I suspect most people can remember being five but can you remember what it felt like to be five? I don’t mean what TV programmes you watched or which school you went to. I mean your emotions and reactions as you saw those cartoon cats or Dr Who’s daleks. The programmes may have changed but the emotions are still the same.
Even if you remember the emotions, it’s not always easy to put them into words. I can remember watching the grey and white flower opening up on the TV screen at the beginning of ‘Watch with Mother’ but how can I describe the feeling in simple terms? It was a mixture of excitement at the anticipation of a familiar programme and the exclusivity that this programme was being screened just for me. There may have been more emotions going on inside me. I can’t remember.
And I’m really not sure how I would describe my emotions on my first day at school. The other children were confident, comfortable in their environment, or so I thought. I was scared to step on each strange section of floor in case it sucked me in and ate me up and I cried until I made myself sick. It was probably a way to try and get Mum to come back for me. I’m not sure. One thing I do know is that I was a real pain!
So what’s brought on this latest bout of introspection? I treated myself to the 'Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2012'. The last one I bought was the 2005 edition. This new one is much thicker. Excellent, I thought, that means there’ll be more publishers waiting for my manuscripts. Wrong! There are more articles about writing for children though and it was an article by Anne Fine that got me thinking.
Anne fine in ‘Writing Books to Read Aloud’ says that a child has to care about the character in a story so we must make sure that we give the character thoughts and emotions that young children will recognise. Her example is, rather than saying what a shame it is that it’s raining, show the water dripping down the child’s neck. It’s the old adage of ‘show don’t tell’ but does it go far enough to touch those real emotions, the disappointment when rain has stopped a longed-for activity?
Another article by Geraldine McCaughrean called ‘Writing for a Variety of Ages’ tells us that she embarks on a picture book as she would poetry rather than prose, “pouring on the word play and euphonious vocabulary, making the most of the aural splendour of words.” [aural splendour... I like that. I must try and use it in conversation today!]
I can do word play. I can even do euphonious vocabulary, but I’m still not sure about the feelings. Does the English language have enough child-accessible words to accurately describe those childhood emotions?
How would you put into words the way it felt to have a story read to you at night?
Or the emotions you experienced during your first funfair ride?
Or is there another childhood emotion that you could share in words?