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Writers of Children’s/Middle-Grade Books

Keeping it real vs. Too good to be true… Balance?

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  • #127166

    Hey Guys. It’s been so long since I was on here last and I’ve missed you guys. Dunno if anyone remembers me but hi!!! *realizes she’s already rambled*

    Okay, my goal is to keep this short and sweet. Idk if anyone here has read The Penderwicks or the rest of the series but they’re really good. Especially for kids…

    So maybe it’s just that I’ve kinda grown out of them against my will but the books have started to bother me a bit (especially my most recently read one, On Mouette Point) because of their unbalanced ‘perfection’ and ‘imperfection’ if you guys know what I mean.

    Basically what I mean is that there’s the part where Jeffery finds his dad and then won’t talk to him because he somehow wants to blame his past of not having a dad on him even though he (the dad, Alec) didn’t  know Jeffery existed – imperfection. Jane’s bloodly nose – imperfection. Aunt Claire’s sprained ankle – imperfection. Skye’s temper – imperfection. But then the girls are all A-students in their specific ‘field’: Rosy – Latin, Skye – Math and Science, Jane – English, Batty – Music. It’s all perfection.  And if they fight they always make up and Rosalind is the perfect leader.

    I don’t really know what I’m trying to say but it just bothers me that their lives are so perfect. And I know they aren’t perfect because of the ‘imperfections’ I’ve already mentioned. But basically, for reasons I don’t know, the books suddenly feel fake and stale to me.

    So my question(s): is this legit or am I just dissecting the books too much? And, if this is legit, how can I avoid it in my own writing?

    I still think that Birdsall is brilliant btw.

    It's crazy how God made our hearts... They break but slowly heal back together, just like bones.

    #127173

    Oh… @daeus-lamb I should probably tag you…

    Sorry if this seems like an unnecessary question… It’s just been bothering me a lot recently.

    It's crazy how God made our hearts... They break but slowly heal back together, just like bones.

    #127232
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @sesi 😄 no, no. You’re good! Question away.

    😀
    👕👍
    👖 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢

    #127293
    Taylor Clogston
    @taylorclogston

    @sesi Perfection vs imperfection is hard to balance in books for kids, yeah. I haven’t read the Penderwicks books, but even in the Look Inside for the first book I get a bit of what you’re saying. Rosalind does seem weirdly glorified as a responsible leader even to her parents in just those opening lines.

    In general, it sounds to me like you outgrew them. Amazon recommends them for 8-12 year olds. If you’re at the point of dissecting them, maybe they just weren’t intended to live up to the scrutiny of people who would dissect them as readers (rather than as teachers or whatever).

    I guess my question is did they serve you well when you were younger? Can you look back at them and say “Yeah, these are good books for their intended audience,” or do you feel they’re too simple or sappy or whatever even for fifth-graders?

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

    #127452
    Arindown (Gracie)
    @arindown

    @sesi Hey!

    Honestly, I’ve asked myself the same question about books I used to love. Some of the characters feel so flat, like cardboard cutouts. I don’t think you’re over-dissecting the story, you’re probably just suffering from the same thing as me, called “growing up.”😁

    As for avoiding it in your writing…Abbie Emmons (she’s on YouTube) has really helpful advice on what makes a character believable. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend her for younger kids, she sometimes uses movies as examples that I wouldn’t watch, but she keeps it fairly appropriate.

    On that note, Abbie always talks about something she calls “internal conflict.” It’s the feelings and struggles a character deals with on the inside, and she says that internal conflict is actually what makes a character relatable. For example, I don’t know if you’ve ever read Lord of the Rings or watched the movies, but Aragorn is this amazing character who is practically perfect in every way. He’s honest, a great leader, amazing at sword-fighting, and he’s the King. Without “internal conflict” he would be a stale character, but because he struggles inwardly (even if he looks and acts perfectly outside), he’s believable and relatable.

    I think when authors struggle to come up with characters who aren’t stale, they just mainly fail to realize that having a problem doesn’t make a character lovable and believable, it’s why they have the problem, and how it affects their heart/mind/emotions.

    Hope that made a bit of sense.😆

    Not all who wander are lost.

    #127555

    @taylorclogston Okay, yeah… Apparently the growing up thing is still too new for me to realize when it’s happening. 😐 But yeah, I absolutely loved especially the first Penderwicks book (which I read several years ago, I think)… Which is probably also the best of them all (although, again, I haven’t read them all). But for ages 8-12 I do think they are superb pieces of literature.

    It’s really strange to me that people actually outgrow books. I had no idea that could happen. 🙂


    @arindown
    Alright. Sounds like I’m not going crazy then.

    Oh yeah, totally agree with what you said at the end. Backstory always seems to make characters suddenly come alive. Yeah, thanks, that’s a really good reminder. 😀

    Thanks again you guys, I really appreciate the imparted knowledge. 😀

    It's crazy how God made our hearts... They break but slowly heal back together, just like bones.

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