Writing Kids and Teens… The Epic Fail!

Okay I see this in both movie and book form, but I’m going to cover some of the more egregious examples.

Why is it so difficult to write kids and teens? In many of the movies or stories we see, kids are well behaved, tiny adults… or even worse. You see this a lot in bad comedies or really weird stories. Perhaps the most standout example would be from (yes I just sat through this recently) Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Setting aside the novel-length list of everything that is wrong with this movie, think about the child. The kid could literally be the next coming of Christ. I’m not even kidding. I mean sure in the book he was a tad unbelievable as well, but at least there, he still had some aspects of childhood that were believable.

You see it in other stories as well… these aren’t kids and certainly not how kids really behave, this is how adults WANT their kids to be, It’s really an interesting character study. Honestly, if you want to see more of what I’m talking about, don’t waste the time watching this movie, watch about 10 minutes of a 7th Heaven Episode, you’ll see what I mean…

On to the teen crowd… and I admit things have gotten better on their end recently, but it’s still not where it should be. Teens have always gotten the bum’s rap when it came to movie and book portrayal, but I’ve never seen it worse than it was in the late 90’s and early 2000s. Allow me to provide two examples from movie form as novel form was somewhat lacking at this point in terms of anything that great…


(NSFW)

WHAT TEENAGER ACTED LIKE THAT!?
I mean it. I was a teen at the time these movies were big and I’ll tell you something, no one was anything like this. These aren’t even bad parodies of teenagers. American Pie, while a comedy was sold as a comedic drama about teenagers coming into their own. However these characters while (at the time) people found funny, were nothing like what actual teens behaved and thus were not relatable at all. Which probably explains why these movies have all but faded from memory.

The Faculty is even worse. That’s sold as a serious horror flick and… well look at it. If that’s the case and this was supposed to be a serious representation of what teenagers were like… then as someone who was a teenager at this point in time, I find that extremely offense. A film professor of mine once commented that the kids in the faculty all seemed like they had serious mental issues, but honestly, my first job out of college was working at a residence program for kids with mental illnesses ranging from ADD, ADHD all the way to Bipolar disorder and PTSD, and THEY were better behaved than this
But I digress…

Why is writing kids and teens so far off the mark? Why is it even tolerated?

Well…. many reasons could be attributed to that. For one the director and/or writers could be horribly out of touch, in the case of kids, they could be hoping that kids will see and emulate the behavior, whereas in teens… I don’t know, their angry old people with an ax to grind?

As for why it’s even tolerated… well…it’s not really as the most notorious cases of behavior like this usually bombs at the box office and book sales. As for the American Pie series… all I can say is that perhaps we were too busy laughing at the ridiculousness of it to realize that we were being made fun of? Maybe we just didn’t care and wanted to be entertained? Who knows….

So why then do I bring this up? Well I think it’s a good example of what NOT to do when writing characters. Seriously. be respectful of your audience. Write to them, not at them. If you’re going to insult them (and not in the friendly roast way), be prepared to have your work scorned.


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

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2 thoughts on “Writing Kids and Teens… The Epic Fail!

  1. Bailey Jackson says:

    I think you hit it on the head with your “out of touch” observation. Mostly, I think kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and either far more mature or far less mature than we think. Maybe that’s why younger kids are either written as infantile cry-babies or sages. There’s a pretty big range in children, far larger than the range of intelligence and maturity in most adults, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alex West says:

    I suppose it depends on whether you assume the writers are going for realism. I think there are a large number of teen movies that are not aiming for realism at all, but rather for a fantasy version that is slicker and cooler while maintaining the appropriate ratings to allow the target audience in the cinema. They are no more silly than the way adults are portrayed in most action/thriller movies – polished, simplistic, perfectly manicured – like comic book characters without superpowers. I have always been conscious that there is a massive gap between what teens really do and how they talk, and what you are allowed to portray in an M-rated film or a book that will be allowed on the school library shelves. I don’t think the writers are out of touch, but rather that they are very in touch with the commercial realities.

    But I’m interested, what examples would you give of well-written teens in movies / TV / books? Like, would you consider The Breakfast Club a good portrayal, or too contrived? (And if the latter, do you consider it has value?)

    Like

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