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Writer's Room => Chapter Books, Easy Readers, and Middle Grade (MG) => Topic started by: Kurtis on March 07, 2013, 09:07 AM

Title: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Kurtis on March 07, 2013, 09:07 AM
I'm disappointed that our editor friend won't be continuing her adventures in slush pile heck, but I understand her decision. She brought a certain knowledge beyond the basics of formatting, etc. (not that it isn’t helpful to get reminders) that you would only know by reading slush.

I don’t read slush but I do a lot of critiques, and since it’s been a while (several months) since doing any, everything has aggregated in my mind and I can speak generally without thinking of any specific manuscripts. This is just what I've seen, and it's small territory -- plus it's my taste, not an industry standard -- I'd love for anyone else who reads a lot of MG manuscripts to join in.

Some things I’ve seen more than once that make me reluctant to read on:

- Author tries for self-deprecating humor but it comes off as whiney.
- Bullies figure into plot, but they aren’t developed as characters.
- Book about a specific activity like rowing/ballet/space camp but the author clearly hasn’t researched the topic and just makes stuff up. This is my number one pet peeve in manuscripts.
- Hero signs up for a sport or activity because their parents make them, and whine about it for several chapters. High correlation to poorly researched activities (see above).
- Bossy moms, quirky neighbors, bratty little brothers, difficult teachers, etc., who are stock characters in middle grade and are described in a clichéd, often exaggerated way.
- Best friends who have nothing in common with hero and no explanation of why they hang out.
- Grandmas who skateboard, etc. I see what the author is trying to do in reversing a stereotype, but it feels cutesy and contrived.
- Manuscripts that are really short (e.g., 18K middle grade). Not to say NO middle grades can be short (see Angleberger comma Tom), but my assumption going in is that the author hurried it.

Of course all manuscripts have strengths too, and those are harder to aggregate because what makes them special is what makes them unique, but some of the stuff that makes me eager to read on:

- Really compelling, multifaceted story about bullying.
- High interest book where the author knows their stuff and the hero likes what he or she is doing, pulling me into their world through the hero’s interest/passion, even if it’s something I didn’t know I was interested in.
- Historical settings with enough detail to feel real to me but enough character development that I still connect.
- Compelling family relationships—interesting and believable moms, big sisters, grandfathers, etc.
- Believable friendships.
- Good writing.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: dewsanddamps on March 07, 2013, 09:33 AM
I'm sure I don't read as many mss as you do, but the things that bug me are whininess and passivity. So you're stuck at tennis camp? What is there at a tennis camp that can explode?
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Jaina on March 07, 2013, 09:52 AM
Good topic, Kurtis!  I'm totally with you on the bratty little brother/sister.  I'm trying to think of things that are overdone (I feel) in MG, or sort of a turn-off.  Most of this is totally subjective, of course.  There will be people (maybe people in power) who can't get enough of whatever it is I'm tired of.

My list would include:

*A main character who begins the book describing him/herself as boring, with nothing special about him/herself.  "I'm so blah.  I'm the one everyone overlooks because there's nothing interesting about me."  Unless I quickly see otherwise, I might be inclined to agree!  Hopefully the writer will prove this character wrong fast because I have to care about my MC, and if the MC is actually very blah, I'm not going to care all that much.  Not to be confused with *shy* which doesn't have the same turn-off factor for me.

Sidenote:  Characters who describe their main problem as being "bored" are similar.  Who was it who said "bored people are boring"?  If there's some sort of bummer of a boring situation going on, I hope it's livened up soon!  I hope the MC has enough character/brain power to entertain his/herself.

*The overly-quirky best friend who is just too wacky to believe.  This seems to be sort of a formula, of sorts, straight from a Disney tween show or whatnot, and I guess it's traditional that best friends be just be bit weirder than the main character, but two things can happen, for me:

1. The best friend character quickly becomes annoying.  or
2.  The best friend character is automatically more interesting than the main character, as has happened on many a sitcom (see Urkel).  I want to care about the main character the most.

