This month I've been thinking about the generations of children who were told that young people should be seen but not heard. I don't know who first came up with the idea back then, but I wish they hadn't taken all those silent movies they were watching quite so literally.
Thwart a child's need to be heard, and things tend to get toxic down the track. As we're seeing from the throngs of bile-fuelled contributors to online comment threads, desperately trying to make up for lost time by being heard but not seen.
It must have been hard for them as kids. The lucky ones could at least have filled their days with silent reading. Though in some ways that could have made things worse for them. How often in stories does a character remind us of the transformative power of speaking up? Truth to power. Honesty to a friend. Note to self.
As you can see, I've been communing with the laureate calendar this Say It Anyway September, and musing about the various ways that Stories Make Us Cheeky.
Young story characters are often on a truth-seeking mission, and some of the truths they discover can make other people very uncomfortable. It happens a lot in my stories. Specially if these truths get blurted out (The Other Facts Of Life). Or painted on walls in very big pictures (Puppy Fat). Or pocket money is saved up and a skywriter is hired to fill the sky with them (Blabber Mouth). Or a painful truth is told to a dear friend because not knowing it would be even more painful (Once).
Traditionally, not very nice behaviour for a young person, right? But have a think about your favourite characters and how often they spill the beans anyway.
Some interesting things to talk about here with young readers, starting with inviting them to have their own say about speaking up. And later, perhaps, encouraging them to write their own Say It Anyway story.
I've been talking about the topic with some of my characters. They reckon speaking up can be ...
Thanks guys. Lots of story possibilities. And here's a story-starter that might help...
Keep quiet, I tell myself. Don't be an idiot. If you speak up now, you'll be in more poo than a swallowed sausage.
But I can't keep quiet.
Not after what I've just seen.
'I'm over here,' I yell. 'And I know what really happened.'