Welcome, Kai. Over to you:
Eat Your Peas! Speaking to the Middle Grade Reader
Voice in children’s literature is crucial. It’s a safe bet to say that if the narrator sounds like a parent, your book probably won’t be read by more than your friends and family.
Think about it. Kids in the middle grade age range, say eight to twelve years old, are under constant supervision. Parents see to it that they wake up on time for school, eat a good breakfast, brush their teeth, don’t wear the same shirt they’ve worn the past three days, leave on time to catch the school bus. Then they get to school where teachers tell them when they can talk, how to behave in the hallways, not to throw food in the cafeteria. Then they go back home to be told to do their homework, their chores, feed the dog.
The only place a child that age can escape supervision is inside a book. Obviously, they don’t want a narrator telling them to eat their peas before they set off on the quest with the main character.
Yet, beyond that, you have a myriad of choices for the voice of your narrator. As many choices as there are middle grade readers. Imagine yourself walking down the hall of a middle school during passing period (I know, it’s a scary thought, but we’re only envisioning!) You can spot the popular kids right away with their heads held high, maybe some swagger and the cluster of kids around them. If they were your narrator, their voice would be confident. Maybe even a bit cocky. There wouldn’t be a lot they (think they) don’t know except the name of the less popular kids.
Let’s find one of those.
Over there, just coming off the stairs. Head down, hair swinging forward to block her face. Books clutched to her chest. An unpopular kid. With her head down that low, she is either extremely shy or bullied. Her voice would be timid, and she may experience episodes of anger/resentment toward the popular kids. She will know everybody in the school. She’ll probably even know some dirt on the teachers, because people never notice she’s around and spill their secrets in front of her.
Of course there might be a class clown, a brainiac, kids who love science, comics, etc. Hopefully you understand that these kids, the kids right out of the hallways or homeschools of the middle grade world are who should be your narrator.
Okay, it’s safe to leave the hallway again, but the next time you sit down to start writing a middle grade book, I suggest you give it a visit and pick a narrator that will tell your story in the most genuine voice.
As is tradition, Terra learns on the Saturday past her twelfth birthday that she is a Natures Spirit. It is her legacy to serve in the peaceful underground city of Concord. Learning she is named in a prophecy and being threatened by the leader of the death tribe…that part breaks tradition.
The Trepidus are the death janitors of the Underworld, responsible for delivering fatalities with a smile and cleaning up after themselves until Blanco, recent leader of the Trepidus, decides the day of reckoning for his species is coming. He begins organising the creatures and leads them toward an uprising. The prophecy says there is one person who can stop him. Terra.
With Spirit of Security, Frank, protecting her, Terra attempts to complete her training and discover her Spirit talents. Together, they go on a rogue investigation to learn how to defeat Blanco. In the end, it comes down to a battle of the minds. The future of Concord is at stake. Will Blanco, the older, more experienced being win? Or will Terra, the young, new Spirit earn back the peace of the city?
About the author:
Kai Strand writes fiction for kids and teens. Her debut novel, The Weaver, was a finalist in the 2012 EPIC eBook Awards. She is a (very lucky) wife and the mother of four amazing kids. The most common sound in her household is laughter. The second most common is, "Do your dishes!" She and her family hike, geocache, and canoe in beautiful Central Oregon, where they call home.
To learn more about Kai’s books, download companion documents, find links to her published short stories and discover all the places to find Kai both virtually and in person, visit her website: www.kaistrand.com. She loves to hear from readers, so feel free to send her an email or visit her facebook page, Kai Strand, Author.
PK: Thanks, Kai. Brilliant advice for all of us. I wish I'd read this long ago! Great author website, too. Full of useful stuff.
Good luck with all of your books.
Good luck with all of your books.