*Sad, emotional girl main character who is probably an orphan and/or abused who probably will be pictured on the front of the book looking sad or maybe closed-off emotionally.  This really only bothers me when the main character is a victim and getting no joy out of life in any way.  This is a personal preference, but I have to have some hope/joy somewhere, and I don't really like reading about abuse.  However, many people do!  Think "Jenny" as a child in "Forrest Gump."  Someone will climb a tree in this book and wish they could stay there.

*Books written in Southern (or faux-Southern) voice by someone who doesn't live in the South or isn't from the South originally, etc.  For some reason, if you tell writers they should have a "strong voice," the go-to voice that seems to come out is what I call "corn-pone."  Exaggerated Southern, in other words.  Not my cup of tea.  (And yes, I doesn't seem right that I'd be so judgmental about where the writer lives/was born.  Again, just a personal pet peeve.  You should write whatever you want and if your narration comes out like the Waltons, so be it.)

*Relatives who are just soooooo quirky, the story reads like a Garrison Keillor Lake Wobegon piece.  Uncle Jam Jar thinks he's a garden rake, Mama wants to be on X Factor, Granny wears a Mickey Mouse hat at all times, even in the shower, and they all live in a funeral home.  A little of this kind of thing goes a long way.

*Main character has a very odd name because the writer was trying to be unique and create a character named something nobody's ever used before, like . . . Taxi.  Taxi René Salamander will spend one of the first paragraphs telling you she was named Taxi because she was born in one.  I'm just tired of the lengths this trend has gone to (though it was awfully fun to try to write one of these stories myself, I admit!).

*Bratty, rude, slacker, or mean main character never learns/grows.  This seems to be a current trend, but it also was a "thing" when I was a kid and 70s/80s MG main characters displayed what I thought was terrible behavior that was painted as "normal."  This is totally subjective, of course, but I've never liked books that sort of celebrate jerkishness, as if the best thing in life is to "have fun!" at the expense of everyone else.  Not talking Ferris Bueller here (at least he wasn't really hurting anyone), but more along the lines of main characters who would tease other kids, give all the adults a hard time, cheat, steal, lie or just be brats and the author seems to be saying "Ahh, kids.  Whatcha gonna do?"  Hard to explain without naming names, but it's like Calvin and Hobbes WITHOUT HOBBES.

I think you've hit the nail on the head when you talk about believability and well-roundedness.  I've been guilty of most of the things I've listed, I think, and I've certainly written some flat characters.  I used to have a little sign up near my desk that said "Think Again" to encourage myself to NOT go with the first thing that popped into my head--which was usually the cliche.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Debby G on March 07, 2013, 10:53 AM
This is so interesting. Other pet peeves of mine:

Most of the characters in a contemporary novel have names that were popular a long time ago (Debbie, Susan, Pete).

Preachiness. For instance, in YA novels, girls who have sex even just once often get pregnant or get a disease.

Parents are either perfect Mr. and Mrs. Brady types or are horrible physically abusive/alcoholic types. They aren't three-dimensional human beings.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: olmue on March 07, 2013, 10:57 AM
I'm sure I don't read as many mss as you do, but the things that bug me are whininess and passivity. So you're stuck at tennis camp? What is there at a tennis camp that can explode?

Hee! My kids would read a book with tennis camp explosions in it. :)
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Christine B. on March 07, 2013, 12:42 PM
Most of the characters in a contemporary novel have names that were popular a long time ago (Debbie, Susan, Pete).

Yes! I do not read a lot of mss but when I do, at a conference for instance, this totally takes me out of the story.

The social security website has such a great resource for finding out names there were popular in any given year so it's easy to avoid this, too.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Vijaya on March 07, 2013, 01:00 PM
Good thread. As another ICL instructor, I see a lot of the same old stuff ...
Cooking or gardening with grandma is very popular.
Underdog wins the race.
Encyclopedic overviews of various animals.

That said, I really love working with my students because they are working on their craft. And some of them have been published, and not just the obviously good students, but also the ones who were mediocre at first, but kept at it, finding their own unique spin on a familiar story. It's very rare for me to keep harping on the same thing (for any one student). They all grow and turn in better stories and articles, and I keep pushing them further. That's why I also like taking a class once in a while because left to my own devices I can get lazy and do the easy thing and not push myself.

