Monday, July 15, 2013

Writing Middle Grade: How to have your MG characters respond emotionally

Kids go through a lot of emotions as their world expands and they try to find their place in it. Sometimes it can feel like they’re being pulled between wanting the safe and known of home, and wanting the vastness of the universe.

Photo credit:
(Heehee! Get it? Being pulled between two things?)

So let's talk about the kinds of emotions that middle grade-aged kids face. These are the kinds of things you need to be aware of as far as your readers are concerned, and it's also something you need to be aware of to make your main characters as authentic as possible.

Emotions in Middle Grade Kids
  • They have a strong sense of moral justice. (Which is why they feel so offended if everyone else their age gets a cell phone and they don’t.)
  • They care deeply for things and people. (I've got a theory that says that's why 5th grade begins the age of drama. It's because they care so deeply about their friends, and feel the need to defend them on every. little. thing.)
  • They like to do together activities, like clubs and team sports (and not just organized clubs-- many make up their own).
  • They're not afraid to take a risk. (This doesn't necessarily mean jumping off a cliff or exploring somewhere dangerous / off limits. (Although it totally can. I've mentioned how big of a fan I am of jumping off a cliff, right? ;)). A risk can be things like daring to trust a new step-parent, to make the unpopular choice when  their friends aren't, or defending an unpopular friend.)
  • They are intensely curious, and have a huge thirst for knowledge.
  • They like to take action and get involved in things. They also have believable motives for why they do. They want the characters they read about to have believable motives, too.
  • The why of things is extremely important. (That’s because they have transformed into reasoning explorers. They want things to logically make sense.)
  • And something really important to remember:

Middle grade kids feel life is just so ordinary. What they wish
for MOST is for their life to be extraordinary.

photo credit: Malabooboo via photopin cc
So do what you can to give them that extraordinary-ness in the books you write for them. :)

Next Monday, I'll talk about what your main character needs to have middle grade readers root for them, which is SO. VERY. IMPORTANT.

Have a great week, everyone!


JeffO said...

I think one of my biggest complaints when I beta read for people (not just MG; I actually haven't beta'd for any MG authors) is the lack of emotion in the writing. It's got to have it.

Have fun in San Diego--and don't get lost!

Emily R. King said...

Great reminders. Thanks, Peggy!

Rena said...

Great topic, Peggy! I like how you've broken it down really well for people. I'll have to bookmark this if I try for an MG in the future.

Natalie Aguirre said...

So true about kids wanting to be extraordinary. To be honest, I think a lot of adults do too.

Have a great trip!

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I especially agree with the part about how kids want to be extraordinary. I remember being that age and watching movies with supernatural/fantasy themes; I wished that stuff like that could happen in real life and that I could actually experience it for myself.

Carrie Butler said...

Hah! That second photo is adorable. :D

Donna K. Weaver said...

Love your post. Have fun on your trip and let us know how ComicCon was!

Nicole said...

Love this post! Between this and your last MG post, I've decided I'm basically a permanent MG kid at heart. ;)