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Thread: Questions regarding a middle grade magical realism piece

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    New, but ready and revving to go Liz_cm's Avatar
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    Smile Questions regarding a middle grade magical realism piece

    Hello there I am new to absolute write but have been lurking on these forums for a couple of months now. I have a few questions that have been nagging me.

    First off, I will say that I am currently in revision mode for a 51K magical realism piece revolving around the theatre and its magic. I am working on it getting betaed and it's been through three major revisions thus far. The hope is to start querying this December, and start to write up the queries this summer.

    One of the first questions I have regards age of the characters. I know this question pops up quite a bit, I am starting to doubt if I aged my characters too young. The main character who is female is 11, but there is a male character who is 13, and another female who is 15. They all attend a performing arts school together. The female who is 15 is a secondary character, and will say is the main antagonist. For a middle grade novel, or even on the upper middle grade side is this too young or just right?

    I also have a question regarding one of my major characters, without giving too much away all I can say is that he is a "dual role" character. Where in the beginning he is seen as one character, but through the story find out he is another. Is this concept a little too much, or does it depend on how it is written? I haven't seen it around in children's literature, at least from what I can see, so I'm not sure if I committed a children's fiction crime by implementing it or not.

    Another question I have is POV changes. The beta-reader who read it said she didn't have a problem with it (older reader), but I have read that POV changes in middle grade is normally a no-no. Yet, in YA you do see it happen. I'm not sure seeing as I framed the story the best possible way to be told. I am wondering if this can work? Or is it a not possible?

    Thanks for your time
    "Masques" MG Magical realism novel 48K- revisions. Querying Winter 2012/2013

    "Allegheny Academy" Realistic teen fiction- brainstorming/plotting (5K)







  2. #2
    Reads more than she writes. AW Moderator Smish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Liz_cm View Post
    Hello there I am new to absolute write but have been lurking on these forums for a couple of months now.


    One of the first questions I have regards age of the characters. I know this question pops up quite a bit, I am starting to doubt if I aged my characters too young. The main character who is female is 11, but there is a male character who is 13, and another female who is 15. They all attend a performing arts school together. The female who is 15 is a secondary character, and will say is the main antagonist. For a middle grade novel, or even on the upper middle grade side is this too young or just right?
    Having an 11-year-old up against a 15-year-old seems a bit strange, but if it works, it works. 11 is probably okay for the main character, though 12 or 13 might work better if it's an upper-MG novel.

    I also have a question regarding one of my major characters, without giving too much away all I can say is that he is a "dual role" character. Where in the beginning he is seen as one character, but through the story find out he is another. Is this concept a little too much, or does it depend on how it is written? I haven't seen it around in children's literature, at least from what I can see, so I'm not sure if I committed a children's fiction crime by implementing it or not.
    I'm not sure what you mean by this. It's common in MG for someone to turn out differently than one thought. The bully is really nice at heart. The nice girl is really a back-stabbing witch. Etc.

    Another question I have is POV changes. The beta-reader who read it said she didn't have a problem with it (older reader), but I have read that POV changes in middle grade is normally a no-no. Yet, in YA you do see it happen. I'm not sure seeing as I framed the story the best possible way to be told. I am wondering if this can work? Or is it a not possible?

    Thanks for your time
    You can have POV shifts in MG, if they make sense and are clearly defined. The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan. If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, by Gennifer Choldenko. Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love, by Jennifer Tarshis. Etc.

    Good luck!
    Revision is where you earn your money - and if you haven't made any money yet, revision is where you pay your dues. Sara Zarr

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Liz_cm View Post

    I also have a question regarding one of my major characters, without giving too much away all I can say is that he is a "dual role" character. Where in the beginning he is seen as one character, but through the story find out he is another. Is this concept a little too much, or does it depend on how it is written? I haven't seen it around in children's literature, at least from what I can see, so I'm not sure if I committed a children's fiction crime by implementing it or not.


    Do you mean he has a secret identity? I think that should be fine as long as it's written clearly. MG readers can understand a lot.

  4. #4
    New, but ready and revving to go Liz_cm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smish View Post




    Having an 11-year-old up against a 15-year-old seems a bit strange, but if it works, it works. 11 is probably okay for the main character, though 12 or 13 might work better if it's an upper-MG novel.



    I'm not sure what you mean by this. It's common in MG for someone to turn out differently than one thought. The bully is really nice at heart. The nice girl is really a back-stabbing witch. Etc.



