Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.


Monday, January 30, 2012

THE PLAYGROUND

Writing for kids entails a lot of research or memory. In my case, research, since my memory of how I acted or felt at such a young age is pretty murky. I love to watch kids, listen to how they talk to each other, see how they react. Sometimes I even miss out on adult conversation because I am paying close attention to the child drama on the playground. 


Playgrounds are tricky. They can be a battle field of good and evil. If you watch closely you will see these mini wars play out right in front of you. And believe me, it's not just the kids displaying good and bad behaviors. You can learn a lot about kids by watching their parents too. 


Break down of Playground personalities:



  • The Bully Kid: If you watch kids long enough you will see who the "large and in-charge" child is. He or she may not be the typical mean bully, physical and rough. He or she might be the assertive type. The one who says, "If you play with her, you're not my friend anymore!" Or "Get him!" Or "No boys allowed!" Or "Girls can't play tag."
  • The Poor Me Kid: This kid is the typical tattle tale. She or he may cry over every interaction, or may feel they are always being put last or ignored. They typically play alone on the playground because other kids seem to tire of their antics. 
  • Mr. Cool & Mrs. Cool: These kids get followed around a lot. I mean they can't seem to shake the others. They may even get annoyed, but there's something about them that draws other kids in. They glow with maturity or coolness, that it factor. 
  • The Loner: This kid wants to be alone, rather chooses it over group play. They feel confident in themselves from the get go and need no buddies to prove they are happy or cool. They may be too daring for other kids to follow or are interested in loner sports, gold, tennis. These kids are fine hanging out by themselves. 
  • The Peacemaker: This kid tries to get everyone to play nicely. He or she might apologize for someone else. They typically help the playground aide too, pointing out wrong doings on the playground. They are happiest when everyone is getting along. 
  • The Stressed Out: I've noticed one or two of these kids in playground groups. They worry. The monkey bars are too high. The slide is too fast. If you jump, you'll get hurt. These kids don't seem to like to get too dirty either. And they may even yell at their friends to slow down if they think they're running too fast.
  • The Fighter: Words don't come easy to this kid, but shoving and pushing do. Every offense is met with a scowl or slap. Kids after a while stop playing with this child, which only seems to make this kid all the more anxious. He or she may encroach on other's space. They seem to be a bit immature compared to their schoolmates. 
  • Mr. Sports & Mrs. Sports: These kids love and live for sports. They wear the clothes of their favorite teams. They know stats. They even know team schedules. They may be the fastest, hardest throwing, quickest, best hitter, etc...kid on any team. 

These are just a few of the personality types on the typical playground. You can see that corralling them into an enclosed area with wood chips, sand, blacktop, balls, trees, sticks, and multi-level metal play sets might cause some major drama. That's why you'll find me around the playground. 

No, I don't interfere. I listen. Last week I got a gem from one of my kid's friends. They were talking excitedly about their upcoming speech. My son was worried that he might forget something. His friend wasn't because, "Last night doctors opened up my skull and sewed my speech right onto my brain." 

I'm using that line someday, somewhere. 

My advice to you kidlit writers is this: 
  1. Plant yourself at your local playground. 
  2. Listen
  3. Take notes
  4. Draw the actions of the kids
  5. List the personality types: which one play well? which ones don't?
  6. I take pictures too - but that's because I'm on the yearbook staff - you may look suspicious doing this. 
  7. Jot down those great one liners
  8. Interact with the kids only when necessary
  9. Note how they play with things such as sticks, balls, sand, buckets 
  10. Note what words you hear over and over. Dude? Cool? Awesome?


Happy snooping! 

Write-On Angie

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