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Youngsters cast in evil roles pull at caring adults’ heart strings, especially if traumatic life circumstances precede their acts of violence and criminality. The nurture/sympathy vs hatred/fear ambivalence that juvenile criminals arouse can be used to create tension both in co-starring adult characters and in readers.
In addition to the more commonly portrayed child/child and adult/adult relationships, a story with a criminal kid character provides an opportunity to explore the special adult/child relationship. That “position of trust” can be portrayed as protector/protected, teacher/student, leader/follower or perhaps even abuser/abused.
The possibility that one bad choice by a child is going to forever ruin her life creates emotional intensity. A writer can deepen that suspense by having an evil adult character manipulating that criminal child.
Because laws are often much gentler toward youth than adults, the criminal behaviour of kid characters can easily be portrayed as resulting in redemption, salvation, remorse, growth, and learning, which opens the opportunity for creative and fulfilling endings—the story can be about so much more than “crime doesn’t pay” or “the cops always get their man.”
A human being’s brain doesn’t physically develop the full capacity to anticipate the results of one’s actions until one is around 25-years-old. A writer, by exploring the results of poor choices, parasitic relationships, and adult weaknesses and manipulations, can help youngsters avoid making costly and/or deadly mistakes.
Written correctly, novels that include juvenile characters can serve as learning tools not only for children but also for the adults in their lives.
For a peek at some “real” criminal kids in the news check http://criminalmindsatwork.blogspot.com/2010/09/criminal-kids.html
For more information on my novels, visit my website at http://www.eileenschuh.com/