Character probing is tricky business

“You can watch 20 minutes, sweetie, and then switch the I-pad off please.”
“Can you come and tell me when to switch it off?” my daughter asks.
“You can do it yourself. See? The time is up here, on top of the screen. Easy,” I say.
“No. You tell me. I cannot be trusted.”

It’s Sunday morning and my (nearly) 9 year-old daughter is You Tubing. 20 minutes on the I-pad may not sound much, but coupled with unregulated hours of potential passive exposure to screens (TV, DVD, e-readers, I-phone) it’s plenty.

Relax, dear blogging friends, I am not about to lecture you on appropriate use of electronic devices for children. I am curious about the process of self-awareness and understanding of our own personality and character in children and grown ups alike. Those of us who write about people will wrestle with the portrayal of character in each sentence and on each page for impact, consistency, realism and the bringing to life of our inventions.

Back to my daughter. “I cannot be trusted” to switch the I-pad off, she says, matter of fact. A normal parent would have snatched the flipping device off her hands and prescribed a dose of good manners for the future. But I’m an artist at heart and a writer in the making. This small act of stubbornness offers fascinating food for thought. What’s happening here? For a child of her age she is showing an impressive assessment of her own weaknesses and limitations; or an equally impressive ability to delegate responsibilities to others, most notably more senior members of society – I am still struggling with that at work -. She may have correctly guessed that by asking me to keep an eye on the clock I will get distracted and lose track of time. For a few terrible seconds I also fear that she may be struggling with adding up 20 minutes to 8:35 am…

And whilst I am happily engaged with the probing and exposition of a young person’s character, my little one is well over her 20 minutes allowance.
Ah, it’s so easy to trick artists and writers these days. Even a child could do it!

Have you been studying family and friends to improve your creative writing skills? As usual, you can count on my discretion.



About ofglassandbooks

Who, me? A fan of good reads and glass jars experiences; budding fiction writer in the very little and spare time available...
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9 Responses to Character probing is tricky business

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    Hmm, maybe that’s how I could better manage my social media time: ask a family member to come tell me when my allotted time is up. Like your daughter, I can’t be trusted. πŸ˜‰

  2. My 11-year-old still cannot manage his own time. But then I can’t fault him. My husband can’t, either. I’m the one who watches the clock and pulls out the discipline to keep myself and everyone else on time. I think that screens are incredibly addicting, so I do think it’s a good idea to set a timer or have someone else do the reminding to stop. And yes, I’m guilty at night of losing myself in my work while my son reads in bed. I forget to ask him to turn off his light, and he loves it. πŸ˜€

  3. Excellent! Being tricked by kids is a global phenomenon! And busy parents with good intentions but a hefty load of work or passions on their minds appear a universal species too. One for a future post, I think.
    Whilst you are online, are you THE Jilanne Hoffmann that Nook marketing team was suggesting I dived into, as part of box sets that would tantalise my reading appetite?
    Hats off if you are, and apologies for not having dived into said tantalising material before!!

    • Sorry to say, I am not. I believe the spelling of her name is Jilliane Hoffman. But yes, children count on their parents forgetting about them. Not necessarily a bad thing in this age of helicopter parenting.

  4. Aren’t parents supposed to be human alarm clocks – telling us what to do and when to do it? πŸ™‚ I remember our son doing the same thing. He would be so engrossed in whatever he was doing, he’d ask me to let him know when it was a certain time or when a certain amount of time had passed. Maybe it’s universal with children around that age.

    I don’t deliberately study family to improve my creative writing skills, but I do use them as fodder for things that happen in my books. My mother is sometimes mortified. πŸ™‚

    • He he! I’m now super curious to know which scene or character of your brilliant books your mum has unwittingly helped to shape!!!! Please, do reveal!!
      Glad to know your son used to do the same as my daughter. I guess what made me think about her response a little more is the way she said it: “I cannot be trusted!” spoken in the same tone as “too much salt is not good for you”.
      All the best

      • Your daughter is very wise. πŸ™‚

        Last summer, my sister took our mother to run her errands. Mom was wearing sandals at the time. My sister said mom put powder in her sandals! Every time she took a step, a little poof of “smoke” came out of her shoes. She said it was hilarious. … That crazy Mama has an incident like that in Murder Welcomes You to Buxley. My mother reads my books and knows that I’ve used her as the inspiration behind Mama. She told my sister to stop telling me things that happen to her, because she knows I’ll give them to the Mama in my books. πŸ™‚

  5. Brilliant!!!! I hope your sister will continue to spill the beans. It’s really true that reality can be stranger than fiction! Do American folks say “you couldn’t make it up?” as often as us Brits?

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