Vijaya
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Kurtis on March 07, 2013, 01:26 PM
Oh, I would never harp on any of these with one student, though they certainly make it into my critique letter. And I really enjoy reading and responding to works in progress, there are always positives to celebrate and comment on. In fact, I'd say the most important part of a critique isn't telling a writer what to fix, it's helping them learn their own strengths.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: olmue on March 07, 2013, 01:31 PM
In fact, I'd say the most important part of a critique isn't telling a writer what to fix, it's helping them learn their own strengths.

I'd say you are one wise critiquer, Kurtis!
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Mike Jung on March 07, 2013, 01:45 PM
I'd say you are one wise critiquer, Kurtis!

Agreed. I haven't done a ton of critiques yet, but I hope to do more, and this is a great bedrock principle to keep in mind.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Debby G on March 07, 2013, 01:52 PM
And the funny thing is that two out of three of the pet peeves I mentioned--preachiness and one-dimensional characters--are problems that find their way into my manuscripts. Writing is hard!
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Jaina on March 07, 2013, 01:57 PM
Same, Debby.  They say "You dislike in others what you fear in yourself" (or something like that), so a lot of times things I "pick on" are things I've either done or currently do.  Eep!

As a matter of fact, after writing the above, I realized what might be a problem in one of my mss.  All it took was thinking about what I don't care for for it to occur to me that I may have set up that very situation.  So that's a real plus to writing down pet peeves!
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Christina Soontornvat on March 07, 2013, 01:57 PM
On the best friends thing, I've seen a lot of boys who are best friends with girls. I think it needs to be set up really well to be believable. While I think boys and girls can be friends, I think most kids in the MG age range have BEST (closest, die hard) friends of their own gender.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Kurtis on March 07, 2013, 02:00 PM
What I ID'd as my number one pet peeve isn't one I commit -- I research every little thing -- but it def. speaks to an anxiety I have, that people knowledgeable about the topic will find it misses the mark entirely. I sent Mamba Point to the world's foremost expert on black mambas, and I had both a robot league coach and a participant read the robot book, so I can get that expert POV before I send a book out into the wild.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Vijaya on March 07, 2013, 02:27 PM
Hee hee ... well you learn best when you teach, I think. That's how I learned my organic chemistry, and I found my writing improved considerably when I began teaching. The problem is that while writing rough drafts I am very aware of the mistakes I am making ... so I am constantly editing as I write, which can stop the flow ... I've had to relearn to let it go when the thoughts are coming fast.

Vijaya
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: ChristineSarmel on March 07, 2013, 03:08 PM
I know it works a lot of the time, but I can't read another book about the kid who finds a magic item/ ancient trunk/ mysterious diary and goes from being ordinary and overlooked to savior of the world.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Franzilla on March 07, 2013, 03:33 PM
Great list. And I have to say that I LOVE the fact that you've added what you do love to see in MS too. Honestly, I would like to read more about 'why I didn't reject this' rather than the more negative 'why I rejected this.' I know we need both but I suspect the 'why I passed' version is easier to write which is why there are more articles/threads/blog posts on that topic than the other.

Jaina, 'corn pone'??? You've totally lost me there but I'm intrigued. Oh and if I could write a novel in Waltons-style? I'd be heaven! I wouldn't sell it (well, I wouldn't be able to!) but I'd read it to my kids. I grew up with that show and still like to yell out, Goodnight, John-boy! to my sister if I'm staying at hers.

So, erm, back to the topic. I really agree on the boy-girl friendship thing and also the granny-skateboarding thing. That said, both work fine when they're done with care.

And I agree, Christine, about the magic item/ancient trunk. It's the finding of it that rankles – if only it were that easy to gain access to a magical world! But I wonder whether children still enjoy this type of story and it's just us adults who are bored of it.

