Tips on Tuesday: Find a Character Voice

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

On March 25, 2014, I wrote a blog about a lesson in “kid‑speak.” After hearing praises for Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones stories, I finally broke down and read one. Then seven, seven more, and another ten. So I’ve read all but 2 or 3. I mentioned how the author nailed the sounds and thought processes of a child. Hilariously!Junie B

Now, as an example, let me share a line or three:

“Just then the bell rang and Mrs. (that’s what this kindergarten kid calls her teacher) marched out the door. Then everybody else marched out too. Except guess what? I didn’t.”

or

“. . . First, I got the sponge from under the sink. Then I made it soaky wet with water. I pointed it at the target. “Ready…aim…fire!” I said. Then I throwed the sponge with all my might.”

or

“Peekaboo. I see you,’ I said. Then I laughed and laughed. ‘Cause I’m a laugh a minute, that’s why.”

In just a few words, Park demonstrates how a young child substitutes a title for a name, constantly asks questions like “guess what” and answers them herself, slips in grammar mistakes while she’s still figuring out how English is constructed, thinks of her place in her world, and picks up phrases she hears “grown-ups” commonly say ‑‑‑ not to mention the “logic” a child applies to actions an adult will take as being “naughty.”

Any of the old Eloise books by Kay Thompson, do much the same with a more “affluent” flavor.

Percy jackson 1bToday, I’ll also show how Rick Riordan manages much the same thing for a slightly older hero (and readers). If you ever devoured mythology like I did, and you haven’t read his Percy Jackson series, this will give you a lesson in “kid speak” as well as in the thought processes for an adolescent. And a lot of laughs. Start with The Lightning Thief and the table of contents:

1. I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre‑algebra Teacher

2. Three Old Ladies Knit the Socks of Death

7. My Dinner Goes Up in Smoke

11. We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium

13. A God Buys Us Cheeseburgers

Clever, funny, somewhat mysterious chapter titles . . . and you’re almost guaranteed to remember what the whole chapter was about by just reading the titles, even days, weeks or months later. And that’s a Good Chapter Title!

Here, try the book, and study the level of kid‑speak, as well as the adolescent perspective:

“See, bad things happen to me on field trips. Like at my fifth‑grade school, when we went to the Saratoga battlefield, I had this accident with a Revolutionary War cannon. I wasn’t aiming for the school bus but of course I got expelled anyway. And before that, at my fourth‑grade school, when we took a behind‑the‑scenes tour of the Marine World shark pool, I sort of hit the wrong lever on the catwalk and our class took an unplanned swim. And the time before that . . . Well, you get the idea.”

The ideas, the thought processes, the choices of vocabulary all combine to help create memorable characters. And besides, what a great way to study “kid‑speak”: The laughs, the lessons in mythology, the imaginative stories ‑‑‑ they’re all just icing on the cake!

See you next for Thinkin’ on Thursday!

 

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