re: Youth Is in the Details

in Narrative Voice/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I’ve received some rejections for my middle grade manuscript. One agent said my voice is not “as kid-friendly as it could be.” Do you have ideas for addressing that?

Sincerely,

R.

Dear R….

Indeed I do: Try wallowing in the details. Adults like to sum up issues and situations while kids focus on the details of those issues and situations. Here, consider this: “Toby detested school and thought it useless. In his experience, going to school was about writing essays and memorizing speeches about foreign cultures. That wasn’t what his life was about. Toby’s life was about working at home on the farm with Uncle Paul and Rudy.” This kid-friendlier version dwells on the specific stuff that bugs and excites him, making his emotional gripes very tangible for young readers: “No way, no how was Toby going to school. School was all letters and sums and pointing pointers at a big old map on the wall that no one could even read because the names were all in French or Pig Latin or somesuch. That wasn’t real life. Real life was here, on the farm, swinging axes into rails like Uncle Paul and Rudy and cussing at the cows. That was real life. That’s what Toby wanted.”

Happy writing!

The Editor

4 Comments

  1. And read, read, read, read! Pick up any/all MG books to see how other authors have managed to capture kids’ voices.

  2. I completely agree with Dear Editor, and the example is excellent. I also want to add that you should make sure the sentences aren’t too long and the words aren’t too complex. I have used the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Statistics to find the grade level. (It’s in the MS Word program.)

  3. I think the Mg voice must not be too snarky and snappy – younger kids are more likely to whine then rebel at that point. Once they hit the cross over (for my kids that equals 11) then the voice can become a little more brutal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*