PS The best granny-skateboarder ever was Supergran. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtymNiYlSD4 Did you get her in the US? She was cool.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Rachel on March 07, 2013, 04:01 PM
And I agree, Christine, about the magic item/ancient trunk. It's the finding of it that rankles – if only it were that easy to gain access to a magical world! But I wonder whether children still enjoy this type of story and it's just us adults who are bored of it.
I do think it's different when you're a kid -- a book that just came out with, say, a diary leading to a magic world might be the first or second book a kid has read with that concept. We've had a lot longer to get tired of things! Many kids like familiar stories, and imagining yourself going to a magical world doesn't get old. Of course, I think putting a new spin on familiar tropes is always good.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: C.K. on March 07, 2013, 05:09 PM
Quote
We've had a lot longer to get tired of things! Many kids like familiar stories, and imagining yourself going to a magical world doesn't get old.

Very good point.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: kategoka on March 07, 2013, 08:43 PM

Cooking or gardening with grandma is very popular.


 :yeah I have a cooking with grandma scene in my MG!  :grin3

I also remember reading in an old SCBWI Bulletin that boys with long eyelashes has been way overdone.
I had that in an earlier draft, too. But after reading the Bulletin...  :scissors:
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Girl Friday on March 08, 2013, 04:21 AM

*Main character has a very odd name because the writer was trying to be unique and create a character named something nobody's ever used before, like . . . Taxi.  Taxi René Salamander will spend one of the first paragraphs telling you she was named Taxi because she was born in one.  I'm just tired of the lengths this trend has gone to (though it was awfully fun to try to write one of these stories myself, I admit!).

This is so one of my pet peeves too, see it in adult novels too, drives me crazy... and yet I did it in my first novel (tho at least it was just one line). Hahaha.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Kurtis on March 08, 2013, 05:26 AM
A guy from booklist tweeted about characters with cutesy nicknames and I commiserated, then realized not only that I sort of did this in my next book, I'd just sent him a galley and the tweet may very well have been inspired by same.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Jaina on March 08, 2013, 05:33 AM
I started writing a story with a character with the most ridiculous inanimate-object name I could think of, "just for fun" to test out some new software, and it actually was a blast to come up with a situation where such a name would be "realistic."

I think that's just it.  I start objecting when something breaks the realism for me, whether that's me thinking the author's trying really hard to come up with a unique name, or thinking "this family is just too quirky to believe!" or whatever.

Sadly, I think the "sad girl" fiction I mentioned is all too realistic.  That's just a matter of me not being crazy about that sort of story, though.  Hey, I don't really care for mythological creatures, either--but my middle grade daughter LOVES them!
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Anthony on March 08, 2013, 05:37 AM
*Main character has a very odd name because the writer was trying to be unique and create a character named something nobody's ever used before, like . . . Taxi.  Taxi René Salamander will spend one of the first paragraphs telling you she was named Taxi because she was born in one.  I'm just tired of the lengths this trend has gone to (though it was awfully fun to try to write one of these stories myself, I admit!).

Brandon Sanderson does this in ALCATRAZ VERSUS THE EVIL LIBRARIANS - the main character is named Alcatraz, of course. But he completely ties it into the plot, so it doesn't come off as quirky just to be quirky. Plus, the way he reveals the reason for the name lets you figure it out before you're explicitly told the reason, which makes it way more fun.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Vijaya on March 08, 2013, 06:41 AM
I love it when quirky characters fit the story perfectly ... a lot of the characters in Blue Balliet's books are quirky, and that's what makes the books work. Goodness, I'd follow Kate diCamillo's or Richard Peck's mice or pigs or inanimate object even, anywhere ...

Vijaya
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Pons on March 08, 2013, 09:35 AM
 :goodthread:  I really don't have anything to add, but I am enjoying this thread.

Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: cindoh on March 08, 2013, 09:57 AM
On the boy-girl best friends thing, I agree with this. My daughter's in that age range, and of all the kids I know, there's only one girl-boy best friend pair that I can think of. But I did this deliberately in my MG that's currently on submission  (and yeah the boy's pretty quirky too, but I hope it works...who knows.) If you have all girl characters, which I do in a couple of other books I've written, there's an assumption that boys won't read it and it gets labeled a girl book, even if it has themes and other elements that might appeal to boys. I think this is why you see boy-girl best friends so often in MG, even though it's not reflective of the real world.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Artemesia on March 08, 2013, 10:05 AM
good point, cindoh! but it can and does happen. my son is grade 9 now, but when he was in middle school, one of his best friends was a girl. they bonded over common challenges, and he liked how she was nice to everybody. they hung out outside of school quite a bit. we recently moved away, but they keep in touch. and she wasn't a crush.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Kurtis on March 08, 2013, 10:14 AM
Oh, I know that's why people drop in the opposite sex bestie, but there are plenty of ways to bring unlikely combos together without just declaring they are friends. They can be neighbors, siblings, cousins, put together by a school assignment, whatever. In one of my books the girl is a runaway and the boy discovers her in a house where he's taking care of the homeowner's pet pig. (That old thing...)
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Artemesia on March 08, 2013, 10:21 AM
lol, um yeah. what Kurtis said.

Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: TracyH on March 08, 2013, 10:43 AM
I've done loads of critiquing, too, and here's what I've noticed:

1. No voice. There's just nothing grabby about what the character is doing/saying/thinking. Kids are amazingly quirky so there needs to be some of that in the writing.
2. Starting in the middle of the action with not enough back story to make me care about the character. It's a tough line to walk, though. See number 3.
3. Too much back story and no front story. It's all taking place in the character's head and I have no idea if said character is in their room, in their treehouse or on the moon.
4. No established internal arc. After reading the first chapter, I want to know what the story will be about, but I have no idea. I might know it's going to be a story about a character on a quest or somesuch. But I have no idea what is driving the character to the quest, what their internal motivation might be. The wound they need to heal.
5. Self-conscious writing. When the writing is so concerned with the above and/or other people's pet peeves, it strangles the life out of it.

I think good writing comes from letting yourself play. Even if it's a tough subject. And so much of what I read is just, so, ADULT. Rational, reasonable and well thought out. There's nothing spontaneous or joyful. I LOVE that Kurtis's boy discovers the runaway because he's taking care of someone's PIG. Sorry for all the capitals.

PLAY! Let's PLAY. If that means the kid is uber quirky and grandma rides a skateboard - GO FOR IT. It would be eight million times better than reading about the kid who eats eggs and toast for breakfast and then goes to school. You could and probably should take the skateboard out of following drafts, but going overboard in the first draft, I think, makes the writing more flexible and flexibility is where the gold is. Writing about grandmas on skateboards and kids named Alcatraz can warm up the muscles and make the writing fun. Then you can revise out the overboard stuff, or make sure there are good reasons for the weirdness.

Sorry if that was kind of ranty.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Vijaya on March 08, 2013, 11:13 AM
Not ranty at all, Tracy. Very helpful.
I often have to get out of my own way and let the story pour forth ...
Vijaya
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Kurtis on March 08, 2013, 11:29 AM
I like your attitude, Tracy. And really -- mixed gender friendships, skateboarding grandmas -- I'm not saying don't do it, just make me believe it.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: TracyH on March 08, 2013, 11:59 AM
I'm feeling very ranty today for some reason, but glad it isn't coming off that way. And yes - nothing random in fiction. There should be a solid believable reason for all things. Can't rely on the suspension of disbelief too heavily. So, like, if you're going with a name like Mississippi or Mars Bar, you can't also have a pet squirrel and a teacher who doubles as Superman, but only in his mind (or maybe you can! hmmm).

I'm loving this thread!
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Sully on March 08, 2013, 12:02 PM
All of us girls who grew up skateboarding in the seventies really could be skateboarding grammies. I am a skateboarding/snowboarding mom in my late forties and several of my childhood friends who once skateboarded are grandmas.
My daughter's favorite time spent with my Mom is gardening. There is a sense of real magic in gardening.

A good story can trump all rules. Does imagination have rules? Write what you love to write and find the magic within your own writing. At the same time, having a critique can be what takes any story to the next level.

Great thread. It makes me want to write about Popcorn Snowcone III who was conceived at the county fair, just like his Dad and his Grand Daddy before him.  :rollercoaster
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: TracyH on March 08, 2013, 12:20 PM
Sully - I am in love with Popcorn Snowcone III already. Just sayin'.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Jaina on March 08, 2013, 12:44 PM
I'm just trying to figure out where you'd conceive a ch--oh, nevermind. 

