I’m all for writing the book I’d like to read thing, but I also know we writers need to make an emotional connection with our Middle Grade (MG) reader audience (ages 8-12) in order to create sympathy toward our beloved characters.
How to Mind the Middle Grade Reader’s Beeswax
- If you can remember, you can draw some of it from your own life. At that age, I was a ball of awkwardness. I felt awkward. All. The. Time. I started to become super self-aware. I analyzed my face – felt like my nose was too big for it. Compared my looks to other girls. My own mother couldn’t convince me how pretty she thought I was no matter how many times she said it because well, she was my mother, of course she was going to say that, and because I kept my insecurities about my looks all to my self. Some kids might vocalize this sort of struggle to a parent, but I didn’t. If you’re going to use this type of emotional connection with your readers, decide how your character will wrestle with this sort of issue.
- They are constantly on the fence about their level of maturity. During the same conversation, they might tell a parent, “I don’t want to grow up. I want to stay little. I want to stay a kid forever. Please help me with this,” then a few sentences later, “Don’t treat me like a baby. I’m not a little kid. You don’t have to remind me, I can do it myself.” They want to make their own decisions, to feel more mature, but at the same time, they don’t want to lose that sense of safety, that feeling someone still cares.
- A brain divided. They love their families but are embarrassed by them in front of their friends. They don’t don’t want to be known as a follower by other kids but want to fit in. Your readers are in a confusing period of life, and these problems are BIG and very real to them.
- Hormones. A literal chemical rush suddenly awakens them to more of the world around them in new ways. They also begin to really notice boys and girls for the first time. “Hey, he’s cute,” and “Gosh, she’s pretty *stutter stutter*.” Crushes. More confusion. More questions and questioning? Does he think I’m cute, too?
- A time of change and transition. Some MG books are referred to as “coming of age.” Search for novels with a coming of age theme and study them if you decide to pen one yourself.
- Read plenty of Middle Grade (MG) books in the genre you’re writing in. Take notes when the writer makes you feel for the character’s internal struggles and on what they are struggling with.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you can think of other issues and concerns that will help writers develop characters who emotionally connect with the Middle Grade reader audience, please share them in the comments.