Young people possess a particular instinct and wisdom. As storytellers, children peel back the skin of the world, exposing something new; "they question the things that we take for granted, and take for granted the things we question" (Claire King).
Some of our favorite passages of literature come from child narrators:
My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George
As I marched into the cool shadowy woods, I heard the driver call to me, "I'll be back in the morning, if you want to ride home."
He laughed. Everybody laughed at me. Even Dad. I told Dad that I was going to run away to Great-grandfather Gribley's land. He had roared with laughter and told me about the time he had run away from home. He got on a boat headed for Singapore, but when the whistle blew for departure, he was down the gangplank and home in bed before anyone knew he was gone. Then he told me, "Sure, go try it. Every boy should try it.
Mr. Pip, Lloyd Jones
It wasn't just for the fact he was the last white man that made Pop Eye what he was to us—a source of mystery mainly, but also confirmation of something else we held to be true.
We had grown up believing white to be the color of all the important things, like ice cream, aspirin, ribbon, the moon, the stars. White stars and a full moon were more important when my grandfather grew up than they are now that we have generators.
Everything in This Country Must, Colum McCann
When father came in from outside I knew what it was. His face was like it was cut from a stone and he was not crying anymore and her didn’t even look at me, just went to sit in the chair. He picked up his teacup and it rattled on the saucer so he put it down again and he put his face in his hands and stayed like that. The ticking was gone from my mind and all was quiet everywhere in the world and I held the curtain like I held the sound of the bullets going into the draft horse, his favorite, in the barn, one two three, and I stood at he window in Stevie’s jacket and looked and waited and still the rain kept coming down outside one two three and I was thinking oh what a small sky for so much rain.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon
It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears' house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead…
The dog was called Wellington. It belonged to Mrs Shears who was our friend. She lived on the opposite side of the road, two houses to the left.
Wellington was a poodle. Not one of the small poodles that have hairstyles but a big poodle. It had curly black fur, but when you got close you could see that the skin underneath the fur was a very pale yellow, like chicken. I stroked Wellington and wondered who had killed him, and why.
THIS WEEK, INHABIT THE MIND OF A CHILD. Write a passage of fiction, paying particular attention to voice and language. Think back a few years (or five or ten) and reconjure how you
saw the world as a child. Spending time around a younger sibling or neighbor whose age matches your narrator's is another way to start shaping your voice. Although your narrator will likely have a more limited vocabulary than your own, a child’s use of words can be interesting and fresh, deviating from clichés and conventional patterns.
One last word of advice: When we narrate from a perspective different from our own, it's easy to slip out of character. Make sure to read back over your work and check the voice for consistency.
And one last suggestion: make sure to read Jervis
' wonderful passage here