1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Children's story or YA story in relation to the main character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Link the Writer, Jul 3, 2010.

    Okay, I have a nice idea for a book series that teaches children about history, but I'm not exactly sure which audience to focus on.

    From my understanding, YA books are for 5th to 8th graders. Children's books are obviously for younger kids.

    The problem is that I wanted to add a third-party character, if you will. A character that observes the historical events as they take place. So far, I have three idea for the third-party character.

    #1- The character in question is an immortal mice named Kevin (Or any other little creature). This does sound very cute, however I don't think that's proper for a YA story. (Reading "Ben and Me" about a mice and Ben Franklin is what inspired me to do this, so yeah...) I even thought of having him have a little mice family, but that might detract from the themes.

    #2- One (or two) modern-day kids travel back in time with a magical locket or some other thing. Haven't figured that part out yet. This could be better because these are not walking, talking animals and they're the same age.

    #3- The third-party character differs from book to book. It's a boy/girl from the time period that ranges anywhere from 10 to 14 years of age.

    Another problem is that, well, say the first book was about Thomas Edison. I want to show his determination and vigor without going overboard and not making any sense for the children reading it. How would I make them care about Edison? How could I make them relate to a guy that's been dead for well over a hundred years?

    Tips?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    one is a 'mouse'... more than one are 'mice'...

    i'd strongly advise being consistent with the 'observer' character, if it's not someone actually of that time period... changing from one to another 'drop-in' would be confusing and not nearly as marketable...

    mice are overdone, imo... alternative possibilities:

    a time-travelling whatever, instead of an 'immortal'

    a child character in the time period of each story, so the narrative will be in a 'voice' readers can relate to easily

    how to make it interesting to kids is up to you, as the writer... when writing for children, you have to be able to be in their heads, see what you write through their eyes...
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Good idea.

    I think I like the child character idea better. As cute as it would be to have a bunch of small walking, talking animals, it'd give me more room to make up different characters and their own backstory and how they relate to the events and persons they're visiting.

    And since it's a fictional story, I don't think folks would be too upset if the kid characters (of the respective time periods) were traveling with Lewis and Clark, talking with Napoleon Bonaparte, or helping Edison with his inventions. :) I had planned to cover a large spectrum, like one book would be set in Ancient Rome while another would be set in the mid-20th century to give you an idea. (More time equals more characters I can write about)

    I agree. I should tell myself: "Okay. This kid is this age in this time period. How can I make it interesting?"

    Now what do I call the series? It has to be something catchy.
     
  4. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    Nobeler Than Lettuce Contributing Member

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    I'm ashamed that I know this but there was a children's cartoon with the exact same premise. They did not have a third party observer, and I feel it was better for it. I think the characters were an English colonial pre-teen and her counterpart was an American revolutionary pre-teen. They'd always stumble into a minor story that took place in the backdrop of a major historical event.

    I don't know what type of writer you are, so take this with a grain of salt, but a time traveler or anything like that seems to cheapen it. There can be a narrator and I believe that would solve the problem. Individual short stories about people actually living the history would be far more fun to read for me.

    Edit: There was another cartoon that was hilarious. It believe it consisted of a kid, a robot, and a crazy time traveling professor. They would kidnap people from the past to try and force them to create or do whatever it is they did to make them famous. A particular episode featured Winston Churchill as a nudest with no political aspirations. Just seeing that fat blob of flesh turn into one of the greatest English patriots was hysterically funny.
     
  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I saw that show before. It was called Liberty Kids. It was a nice show, nothing to be ashamed about (though I wonder why you are ashamed of it).

    I agree about the time-traveling thing. It cheapens everything. :/
     
  6. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I would have it be a kid that is the age of the kids you want to target with this. People tend to prefer to read things about people their age because they relate better.

    I agree with Mia I think animals are overdone. Especially mice. Time travel sounds more exciting. At that age I would have rather read something from the POV of kid that was the same age as me.

    Well, it seems you've decided against time traveling so that's one down. Maybe it's a kid in the same area as him? Maybe he witnesses the things going on and is trying to understand them?
     
  7. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just a quick note, (It's too late for me to give you a proper answer to your question, but I will pop back to do so!) but I think your current understanding of the age group YA novels are aimed at is a little limited.

    I don't know if 5th-8th grade is the same age as over here, which would be about 9-13? but that's a little young. YA actually stretches from 9-16 years old, so perhaps that gives you a little more room to explore more?

    Also, keep in mind that plenty of readers above 16 still enjoy YA novels; you can be quite risky in this genre.
     
  8. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    *head desk* Thank you Ashleigh I completely forgot to mention that. YA does extend beyond just 5-8th grade. It goes up to sixteen and there are lot of people who still read them beyond that age.
     
  9. CaKsTeR
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    Where I live, Young Adult is considered 10-17. Everything below that is Children, everything above is Adult.

