Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Age Of Wonder

I love writing for a middle grade audience.
There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking a middle grade audience falls between the ages of 8-12. Personally, I call this the age of wonder.
Readers in these ages have one foot in the magical world of childhood, and the other in the “real world” of growing up. Generally speaking, middle grade readers might:
·      Check under their bed for monsters
·      Have a pair of lucky underpants
·      Wonder if their parents are secretly superheroes
·      Suspect they are likely the world’s best (fill in the blank)
·      Believe they can soar into the sky, if only they try hard enough 
To me, this is fertile soil for storytellers. It’s thrilling to see the excitement in a young reader’s eyes as they describe to you something they find amazing. And the wonderful thing is, they find almost everything amazing. It might be a stick they found in a gutter or a string they discovered in their belly button. It might be a fact they read in a book, or a character in a movie. So many things in the world are new to them, and there is unabashed excitement and wonder in all of it.
At this age, readers are grappling with two things: the world around them, and their place in that world. And the best part? They’re teachable. A good story can point them in the right direction. A good story can help them uncover a vital truth. They can experience joy and despair, victory and defeat, pain and happiness, all vicariously through a fearless protagonist. They can learn, without having to make the mistakes themselves.
Some feel that writing for middle grade readers means you must use small words or make it “simple” for the reader. This is not the case. You can deal with many, topics—even very difficult ones—and still have the book suitable for middle grade readers. The thing to keep in mind is you must be true to the age. Middle grade readers don’t care about love triangles. They don’t care about budgets or bosses. They do care about friendship. And bullies. Justice and injustice. Fear and weakness and death. What it means to be brave. All of these topics can be addressed in a middle grade book, as long as you view them through the lens of the reader.
I tried to capture a young reader’s dream in my book Almost Super. It’s the story of two boys born into a superhero family. They are destined for great things once they get their super powers. But  things don’t go quite as planned. The brothers must discover who their true friends are, and ultimately what it means to be super.
Wonder, excitement, adventure. I hope my story offers all of these for readers who secretly know that at any minute, the same thing is bound to happen to them. 

7 comments:

  1. I love middle grade, for all the reasons you listed. :) It is a magical time still.
    Almost Super sounds great!

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  2. My whole family (even those of us outside the 8-12 age range) LOVED Chickens in the Headlights and we are "almost" patiently waiting the arrival of Almost Super!

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  3. Marion -- Love this post! You have perfectly described what I experienced working on my MG after previously writing YA.

    (You also made some of the same points I made in my blog post for The Crowe's Nest next month! I better go edit my post to make sure I'm not just repeating you, LOL! But it's fun to see that we agree on this topic!)

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  4. * Thanks for this lovely post, Marion! I look forward to reading your story. Especially like your descriptions of middle-grade readers. Since I also write for than genre I'll keep your words in mind.

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  5. Lovely blog post, Marion. I have a 9 and an 11 year old and have to agree: its a wonderful age group to write for.

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  6. I've loved YA lit for years, but truth be told, I'm falling madly in love with MG right now, because really, stories that capture imagination and wonder and magic -- what's not to love? :)

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  7. I love this post! Well put -- my favorite books are either middle grade or adult, and it's fun to have WHY articulated so well.

    Who cares about budgets and love triangles? Not me - except when I have to -- and it's fun to read about worlds in which they're not mentioned. And to write for other people who find them boring.

    Thank you, Marion, for this inspiring post!

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