Thursday, May 10, 2012

The ABC's of Middle Grade: X is for X Marks the Spot

You have to be creative with the Letter X, so as I thumped my brain thinking of a good word to represent X, it became clear that all great middle grade books have that spot -- that place, that crisis, that point of no return -- where all things are different because of a choice the character(s) makes or one that was made for them. So my Letter X marks that place.

I see the X marks the spot at the beginning of a book, marking the start of the book's journey, the 'thing' that catapults readers into the book's action. To me, this spot is not an end point; therefore, it's completely different than 'X marks the spot' on a treasure map.

Think of the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, the X marks the spot would be when Auggie goes to school. Or consider Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, the X marks the spot is when Doug's father declares the family must move. In The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, the X marks the spot is the three siblings going to Dr. Stanilaus Pym's orphanage.

But how easily can we place an X marks the spot in our own writing? So that's my question for you today--can you mark that spot in your own writing, that point where everything is different because of one thing? Or, if you don't write, can you X marks the spot easily in the books you are reading? Because whether writing or reading, the X marks the spot should be easy to spot.

9 comments:

  1. I think it's easier to see the X in other people's work. That said I do know what my X is. Even my hubby does, just from what I've said to him about the book. You need that X, that one thing that changes the characters life and sets them on the journey, to write the query and tag line so it's pretty important.

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  2. Great creative use of X Barbara. Yes I think having an X point in your book is very important and I always include them in my manuscripts.

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  3. That is a hard question! Finding where you story starts is an art in itself!

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  4. Finding the X in other people's work is easier, I agree. We're so close to our own work that EVERYTHING qualifies as an X. :-) Finding where to start a story is an art--maybe finding the X helps with finding the start. Just a thought.

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  5. Great post today. I would agree, it is easier to find other people's X marks the spot. I also agree with you, too, that knowing your X can help with so many other points - the beginning, the ending, etc.

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  6. Super post. I've been reading some good craft books lately, and one of them termed this as "one-way doors," points of no return for the MC. I'm not an outliner but have been paying more attention to "macro-structure" lately, and am noticing more where such Xs occur. Thanks!

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  7. That's my favorite point in every book, identifying that moment where everything changes. For my current wip, this is an exciting moment (although it will become pretty awful, at first it's such a point of discovery and wonder). I'm loving writing that X marks the spot moment.

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  8. Great choice for the letter X. I am definitely thinking about this in my own WIP. Off to keep writing.

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  9. Each of these alphabet letters has caused me to think about my writing in such a unique way. Thanks for sharing the journey with me--only Y and Z left!

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