my writing.
My one character acts differently when she’s with her younger brothers who are 10 and 5, than when she’s around people the same age as her or older. She can go from goofing around with her siblings to having to take on the “big sister” role, and lecture them about their behaviour.
Another character of mine isn’t used to being around children, so they find themselves constantly having to keep themselves in check when a child is present. They don’t feel comfortable being their most authentic self, because they don’t want to accidentally do or say anything inappropriate in front of the younger characters.
I think that having all of these different characters interacting with one another, is really fun and allows you to really explore voice and dialogue.
I also use my niece and other children I’ve worked with in the past as a model for how my younger characters express themselves.
How does a 5 year old express feelings of frustration versus how an adult would? They don’t usually hide how they are feeling. Sometimes they’ll go off and sit by themselves and sulk, with their arms crossed, letting out constant sighs and groans so that everyone knows they’re upset. Other times, they’ll tell you, loud and clear.
It really is interesting to explore, and I think that it balances out my older characters.