Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Hate How Writers Treat Babies

I've been AFK for a long while now, but for a good reason. I had a baby! Here's a picture of me with my beautiful girl, Bella Rose, who was born August 24th and is now 5 weeks old.


It's true what they say; once you have a child, your life is never the same again.

This seems like an opportune time to discuss a huge pet peeve of mine. I hate how most writers treat babies in their books. They depict them as objects, a job for the FMC that she may or may not enjoy, or perhaps as a complication to the plot. Few make babies into characters with influence and personality. Writers usually don't even describe what the baby looks like (they do NOT all look the same).

No character should be dead weight, especially not one as integral to your character's life as a child.

It may seem difficult to make a baby more than an object -- after all, how much personality can a baby have? -- but you'd be surprised. Any mother will tell you that every baby is different. Some of them are beautiful bundles of joy, some of them make your life a living hell, and each one has its own characteristics.

Take my daughter, for instance. (It still feels weird to say "my daughter"!) She has the fiercest scowl I've ever seen. We even have a picture of her scowling in her ultrasound. But if you smooth out the wrinkles on her forehead, she often breaks out into an enormous, heart-warming grin. She was lifting her head at two weeks, and every time she does it, she has the most determined look on her face. When Bella eats, she gulps, growls, sighs, and grunts so loudly, you can hear her in the other room.

All these attributes make Bella unique. There is no human being on the planet exactly like her.

You could take a moment to describe a baby or child and then move on with your story, but I suggest you take it a step further. What if the children and babies in our novels were integral parts of our books, just like they are in our lives? They can influence our characters to make decisions, or even make decisions of their own that change the plot. 

It's a challenge, especially for those of you who aren't parents or haven't spent much time around young children, but I promise you, it will be worth the effort.

5 comments:

  1. Yes, I can see what you mean!

    Love the pic! I've seen quite a few baby pix in the past few weeks, and I have not yet tired of them. Savvy has a very expressive face and it's surprising the sorts of moves she makes at this point. So I can see what you mean about each baby being different and an individual.

    I think writers might do that for a variety of reasons, however, I feel that if a character is not more than a mere prop, then don't include the character in the first place.

    good to see you and bella

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  2. Yay! You're back! Nope, your life will never be the same for sure. :-)

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  3. Mea culpa. You've forced me to go back and tweak : )

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  4. Congratulations on your little one! It will be interesting to see how she affects your future characters.

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