    I read a book a number of years ago about a similar premise to the idea you're toying with. I don't know if anyone's heard of it before, but it's called Time Cat. Before you raise any fingers, the main character is not a cat. Basically, it involved a young boy travelling through time to various empires throughout history (ie. Egyptians, Romans) and teaching various facts about each empire. I thought it was quite an ingenious way of teaching history. You may want to look it up; it might give you some ideas.
     
  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    You all have given out really great ideas. :)

    I'll go with the "kid of time period visits historical event/person book is about". After all, when I was that age, I was well past wanting to read about talking animals as cute and entertaining as they were.

    Now the only question that remains is: Whom shall I start off first? My instincts tells me to do a well-known historical figure, but maybe not one of the blatanly obvious characters like the Founders. Perhaps...Lewis and Clark?
     
  11. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Glad to help. :)

    Lewis and Clark is a good idea. If it interests you then write it! Kids will enjoy it so long as you make it interesting and where they can relate. :)
     
  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Yep, and fortunately, I have a copy of their journals, so I can tell exactly what happened. I think I'll shorten it in the book though, the kid travels with them for a few weeks at least, the climax being where they fight that big bear.

    I'm not making it up. They actually did fight a huge bear that attacked them on June 26, 1805.

    This sounds very exciting now. But questions arise:

    1) Who is this kid? Why and how is he with the Corps?

    2) Is he there for the short run or the whole way through?

    And once again, my obsession for historical accuracy comes against me, as I'm thinking this is impossible as there was no little boy wandering around with the Corps. I love history, but it's times like this that it really cripples the creativity.
     
  13. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    I wouldn't over think why the kid is with the expedition. My immediate idea was to have him picked up as a straggler, someone who would be almost definitely not mentioned, at least by name cause you have the journals for reference. They followed the Missouri, so barrow from Huck Finn and you've got a convincing river kid.

    Though I'm not suggesting every kid back then built a raft and floated away from their parents.

    And besides, a kid that young would probably be a moderately experienced woodsman by today's standards. He'd be useful, and he could be picked up anywhere while hunting or doing something woodsmen do. I keep wanting to say this, but it sounds stupid. I might even go so far as to barrow from Glory, where a kid is risking his life climbing a mountain for no good reason other to prove to himself he should be alive. It's a direct ripoff, or in better words, a allusion too, if you use that, I mean, I might if I were you. But the idea of a kid doing something courageous or noteworthy, failing, and being picked up by a few men in the pack as a mascot of sorts would be interesting, and not a ripoff of anything.
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    That sounds very excellent. Maybe he wanted to prove himself by hunting, gets found by the Corps and he travels with them until they get attacked by the bear and it's there he proves to himself and the Corps that he's...brave, I guess? lol
     
  15. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    Yeah. See in both my dumb ideas he would have to have no parents, which is a huge cliche everywhere and would be horrible for a YA novel, since you don't exactly want to promote children running off on their own.

    If he, or she, had parents, they could be the device you're looking for that would convince him to travel. You might also want to Google something as simple as "Events in 1805" etc, and see if that doesn't give you some ideas.

    In fact, check it:

    # June 11 – Detroit burns to the ground; most of the city is destroyed.
    # June 13 – Lewis and Clark Expedition: Scouting ahead of the expedition, Meriwether Lewis and four companions sight the Great Falls of the Missouri River, confirming they are heading in the right direction.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    don't forget [or leave out!] that sacajawea was an important part of their team, so she could well have let an abandoned child they encountered along the way come with them... and the child narrator certainly doesn't have to be a boy, to be brave...

    ashleigh...
    any age above toddlerhood is a good time to start learning about history...
     
  17. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    That wasn't the point I was making, Maia, but I agree with you.

    I was just pointing out that YA is usually aimed at 9-16 year olds, which would give Link more room to work with if he decided to write for that audience.

    If he was writing a children-specific book, however, then that's a different thing from YA all together. He would then be considering age groups much below 9 years old aswell.
     
  18. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    The second premise reminds me a bit of the cartoon Timewarp Trio. It followed a preteen-ish boy and his two friends as they used his uncles magical book to time-travel and learn about history. To appeal to females, there were also three girls from the future, who were the boys' descendants and owned a time-travelling watch.

    I think you can make it your own, though. The kids from the show were very relatable, which kept viewers interested. Sometimes in the show, the boys would accidently mess up the timeline, such as when they helped Napoleon win. When they returned to their own time, America turned into New France, and there was no pizza. Apparently they were fine with being under France's control, but the lack of pizza was enough of a pain that they fixed everything.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry for the misunderstanding, ash... hugs, m
     
  20. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    In the U.S., there's "middle grade" (MG) and "young adult". YA is generally ages 12 & up. Middle grade is like older elementary school to middle school/junior high. The Percy Jackson series and Charlotte's Web are examples of MG books. Your book sounds like an MG book. It sort of reminds me of the PBS show, Wishbone--except he would re-live classical stories instead of historical ones.
     
  21. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I like this idea. Sounds like something a kid would do especially back then. :)
     

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