Thursday, April 26, 2012

The ABC's of Middle Grade: U is for Unusual

Some say that as far as plot lines go, every type that can be written has been written, and there's truth in that, I think, but that doesn't mean our writing can't be unusual or new or different. And in order to stand out and be noticed, our writing needs to be unusual.

But unusual doesn't have to mean weird or standing out because it's so totally strange. For today's purposes unusual means something rare or out of the ordinary.

When a kid hides out under his bed covers with a flashlight just to finish a book, I would say there's something unusual about that book. My son did this once a long time ago, and I pretended not to notice the flashlight because I thought it was completely awesome that he thought he should be sleeping but that he had to stay up reading!

In the time since, we've discussed that if a book is that good, you may read as long as you like--but by no means may you be crabby the following day.

So what kinds of things make today's books unusual? There are so many choices, so many great books out there, what is unusual enough to keep a kid reading long after they should have turned out the light?


  1. I read Poe as a kid, but was too scared to read at night.

  2. Oh I wish I could be crabby the next day. Those books that a kid can't put down are awesome. I love when I watch my daughter with one like that.

  3. So true! For me, it all depends. It could be voice, or plot twist, or pacing. Anything that stands out. Out of curiosity, what book was your son reading?

    1. I can't remember the book but wish I could! It was awhile back, and I think I might have been too amused by the flashlight to even have looked.

  4. "... what is unusual enough to keep a kid reading long after they should have turned out the light?"

    Adventure, plot twists, ghosts

    ...hmmm, I think I have some revising to do. :)

  5. I'm not sure it has to be unusual, just riveting with a character they care about or relate to in some way.

  6. My 12yo son did this for The Hunger Games and then when we were on spring vacation he read for a day and a half straight to finish Catching Fire and he didn't even want to do the normal vacation things.

    So, to answer your question, I'd say adventure with kids in power, excitment, the terror of unknown and what's going to happen next. What else does The Hunger Games bring to the reader?

  7. The question that alludes me, what twist can you give to a story to make it unusual? Still working on that!

    I love it too when my son reads at night, since it seems to be the best time for him. I just hate it when he doesn't get enough sleep. But how do you discipline for reading? :)

  8. With my 9 yo, if he actually finishes a novel, then there is something unusual about the book. ;)

  9. I love that rule -- You just can't be crabby tomorrow.

    I'm not sure what the key is to unusual, but specific settings or subject matter probably figure in. Example: Wonder by Rj Palacio. The MC was born with cranio-facial abnormalities, and I don't think that's been done. But the overall story is about making friends, getting along in school, and accepting and dealing with what life hands you, and of course that's been done many times.

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