When writing a book there are certain elements that are a given.
*Your story must have a good, solid plot.
*You must use real characters with dimension.
*You must know the difference between they’re and their–or at least have some patient beta readers.
But when you peel away the shell, dig a little further, all stories reveal something deeper.
*How your character handled whatever adversity they faced.
With some stories, such as The Giver, the message can be complex and powerful. In other stories, the character faces more everyday situations such as class bullies, homework assignments, and annoying siblings. But how do you write a character arc for a middle grade novel without sounding too teach-y or preach-y?
I love my kid. I think he’s a genius–no, I know he’s a genius.
I know this even when he decides to decorate his room with original abstract art.
Done in Sharpie.
Because at the end of the day, he’s still just a six-year-old who was channeling Georgia O’Keeffe and thought he was doing something awesome by decorating his room. It can be difficult to remember the world through a kid’s eyes, but it’s imperative when we write those dimensional and flawed characters to remember what it was like at that age.
Your focus shouldn’t be about a lesson
Intentional or not, our stories will send a message to our readers. But writing to purposely convey that message alone will only serve to make the story feel preachy. Instead of focusing on the “deeper meaning” of your story, let the focus be on your character and how they process and adapt in their experience. Don’t worry about the message. It will be there in the softer nuances that come about organically from a successfully implemented character arc.
The best superheros are the flawed superheros
Batman serves up dishes of vigilante justice. He works outside the scope of the law to bring down the baddies. He was traumatized by what happened to his parents and his therapy is to seek out all the scumbags and remove ’em from Earth. Your main character might not have such a colorful story, but it’s how they tackle their own demons that shows growth. Let them make mistakes, let them learn “the hard way” because that’s what growing up is all about.