    You can have POV shifts in MG, if they make sense and are clearly defined. The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan. If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, by Gennifer Choldenko. Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love, by Jennifer Tarshis. Etc.
    Good luck!
    I might think about changing the ages, but I'll have to go back through to make sure the voice can match. Now that I think about it fifteen does seem a bit odd.

    What I mean is that the character in question is essentially the same person, but two different characters in the work. Does that clear it up?

    That's good to hear, they are well defined. I was worried for a moment.

    Thanks for your input! It's greatly appreciated!
    "Masques" MG Magical realism novel 48K- revisions. Querying Winter 2012/2013

    "Allegheny Academy" Realistic teen fiction- brainstorming/plotting (5K)







  5. #5
    New, but ready and revving to go Liz_cm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ferret View Post
    Do you mean he has a secret identity? I think that should be fine as long as it's written clearly. MG readers can understand a lot.
    That's probably a good way of putting it. That one character does have a secret identity, but is introduced as another character earlier. Thanks!
    "Masques" MG Magical realism novel 48K- revisions. Querying Winter 2012/2013

    "Allegheny Academy" Realistic teen fiction- brainstorming/plotting (5K)







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    Odessa Quinn Laura J's Avatar
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    From what I've read, as long as it is very clear who is POV at the time, it is okay. The voice for each character should be distinct.

    I also having switching POV in my MG novel.
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    practical experience, FTW heza's Avatar
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    I thought it was a little strange that Stroud used 1st-person for one character and third person for another in the Bartimeus Trilogy, but I actually only noticed halfway through and only because we'd been talking about POVs here. So I guess it worked. I've been trying to figure out whether Bartimeus is actually narrating both.... but then, the third-person picks up past scenes he wasn't present for... I don't know. It's not intrusive though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Liz_cm
    First off, I will say that I am currently in revision mode for a 51K magical realism piece revolving around the theatre and its magic. I am working on it getting betaed and it's been through three major revisions thus far. The hope is to start querying this December, and start to write up the queries this summer.
    Good for you! That sounds interesting, and I saw an agent just a few days ago talking about how she'd like to see more stories set outside of schools--she even said the word theatre.

    The core group of characters in my upper MG WIP range from 11 to 14. I agonized for a long time on whether my youngest character was too young or the oldest character was too old for them all to be hanging out... but everyone here told me to just write it. If I get picked up, then an authority will probably have me adjust ages if it needs it. But the kids have been thrown together sort of like cousins at a family reunion, and you get an age mix in situations like that.
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  8. #8
    New, but ready and revving to go Liz_cm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laura J View Post
    From what I've read, as long as it is very clear who is POV at the time, it is okay. .
    It's clear, as I pointed out I've had readers who said they didn't have a problem. They even went as far as saying they didn't notice it. So, I took that as a good thing. I just wanted to double check seeing as the books I read as a kid didn't change perspective all that much. I really should look into Rick Riordan's work though...
    "Masques" MG Magical realism novel 48K- revisions. Querying Winter 2012/2013

    "Allegheny Academy" Realistic teen fiction- brainstorming/plotting (5K)







  9. #9
    New, but ready and revving to go Liz_cm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by heza View Post
    Good for you! That sounds interesting, and I saw an agent just a few days ago talking about how she'd like to see more stories set outside of schools--she even said the word theatre.

    The core group of characters in my upper MG WIP range from 11 to 14. I agonized for a long time on whether my youngest character was too young or the oldest character was too old for them all to be hanging out... but everyone here told me to just write it. If I get picked up, then an authority will probably have me adjust ages if it needs it. But the kids have been thrown together sort of like cousins at a family reunion, and you get an age mix in situations like that.
    On your first point, thanks . I thought it quite odd as well that there doesn't seem to be more set outside school or the theatre for that matter.

    I wasn't worried when I wrote the story, but when I started researching and finding out the ins and outs of middle grade was when I started to worry a bit. I guess I'll just deal with it as it comes, if it gets picked up and want me to change the ages I will. Right now, I think I will keep it the way it is. Although the female antagonist might be lowered a year, it's not that much of a change.

    Thanks for the advice! It's appreciated!
    "Masques" MG Magical realism novel 48K- revisions. Querying Winter 2012/2013

    "Allegheny Academy" Realistic teen fiction- brainstorming/plotting (5K)







  10. #10
    figuring it all out scarlett9284's Avatar
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    I agree with Smish that an 11-yr-old versus a 15-yr-old does seem off. 13 might be better. It depends on what works best for the story.

