Playing Children

Witchcraft and Wizardry, like other games set in the Potterverse, presents an unusual challenge to players because of the amount of focus on child characters. Many games have young characters, but few have such a large population of them.

As most any author could tell you, children are very difficult to write for. It seems counter-intuitive. After all, we were all children once. Shouldn't we remember how children behave and speak? Sadly, no. Our memories are clouded by the years, and our minds, emotions, and motivations have developed far beyond what they were in youth.

As a result of the disconnection from our childhoods, it becomes very easy to fall into the trap of role-playing a child like an adult. But children do not think like adults, they do not talk like adults, and they certainly do not act like adults. Their brains are still growing and forming, their emotions are still maturing, and their motivations are entirely different from a grown person's.

Here are some role-playing tips on how to present a believable child character.

Tip #1: Speak Like a Child

Children do not speak like Oxford professors. They haven't developed a dictionary-esque vocabulary or eloquent modes of speech. This is especially true of younger children.

When writing the IC speech for a child, look at the words you're using, and consider simpler synonyms. A 12-year-old is unlikely to use a word like "asphyxiate"; they would say "choke". Children don't "compose", they "write".

This goes beyond the words chosen; patterns of speech are an important element for sounding like a child. They aren't poet laureates. They don't make speeches or have detailed, rational debates.

In brief, children that speak like adults will not feel like children to your reader, and that can pull them right out of the immersion of RPing with a child.

Tip #2: Emotions Rule

Most emotional tasks are new to children, even to teenagers. Whatever they are feeling always seems like the most important thing in the world. This is why a child can dissolve into a sobbing mess because they were denied a candy at the market. That candy was everything to that child. This is also why young romance is so melodramatic. It's why kids fixate on the latest trends or newest toy/game/programme/etc., only to discard it when the next big thing comes along. It's why teenagers think they are experts on whatever current events or political viewpoints happen to feel right to them in the moment.

Let those emotions take over. Embrace the immature priorities. Reason and logic will have an uphill battle to triumph over feelings.

Tip #3: Children Are Inexperienced

One of the key differences between a child and an adult is experience. Children of any age have had precious few years in the world compared to their adult counterparts. Experience isn't about honing skills, it's about gaining wisdom and the perspective necessary to have good judgement. An adult has seen and learned things that provide the foundation for making more informed, mature, confident decisions; children have not.

This inability to make good judgements goes beyond just a lack of worldly experience; a youth's brain has literally not finished developing. They're still connecting the dots, neurologically speaking. They haven't had a chance to process their own mortality, for instance. That's one of the reasons teenagers engage in incredibly rash behavior. It's hard to believe that they can die.

Tip #4: Kids Are Cruel…but Also Compassionate

Children's social skills and emotions are still developing. They learn by trying different things, which means sometimes they can be the sweetest thing you'll ever meet, and sometimes they'll stab you right in the proverbial heart. With emotional maturity comes restraint, which is something kids lack very much of.

Tip #5: Resist the Urge to Be Precocious

precociousadjective — (of a child) having developed certain abilities or proclivities at an earlier age than usual.

This is one of the biggest pitfalls of role-playing a child, because it essentially means discarding every one of the tips above. If you simply must play a precocious child, choose one thing that sets them apart. Have a strong vocabulary (but not adult speech patterns), or be a talented musician, or have unusual emotional maturity. Showing adult tendencies in multiple areas will mark your character as an unrealistic child.

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