I finished the first draft, let’s here a bit shout out—HURRAYYYY!!!!!
Deep breath, exhale, stretch and wiggle, and now I can look around and see what the rest of the world is up to.
One glance at the newspaper’s front page (history in the making!) and then I’m going to fish around in our question stack. Cheryl Castings has given us a tasty selection, and I really like that one about books where the hero and heroine exchange insults, but it requires work, and I’m taking a quick sabbatical before testing my brain again. So, since the book I’ve just drafted includes a multitude of children, I’m starting with this question from Cheryl: Another topic could be favorite books that feature children. We could include discussion of the lifestyles of children during a particular time period. Cheryl, I owe you a book of your choice. Check out www.patriciarice.com and take your pick, although stand forewarned, most of the really old books were stolen and my only copies come from used bookstores.
My premise today is one I’ve stated in the past, just reworded—children will always be children.
Human nature is what it is, and civilization can only check it so much. We can put the boys in dresses until they’re six and put corsets on tiny little girls, and they’re still going to romp and get dirty and kick each other if given an opportunity. If they’re a farmer or working man’s children without nannies and maids to hover around them, they may be more apt to run fields, milk cows, and wash in cold creeks than the coddled tykes of the manor house. The coddled tykes—if given proper instruction—will be able to bow and curtsy as soon as they walk. They’ll be taught how to use an array of silverware, speak politely when
spoken to, and might learn Latin at a ridiculously early age. And they’re still going to race for the muddy pond and pick their noses if left off their leashes.
For some wonderful artwork featuring children in the Georgian/Regency era: http://tinyurl.com/558dfl
For some nice tidbits of information on Regency children, try Janet Mullany’s blog from Risky Regencies: http://riskyregencies.blogspot.com/2008/02/regency-children.html
Or this excellent piece of history with links to toys and games and other fun bits:
a page on games: http://tinyurl.com/6g8ecb
Since I’ve been writing in the Georgian and Regency eras, that’s been my interest for some years now. I’m sure children in medieval Europe or western United States in the late 1800s had their own style of dress and games. But to me, it’s always the characters that hold my interest, not the clothes they’re dressed in. In the book I just completed, I tried to emphasize that the oldest boy felt
responsible for the younger ones, and the oldest girl did her best to take care of the toddlers. And the child brought up without a nanny was a wild hooligan who imitates the crude elders around her but settles down when given the love and attention she needs so badly. They could be children of any era.
But I write romance, so my main characters will always be the hero and heroine. The children walk on as needed for plot, and their characters have to hit the page in a few brief words so their actions and those of the adults around them are understood by the reader. I understand the nurturing readers among us want to see more of the little darlings, and the historians want to see an accurate picture of children's lives, and those who read romance for the sex probably don’t want to be reminded of the result. ;) I often wish I could write a book three different ways to satisfy all my facets as well as that of readers. Unfortunately, life’s too short!
So where do you fall on the spectrum? Does a book with children rampaging through it turn you off? Do you want to see more of the detail of their lives? And if so, what details would interest you? Keeping in mind that this book is still in draft form…. It may be possible to add some tidbits mentioned here. And if I do (and my lamentable memory keeps this in mind through various stages of editing and revising and outright chopping), I’ll add an acknowledgment to any reader who contributes a tidbit I can use!
(I already owe our whipmistress Sherrie an acknowledgment for her LOL epithets on my personal blog. Check out http://patriciarice.blogspot.com/ under "epithets/epitaphs." Sherrie's list is hilarious!)