Thursday, May 24, 2012

Writing Middle Grade Books

Tip of the Day: Midde Grade readers ARE using kindles etc. to read ebooks. I know this is something a lot of us authors wondered. We kind of thought that most ebook readers would be a little older, at least into YA. When I had a chance to hang out with a bunch of 4th and 5th graders the other day I took a poll and the majority of them said that they read ebooks on their parent's ereaders in addition to paperbacks. Want to hear more about my book club visit with the kids? Read my blog from Tuesday.

Last week Giora asked how we, as middle grade writers, get into the heads of middle grade characters and have the dialogue sound authentic. Since I'm working on a middle grade right now I thought I'd tackle these questions. I spend a lot of time thinking back to when I was that age and how I handled different situations. And while that was some time ago, things aren't THAT different. Sure we have more technology now so it's wise to pay attention to that kind of thing. You probably wouldn't three-way call your frenemy and hit mute while your best friend got her to say a bunch of stuff you weren't supposed to hear (which we did ALL of the time). But you'd have her forward you the e-mail she sent talking smack about you. And you wouldn't wear big hats and tease your hair ala Saved by the Bell:

So you should pay attention to fashion current trends. But the basic stuff that happened to us as kids at that age still goes on today. A middle grade girl is still hurt when her best friend starts hanging out more with a new friend. Or the boy she likes rejects her. Or she doesn't get the role in the school play that she wanted so desperately. So if you recall how you felt when things like that happened to you, it's easy to get into the heads of your middle grade characters.

When I wrote my first middle grade, My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours, I was thinking about my own 7th grade fake boyfriend and the trouble I got into because of him and my BFF at the time. It was in thinking about this that I came up with the idea for the book. And the idea of fake boyfriends must be eternal because people are always telling me about the fake boyfriends they had (or still have!) when I meet them at book signings.

And to answer your question about realistic dialogue, just listen to how kids are talking now. Turn on Disney or Nickolodeon and take note. Listen to a group of kids at the library chat. Kids today really don't speak all that differently than we did at that age. I hear my 9 year saying "Dude!" to his friends all the time. And I said "Dude!" at that age too. Though I can pretty much guarantee that no one today still says, "Like, gag me with a spoon!" :-)

Kristina, Miss Author in Action


G.M. said...

Thanks, Kristina. Now that you mention TV shows I notice that I often watch with enjoyment many of them, like Good Luck Charlie, Lizzie McQuire (I like the inclusion of cartoons), Life with Derek (about MG and YA). So I do have many points of reference for MG fiction. When I came to this blog and saw the title of your novel about the fake boyfriend I was surprised to see it, was laughing and thought how original it is and how cool it was that you came with such concept. Especially when the two girls had two fake boyfriends. I had no idea that it was something that happened to you and other girls. Don't recall seeing something similar on TV. (Maybe you can submit an epsiode for a popular sitcom about that). Do boys also invent fake girlfriends in school to impress other boys? Best wishes with your current MG.

DeenaML said...

MG is harder for me to write than YA -- I think -- even though I love it! I'm often told my MC has too much going on/talks too old....there is a needed balance.