Capturing Childhood/Engaging the Adult Reader
The world of childhood is terrific material for writers, both memoirists and fiction writers and everyone in-between. We all went through childhood, after all, so we can relate, and we know childhood to be intense, sensual, weighty. Does anyone buy the myth of a happy childhood anymore? Well, certainly some childhoods are happier than others, but regardless of how lucky we were in this regard, we usually can identify with children’s pain. We “get” as adults how much things can hurt, how innocent or unprotected by our adult coping skills children can be. We also can relish the freshness of experiences, the wonder of it all. We seem drawn to see the world again through the eyes of children — and often that world, in writing, is more vivid than the one we experience through our own present weary vision. Children are not “lesser” humans; they’re just at a different stage of the life experience. They have the same ability to feel things (sometimes more intensely) and to have a whole consciousness, albeit not a particularly verbal one. Therein lies the problem. We didn’t have much language as young children; it was all sensation. So the challenge for the writer of childhood stories is to capture the non-verbal felt experience of children while still appealing to the adult verbally sophisticated reader.