Thursday, November 10, 2011

The ABC's of Middle Grade: C is for Characters

Middle grade writing demands characters who are colorful, crazy, and a bit quirky. Middle grade characters need to stand out from the crowd. They need spunk. They need a little something that's all their own. But yet they can't be too much of all this. And perhaps above all, they need to be believable--to a middle grader. Which means middle grade writers have a lot of leeway.

Colorful, crazy, quirky. We can all comprehend those qualities, but what I mean by believable is this: middle graders need connection to their characters--an understanding, a knowing about them. Because when middle grade readers are connected to the characters in a story, they are connected to the story.

So, my million dollar question for this post is......What magical ways do you have for creating characters such as these?

9 comments:

  1. Ah, this is a million dollar question, indeed! MG is hard because the main character has to be different, but too different, the reader can't relate. BAD! I think universal issues like vulnerability and insecurity can make even the quirkiest of characters relatable, though.

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  2. I thinking digging below the surface into the emotional plot is one way. Also, giving the character something she or he is good at can help.

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  3. This is true of any genre, not just MG. But it's so very true.

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  4. Yes, the range of developing middle grade characters is huge because the difference between an 8 or 9 year old and a 12-13 year old in development is so different.

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  5. I really have to have the character in my head all the time. Making character sketches and making up background info (even if it isn't in the story) helps make them more believable and real.

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  6. Aw... that's one hard question.
    When I'm looking for emotional connection I dig into what's left of my own childhood. When I want quirkiness or oddness I dig into all the many cartoon and book characters that swim in my mind.
    That's probably not enough but I'm still a baby when it comes to writing.
    I also agree, if readers can't connect to the characters then they won't be able to connect with the story either.

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  7. This is such a great question! I'd have to say the reader has to connect to the main character enough to care about what happens to him/her. Of course, I can think of MG books where I wasn't as attached to the main character as I was the plot or setting, so I perhaps the question deserves more thought. :-)

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  8. Your thoughts always lead to me deeper thinking about the issue at hand. I appreciate that so much. Really.

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  9. It's great that you're doing these ABC's of middle grade, Barbara.

    As Linda Sue Park said, MG readers are learning about the WORLD (YA readers are learning about themselves). But they still need an emotional connection. You need to show how your character interacts with his or her environment. Like Akoss, I tend to dig into my own childhood memories for that emotional connection. Guess I'm still 12 inside!

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