Intangible Girl's Middle Grade Science Fiction

Discussion in 'Progress Journals' started by Intangible Girl, Jan 22, 2019.

  1. XRD_author

    XRD_author Member Supporter

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    I'm not sure that's true. In Japanese pre-adult manga, the characters are usually a little older than the intended audience. The idea is that the kids want to read about the people they hope to soon become, not the people they are now. And maybe it helps the readers to see characters going through the challenges they anticipate they will face.

    So, a"middle grade" novel could conceivably have a main character who is just entering high school, but not a high school senior. A senior could, I imagine, be an antagonist; older kids often are, and have enormous advantages.

    However, I'm speaking way outside my zone of expertise. Hopefully someone who knows better will comment.
     
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  2. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    You're right about that, but the age range for middle grade starts at 8, and kids are just fine reading about peers. What they don't want to read about is the stage of life they've just left. So no middle grade books about 5 year olds.
     
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  3. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    On the subject of writing about middle school, the whole thing is a bit fraught for me because not only was my own middle school experience not something I enjoyed (I'm not going to say it was out and out traumatic, but it came close), but I also work with youth that age in my church, and furthermore the library I work at is right across the street from a wrong-side-of-the-tracks-type middle school.

    Every day at 3:30 we are inundated with some of the worst 11-14 year olds this world has to offer, and we have to spend the next few hours, sometimes all the way until we close, trying to keep them from fighting, yelling, bumping uglies, playing tag, leaving food everywhere, you get the picture. They are as immature as small children but old enough to start getting into some really awful mischief. There are probably worse (I know for a fact there are worse) groups of young people out there in this world, but they aren't who I have to deal with every day at 3:30.

    The kids at my church are, in general, much better behaved, but the stories they tell me about what they have to go through at school are a bit hair curling — and my hair's pretty curly already. My own middle school experience was unpleasant, but it was nothing compared to what kids these days have to go through. I was pretty sheltered, and I think a lot of people my age were, at least relatively. Nobody shelters these kids. They can't. Ubiquitous internet kind of makes that impossible.

    So when I realized yesterday I was going to be sending my 11 or 12 year old FMC to school, my first reaction was one of horror, terror, and desperation. I've calmed down a bit since then, especially when I realized that not only can I send her to a pleasant magnet school, but this is fiction! It only has to feel real. It doesn't have to actually be realistic. There is certainly a place for the kind of fiction that explores the almost war-zone-like school experience of the modern tweenager, but my fiction is not going to be that place. You can get away with a level of optimism in middle grade fiction that you really can't in most other categories. That's the reason I want to write in this age range. The kids I'm writing for are old enough to understand that the world is complex and not always pleasant, but life hasn't had time to make them jaded or cynical.

    It also means I don't have to write about romance. Thank goodness.
     
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  4. XRD_author

    XRD_author Member Supporter

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    Just a note: unless going to school is necessarily part of the story, your kids don't have to go to it. Obviously, a story set during summer vacation doesn't involve school, but there's also home schooling, private tutoring (if you're rich) or just living in a culture that doesn't use the European model of educating children.

    My WIP SciFi, the central community has no schools: computer based personalized instruction has eliminated the need to throw all the kids together in a box and make them sit and read or listen. Parents and grandparents are generally very involved in the kids schooling, as well. Kids still get together, but it's for sports, play, the arts, and other things they enjoy: including studying together if they want to. And they occasionally get into fights, which is tolerated as long as it doesn't go too far or doesn't become bullying.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2019
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  5. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    1,075 words and 2 notebook pages.

    Okay, getting settled into the school setting. FMC now has a friend, and she's set to make more. I've also firmly decided the exact purpose of the school scenes in the larger context of the story, and that makes it a lot less intimidating to tackle. It helps that she's not actually going to spend that much on-screen time there.

    I feel a bit silly for how much I freaked out about it yesterday and the day before, but I feel it's important, for my own records at least, to be honest with myself about roadblocks I have. Especially because, like the last roadblock, it really doesn't take me that long to get over it and move past it, and knowing that makes it easier to get unstuck the next time something like this happens.
     
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  6. XRD_author

    XRD_author Member Supporter

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    I think you should take your "freaking out" and store it away for a similar situation when a character will do it.
    Grist for your authorial mill, as it were, and you'll know it's realistic.

    I once shaved my beard, and my best friend walked past me three times without recognizing me.
    He'd never seen me clean shaven.
    This became a major plot point in one of my stories, and I know it Really Happens.
     
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  7. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I agree about having an idea of a scene place in the over all story. I did not do that when writing my first two books and would wander around in a story, writing pointless scene after pointless scene, until I got back on track. Having a plot line helps me to avoid that while still allowing me to 'discovery' write the scenes.
     
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  8. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    Just a few more scenes and I can get to the third act, which I've got pretty well mapped out. Well, except for the personality of the antagonist. He's a senile old man who was never very sane to begin with, but is he cranky? Good-natured? Both? Things to ponder.
     
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  9. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    698 words because I have to go in to work early.
     
  10. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

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    Getting in words, especially with time short, should count double--but sadly, it doesn't.
     
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  11. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    Writing therapy scenes is taxing and I'm never sure I'm doing it right. I've been through therapy myself, but I don't remember it all that well (depression fog, man), and therapy is such an individual thing that my experiences may not be more than superficially helpful in getting that verisimilitude anyway. I really want to get it right, though. Mental health is already such a misunderstood and under-discussed topic, I don't want to add to the misinformation.
     
