Using diagrams of the human brain, Natalie explained how male and female brains work differently and how the brain changes as it develops. For example, Natalie mentioned that it is especially important for 10-14 year olds to avoid trauma at this crucial developmental stage.
As authors we need to remember that the age and sex of the protagonist affects how they will react to different situations. We need to ‘write up’. For example readers of 7-9 years old will want to read about a 10-11 year old.
We need to be conscious of the depth of language we use including the length of sentences and how many concepts are included. Older boys going through puberty (approx. 14) may need to have less complexity than they were previously used to.
Teenagers (14-17) will take more risks so the protagonist should too. They do this because their brain, in particular their Internalising Language area, is still not developed. They are following their gut instinct and reacting without thinking.
Internalising language includes self-reflection and the control of behaviour and future actions. Generally,
Girls – emotional outcome – ‘If I do that I will hurt someone’
Boys – relevancy to self – ‘If I do that what will happen to me?’
Boys tend to be less sensory so they seek bigger feedback, hence the risk taking. The need to sensory seek tends to increase at 9-10 years old.
I was especially interested in this as my 10 year old son is already diagnosed as Sensory Seeking. So I asked the question ‘Does this mean his SS will increase?’ Hmmm the answer was yes. Batten down the hatches!
The final word … Don’t judge your child characters by your own expectations. Look at children their own age around you and see how they act and react.
I wonder if that’s why so many teachers take to writing? We are surrounded by inspiring characters!
Do you catch yourself thinking like an adult when you are writing for children? Or perhaps thinking like a child in ‘real life’!