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Gigi Will Know: Can my child protagonist use adult vocabulary for the sake of the narrative?

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Have a query about craft? Need some clarification on an aspect of the publishing industry? Looking for career advice? Email your queries to [email protected] with the subject line “Advice Column.” We can’t wait to read your questions!

 

I’m writing a story that is written from the perspective of a young child. My choice of words should reflect that person’s age and vocabulary, right? Or is it ever OK to reach for more “adult” word choices for the sake of the narrative?

—Not All Babies Use Babytalk, Right?

Dear Babytalk,

You’re asking the wrong question. Don’t worry about the narrative. Worry about the character who’s driving the narrative.

We all know that perspicacious rugrat whose word choices are way beyond what we’d “expect” of a kid their age, right? I’d take a hard look at the character you’re writing: Are they the type to use big words? Then go for it.

You’re writing fiction. You’re allowed to stretch the limits of a reader’s expectations. Don’t pigeonhole your characters.

Speaking Softly and Carrying Big Words,

—Gigi

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