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  12. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    Oh, and just as an illustration of why the very idea of writing about middle school made my hair stand on end last week, I present to you the True Story of a Thing That Happened At Work Last Friday:

    The middle school near my work had an early out that day, so by about an hour before closing the ones still there were getting restless and loud. Eventually we had to ask them to leave, and most of them did with minimal grumbling. However, just as we thought the group had left the building, one kid stood in the doorway, a young man who, despite clearly being in middle school, registered to my eyes at about eight years old. With a gleam of nervous defiance in his eye he shouted for all to hear, "This library is doo doo!"

    And then ran for it.

    Half an hour later he was back, asking my coworker for help finding a book.

    I... I just... Look, it's not just that they're bad, they're... baffling. What even?

    And in case this is all begging the question of 'why write middle grade if you dislike kids in that age range so much' (it certainly begs me the question, all the time), the answer is that I'm writing for the kid I was at that age. I don't read or want to write YA because my high school self is someone I can't think about with anything but cringing embarrassment. Maybe that will pass with time, I don't know. But when I think back to me as an 11-year old, all sweetness and nerves, I just want to wrap her in a hug and let her know it's all going to work out. I write books for her.

    Not kids too immature to even yell actual expletives when they don't get their way.
     
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  13. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    Ooh, yeah, baby, lookit that! I finally finally got to the photo album scene, which is where the whole third act kicks off, and I. Am. Stoked!

    Don't assume it will be smooth sailing from here, her anti-hubris protection chimes in.

    Right, yes. I still don't exactly quite for sure know what the actual 'final battle' scene is going to, you know, be. So that's a problem. But! I have a few ideas, and I think I have the final scene of my book already in mind, so I have a destination I'm going for. I've rounded the bend and the finish line is in sight. I still have some valleys and hills to climb before I reach it, and the distance from here to there feels, in some ways, longer than the entire race course so far. But I can see it! And that makes a huge difference.
     
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  14. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    My computer is sooooo slooooooow. I use Dragon Naturally Speaking because my wrists are weak and I'm prone to carpal tunnel. But that program eats memory like candy and my poor laptop is five years old. It doesn't help that I'm using an outdated version because it was discounted. But we can't afford to buy me a new rig, so I have to make it work somehow. I defrag when I can. Today I deleted a bunch of old programs I no longer use. Some days this process of babying my old compy is more frustrating than others. Today it was frustrating.

    If only Google typing let you dictate quotation marks.
     
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  15. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    Capturing this kind of experience on paper will make your story magic. Most of us can relate to the insanity of growing up and school, and a story like this causes those memories to pop up. Good work!
     
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  16. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    Made a few tweaks to the ending climax. Will probably continue doing that until I type 'the end.'

    I feel like I'm finally getting a handle on my main character. 35,000 words in. Better late than never, I guess. Character creation is definitely one of my weaknesses, but I knew that going in. It's one of the drawbacks of focusing on fanfiction for so long.
     
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  17. XRD_author

    XRD_author Member Supporter

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    I don't see anything wrong with that. One school of thought is to create characters by imagining "if this happened, what would they do?" -- perhaps you've been doing that as you write. It may mean your character changes, of course, and you have to go back and revise earlier parts to accomodate that change, but that's always a possibility, and not a bad thing in itself.
     
  18. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    If the pattern I started in my last novel holds, I'm going to be rewriting this draft entirely from scratch. No revising about it.

    I'm actually okay with that, though. It takes the pressure off my prose-- it doesn't matter if it sucks utterly, I'm not going to be trying to fix it. Mindscape has three 'first' drafts, and the first two are Nanowrimo-esque word vomit because I was still getting the plot structure down, and I suspect The Robot Changeling will end up similarly.
     
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  19. XRD_author

    XRD_author Member Supporter

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    There's actually a software development methodology that's like that, called "rapid prototyping." You throw together an unsupportable buggy piece of garbage real quick to see if the features and capabilities you think you need is actually what you need, then you learn from that and build a production version from scratch.

    You're rapid-prototyping your stories. I like it.
     
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  20. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    I'm... actually really, really happy there's a name for it. I've been thinking of it as going the long way round because it sure doesn't feel rapid.
     
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  21. XRD_author

    XRD_author Member Supporter

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    Trust me, compared to:
    • designing and building a production-quality software system,
    • finding out it's completely wrong for what you wanted it to do, and
    • having to start over again,
    rapid prototyping is way faster. Key to it being effective is knowing, going in, that unless you get way lucky, your first build is going to wind up on the scrapheap. That's a very liberating thing to know. :) And of course, you can always reuse bits of your prototype if they happen to wind up production-worthy.
     
  22. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    It is!

    Maybe two scenes have made it all the way to the current draft mostly intact. More like one. The rest have at least been radically re-imagined if not dropped or added entirely. I was surprised at which scene made it all the way, because it wasn't one of the major pinch points or the climax. But looking back, it ended up sort of being the thesis of the whole work, so I guess it's good I got it down so early.

    Agh, I shouldn't be thinking about Mindscape so much! I'm supposed to be spending these weeks letting it trickle out of my short-term memory so I can come back to it fresh. I am chomping at the bit to finally be polishing instead of word-vomiting, though.
     
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  23. XRD_author

    XRD_author Member Supporter

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    Sometimes we discover things we weren't looking for that are more valuable than what we were.
     
  24. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    I'm getting so excited! The final battle is almost here. The showdown between Em and the villain is about to begin. They just met face to face for the first time, though Em doesn't know it yet. Stuff's getting real!
     
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  25. Intangible Girl

    Intangible Girl Member

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    1,871 words, most of it slightly insane monologuing. The best kind!
     
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