Tips For Writing That Middle Grade Novel

A Middle Grade novel are for elementary and middle school themed. They have less darkness and sweeter endings than YA. They are more open to curriculum tie-ins and educational content. The view of the story is through the eyes of the MG character. It starts with the character. Ask yourself these questions about your character before you write the story:

  • What are their hopes & dreams?
  • What do they want?
  • What obstacle is standing in their way?
  • What problem must they solve?
  • What specific action must they take to overcome obstacle?
  • What is their flaw?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • What does the character need to learn & evolve over the course of the story?

The protagonist needs to be someone the reader cares about and wants to know better. They should be active in their own story. They should have believable motives and care deeply for things and people. The character should not be afraid to take risks and have strong opinions and believes about the world and themselves. Kids are real people with real problems, yet use humor whenever you can. It can be situational funny, instead of comedy. Don’t preach or talk down. Kids hear enough in real life. Balance actions and feelings. Read a lot of MG to get a handle on it. Sit at a mall or other places where kids hang out and just listen to their speech and the things they talk about.

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The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side

The moon shone down upon the campsite like a giant eye. A gust of wind rustled the dry, summer leaves of the maples. The fire crackled and popped. The counselor gazed at each boy’s face. His eyes gleamed in the fire light.

“Some of you heard these tales before. Please don’t spoil it for the new recruits. Tonight’s story is about the green man of the woods. It’s said that he snatched young boys that wandered off and lost their way. I was skeptical once, same as you, but as I live and breathe, this story is true.” He looked at the younger boys and rubbed his hands together.

Now Bobby looked up to his best bud.  Eddie was older by a couple of years. He had long legs and fast on his feet.  He climbed a rope with ease, excelled in sports, and beat most of the others in a race. Bobby was short for his age, chubby, and picked on at school. He didn’t have any brothers and was left alone more times than any ten year old. His mother worked long hours as a nurse. She felt guilty and decided Bobby needed companionship. She sent him off to Camp Crockett. At first, Bobby felt all alone, until Eddie stepped in to show him around. With Eddie as his friend and on the same team, Bobby felt proud and knew they’d win most of the games.

Some of the older boys told of a camp across the lake that had a swimming pool and a bowling alley. Eddie talked Bobby into stealing one of the rowboats. Bobby had never stolen anything and was nervous, but he’d do anything for Eddie. He scanned the area, before he shoved the boat out. Bobby ran and jumped in. Eddie waded out and climbed inside. They paddled, with all their might, to the other side of the lake. Their arms ached, by the time they reached Camp Boone. It had been further away than they had anticipated. They set the oars inside and hauled the boat to shore.

A thin girl, around twelve, with white-blond hair and dressed in a white tennis dress, emerged from the bushes. “What are you doing here?”

Eddie licked his fingers and smoothed his cowlick down. “Hi, we’re curious. Is it true your camp has a swimming pool and a bowling alley?”

“Yes, and other things. My name is Diana and you are?”

“I’m Eddie and this is Bobby.” Eddie pulled Bobby over.

“Do you want to peek inside?” she asked.

“Yes!” the boys chorused.

Diana unlocked the padlock on the gate. She pushed it open and the hinges squealed. The boys entered the campsite. As they wandered the grounds, they noticed garbage littered the area. Cabin porches looked damaged and the windows broken. The swimming pool smelled foul and green slime floated on top of the water. The boys gazed at each other. Eddie  walked over to a cabin. He waved Bobby over. He lifted Bobby up to look inside. Bobby paled.

“What do you see?” Eddie asked.

“Put me down!” Bobby cried. He raced to the gate with Eddie behind him.

The gate slammed shut before them. They looked behind them and couldn’t believe it.  Diana’s arms and legs changed into vines that rolled and entwined over each other in their effort to claim the boys. They scaled the gate, but Diana caught Bobby by his leg and dragged him back.

“Don’t leave me, Eddie!” Bobby yelled.

Eddie’s eyes widened as the vines slithered up the fence. His jacket sleeve snagged on a wire and he couldn’t budge. He yanked his arm free and jumped over the fence. The ground rumbled under his feet. He leapt for the boat. The vines tunneled under the rowboat and lifted Eddie and the boat as one. Eddie grabbed an oar and smacked it across the vines. A shrill rent the air. Eddie covered his ears. The vine shrunk back. Eddie took the opportunity rowed to the middle of the lake.

Eddie drifted on the water for hours. He started to row back to their camp when Bobby called his name. Eddie rowed back to Camp Boone and saw Bobby standing by the gate.

“Diana’s sleeping. Please take me back with you,” Bobby said. “Can you carry me? My legs hurt.”

Eddie climbed out of the boat and strode over to Bobby. He carried his friend to the rowboat and sat him down on the seat. Eddie pushed the boat out and jumped inside. “You look a little green.  Did Diana poison you?”

Bobby’s arms and legs turned into vines. Eddie screamed and the vines entered his mouth. Only hollows were left of Eddie’s eyes and slime covered his skin. The camp leaders found the rowboat circling the lake. Bobby wasn’t anywhere in sight. And so the tale of the watcher in the woods continues to this day.

“What a bunch of hogwash!” one of the new boys exclaimed.

“My name is Bobby. Now do you believe?” The counselor changed into an alien of mossy vines and snatched the boy’s tongue.

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The End

 

Middle Grade Character

Middle childhood is distinguished as the ages from six to ten. Each age group has their own character traits and development. Their world expands from family to school and to peer groups. To write for this group, it’s best to understand the stages.

Interpersonal traits of the six year old:

  • begins building relationships
  • competitive
  • starts increased independence from parents
  • does the opposite from what is asked

Internal traits for the six year old:

  • difficulty making choices
  • feels insecure
  • loves praise and flattery
  • new fears
  • excited with learning new things

Internal traits of the seven year old:

  • absorbed
  • time of withdrawal
  • inner tensions and fears
  • aware of self
  • comprehends bad and good as abstract concepts
  • learns time, days, and months

Interpersonal traits of the seven year old:

  • interested in babies and pregnancy, yet not concerned about sex
  • wants complaints heard
  • listens to other’s needs

Internal traits of the eight year old:

  • hoards possessions
  • can think logically
  • evaluates own failures
  • curious
  • aware of appearance and other’s responses to him/ her
  • beginning to understand death
  • interested in life
  • friendly and less self-centered

Interpersonal traits of the eight year old:

  • nosy about others
  • jealous of siblings
  • talkative
  • shares secrets with friends
  • likes specific clothes
  • likes to play games
  • learns to love animals
  • expansive in learning
  • less afraid

Internal traits of the nine year old:

  • emotions deepen
  • lacks self-confidence
  • overly sensitive
  • difficulty making choices and decisions
  • anxious about health
  • likes standardized rules

Interpersonal traits of the nine year old:

  • resists adult supervision
  • critical of others
  • can’t tolerate teasing
  • prefers reading or talking with friends

Internal traits for the ten year old:

  • gains poise
  • fewer fears
  • girls aware of sex more than boys and asks questions

Interpersonal traits of the ten year old:

  • relationships with friends are important
  • plays in groups
  • competition through organized sports

Also imaginary friends appear between ages three and ten. According to researchers, about 31% of children enjoy an imaginary friend. It is a normal aspect of childhood and not indicative of a psychotic episode.

So have fun with your character.