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    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I think it depends a lot on the characters' personalities. Is the 11yo still very much a "little kid," interested in toys and not really hitting issues like boys/self confidence difficulties/anything and everything related to puberty/etc? Or is she more mature, even if not struggling with anything angsty, at least aware of it? I think most 15yo girls would tend to ignore an 11yo more than treat her as an equal rival, unless it was a very insecure and immature 15yo up against a remarkable 11yo. That's not to say it's impossible, just a question of whether the characters' ages, personalities, and motivations all line up so there is internal symmetry within each one. Does that make sense?

  12. #12
    New, but ready and revving to go Liz_cm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scarlett9284 View Post
    I agree with Smish that an 11-yr-old versus a 15-yr-old does seem off. 13 might be better. It depends on what works best for the story.
    The character age is being lowered, I realized it can still work if she is younger. In retrospect, I wasn't sure what I was thinking.
    "Masques" MG Magical realism novel 48K- revisions. Querying Winter 2012/2013

    "Allegheny Academy" Realistic teen fiction- brainstorming/plotting (5K)







  13. #13
    New, but ready and revving to go Liz_cm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElouiseBates View Post
    I think it depends a lot on the characters' personalities. Is the 11yo still very much a "little kid," interested in toys and not really hitting issues like boys/self confidence difficulties/anything and everything related to puberty/etc? Or is she more mature, even if not struggling with anything angsty, at least aware of it? I think most 15yo girls would tend to ignore an 11yo more than treat her as an equal rival, unless it was a very insecure and immature 15yo up against a remarkable 11yo. That's not to say it's impossible, just a question of whether the characters' ages, personalities, and motivations all line up so there is internal symmetry within each one. Does that make sense?
    The eleven year old character is a bit more mature, she's in an environment where she has to be. The person who is fifteen is in the same situation. Although, her age is being lowered (to 13) and it works out the voice won't be much of a problem.

    It makes perfect sense
    "Masques" MG Magical realism novel 48K- revisions. Querying Winter 2012/2013

    "Allegheny Academy" Realistic teen fiction- brainstorming/plotting (5K)







  14. #14
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Glad you're finding a way to make it work. :-)

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    New, but ready and revving to go Liz_cm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElouiseBates View Post
    Glad you're finding a way to make it work. :-)
    Well, the thing is I'm not quite sure why I had it that high in the first place. It doesn't really work. It's going through my second beta-reader right now
    "Masques" MG Magical realism novel 48K- revisions. Querying Winter 2012/2013

    "Allegheny Academy" Realistic teen fiction- brainstorming/plotting (5K)







  16. #16
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thank goodness for beta readers! :-)

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    New, but ready and revving to go Liz_cm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElouiseBates View Post
    Thank goodness for beta readers! :-)
    I agree I've just been informed that my other two hopeful beta readers have accepted. So once this is done, and revisions are made I will be sending it off to my 3rd beta reader. Then my fourth, after that we'll see where I am at. I will be working on my query letters this summer though. Writing them, not sending them off. I am planning to do that this December.
    "Masques" MG Magical realism novel 48K- revisions. Querying Winter 2012/2013

    "Allegheny Academy" Realistic teen fiction- brainstorming/plotting (5K)







  18. #18
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    That's great that you have a plan and a schedule - my schedule tends to be more "uh, when I have a chance, I'll get to this." And four beta readers sounds amazing - the most I've ever been able to muster for a project is two. The more opinions at first, the better, I think!

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    New, but ready and revving to go Liz_cm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElouiseBates View Post
    That's great that you have a plan and a schedule - my schedule tends to be more "uh, when I have a chance, I'll get to this." And four beta readers sounds amazing - the most I've ever been able to muster for a project is two. The more opinions at first, the better, I think!

    Well I work better with having some sort of self-imposed deadline because if I don't things might not get done.

    My beta readers are people I've asked to read from voracious readers, to moms, and some good friends who are critical when it comes to creative writing. I like having a good amount of opinions. I say it's better to at least have three
    "Masques" MG Magical realism novel 48K- revisions. Querying Winter 2012/2013

    "Allegheny Academy" Realistic teen fiction- brainstorming/plotting (5K)







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