Popcorn Snowcone makes me hungry.  I'm hoping his middle name isn't Funnel Cake.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: writerhoo on March 08, 2013, 12:53 PM
Thank you all so much for this great thread. Not only did I smile, but for no apparent reason I was inspired with a new way to rewrite my opening scene (which I've already done six times this week and still dissatisfied). Sadly, my rewrite does not involve any food-named characters or skateboarding anythings, so maybe it won't stick -- but thank you very much for the great thread anyway :).
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Venessa Ann Schwarz on March 08, 2013, 02:27 PM
I have nothing to add either, but wanted to say ... this thread is a blast! :haha
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Girl Friday on March 08, 2013, 03:31 PM
Haha this thread cracks me up. And thanks for your thoughts, Tracy. You're right about the no voice thing, and personally I love quirky (tho I know what people mean about it sometimes being overdone.)

I remembered something else I've seen quite often - a voice that's just all wrong for MG. Sometimes it sounds too adult, but more often it sounds too young and cutesy, which paradoxically makes it really sound like an adult writing for kids. Another thing (having read Miss Snark's a lot) is a first sentence that has no punch. A first sentence really needs to do a lot of heavy lifting. If it reads like the middle of a paragraph from the middle of a chapter, it's such a wasted opportunity to grab your reader. (Though that's not MG-specific.)

Oh yes and when I was a little kid, my two best friends were the male twins who live next door. We were inseperable. So it does happen, even if it's rarer.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Alison Stevens on April 22, 2013, 03:51 PM
 :giggle This thread's been fun to follow.

Girl Friday, I agree that the first sentence needs to do a lot. Unfortunately, I really struggle with getting mine to do so. But it's oh, so important.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: stefwrites on April 22, 2013, 06:19 PM
Everything Tracy said!
Love the advice to be spontaneous and joyful.
So freeing!
And yes, this thread is fun! :)
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: writerjenn on April 24, 2013, 06:43 PM
One thing I see a lot of is a framing story of an adult looking back on his/her childhood. My usual comment is: unless there's a darn good reason for us to meet the adult and see that framing story, leave it out and go straight to the kid's story. It's usually easier for an MG reader to bond with an MG character than to bond with an adult who's saying, "Back in my day, it was like this ..."

Also, my favorite name from this whole thread is Taxi Rene Salamander.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Jeff_S on April 25, 2013, 01:21 AM
I have nothing really to add except that this thread reminded me that because of the quirky name cliche, for the longest time one of my friends thought the lead character in John Green's Paper Towns was named... Paper Towns. Which cracks me up to this day.

And then there's the joke about Kindle Paperwhite sounding like a name from The Hunger Games  ;D
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Pons on April 25, 2013, 08:08 AM
Quote
I like your attitude, Tracy. And really -- mixed gender friendships, skateboarding grandmas -- I'm not saying don't do it, just make me believe it.

I think this is the key. If you can make me believe something, it builds my fictional world. If, on the other hand, the element feels contrived, the world collapses.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: hhbrady on May 13, 2013, 07:01 PM
Hi - New member here. I wanted to chime in and say that growing up two of my best friends were the boys who lived on either side of my house - one was the bus stop before me and the other was the bus stop after. I've spent my whole career in male-dominated industries (perfectly comfortable BTW), partly due to those two I think! We still stay in touch.

My contemporary MG mystery segues from two BFFs into a boy-girl pair (think Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepard, i.e., Moonlighting in middle grade). They're figuring out the whole first-crush thing while they try to work together.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: TracyH on May 13, 2013, 08:15 PM
Sounds funn, hh!
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Dottie on December 29, 2013, 09:28 AM
i think my pet peeve in doing critiques is to read about a main character that never really has anything bad happen.  they don't fall on their face with everyone laughing, they just trip and catch themselves before they fall.  the author is too close to the character and doesn't want anything bad to happen to them, but that is very unbelievable to kids, who do fall on their face with everyone laughing.
Title: Re: Middle Grade "Slush"
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on December 30, 2013, 06:33 PM
My pet peeve is when a writer adds details just to show they know the info. Give me what I, the reader, need to know in that moment. I don't want any more or less. Too much will pull me out of the story (and slow the pacing), too little will leave me confused.