Writing blogs can be entertaining and informative. There is a long list of them that I personally subscribe to, and although I try to limit the time I spend enjoying them, I like to at least scan most of them on a regular basis, especially if I see something that catches my eye right away.
On one such blog recently, I ran across an interview that someone had conducted with a specific literary agent. I can’t recall at the time which agent it was, or even which blog I was perusing at the time, but one comment the agent made caught my attention. I believe the interviewer had asked a question regarding a wish list, and among the items the agent mentioned was the fact that he’d love to find a submission for a novel with that elusive middle grade voice. Over the next several days, I found myself repeatedly thinking about that particular comment, and what it meant for those of us who strive to find that voice, too.
In the process of thinking about that, I couldn’t help but wonder what element it is that makes the middle grade voice so elusive. I know the middle grade spans an age group from as young as eight to the early teens, so that could be part of it. And as any of you know who have children of your own, or are around children much, there is a fairly wide gap in the speech patterns and thought patterns at either end of this age range. But I also know, from reading loads of middle grade books, that a typical middle grade book usually centers around young people with an average age of twelve years. That might be a big clue as to why the middle grade voice is so elusive.
Try to recall what you were like at the age of twelve. Were you totally childish in everything you did? Or did you act and think like an adult? It probably depended largely on your upbringing, your family situation, and even the age you are currently. Thinking back to my twelve-year-old self, I know it was a very weird, wonderful, yet frightening time. I still played with dolls and loved to color, but I also was painfully aware of boys. I still wanted to tussle in the dirt with the guys over a passed football, and then hope the following day that one of them might notice my new hair ribbon. That age is a time of such fluctuation of emotions, an ephemeral time of trying to balance between two different worlds, that I understand why it can be so elusive in trying to have it make sense on paper.
But I also had another thought about this subject. Perhaps when agents read our manuscripts, they are searching for a voice that will carry them back to memories of their own youth. Maybe they are looking for the voice they heard in their own head at that age; one that will bring back all the memories of what youth was for them. That, I fear, is a daunting task, because although we all travel through that time, it is different for each of us.
If anyone has any thoughts on how to make this aspect of writing for a middle grade audience any less stressful, I would love to hear from you. How do you find that inner child that will instill a believable and interesting personality into your middle grade characters?
Thanks so much for your time, and Happy Reading!