When I first had the idea to write I’m 12 Years Old And I Saved The World, I knew the basic premise of the story and the reason I wanted to write the book.
Premise: The main character’s world is collapsing around him, and he feels responsible for fixing it. That world collapsing involves his dad losing his job and his parents’ marriage getting rocky.
Reason: Kids are hurting, lots with divorced parents or parents struggling to love each other well. These kids need to read about a character they can relate to, someone who shows that things can get better.
With the next book dealing with difficult topics as well, it is worthwhile to consider how difficult topics ought to be approached in writing—especially when writing for elementary and middle grade readers.
So without further ado…
1. Be Honest. Kids know that bad stuff happens. It’s why you have to be careful how you act and speak in front of them. They’re sponges, and while they may not ask about the heartache around them, they know it’s going on. So there is no need to avoid hard topics in kids’ books. Be honest, and you’ll be surprised at how kids respond to it. Honestly.
2. Give The Proper Perspective. When you’re writing a book for kids, you have to keep their perspective in mind. More than likely, a child whose parents are arguing every night won’t understand technical lingo necessary to decode what is going on. What they will understand is the pain and fear that come when parents don’t get along. So let your character hurt and be confused. Unless your character is a heartless droid. Then use that lack of humanity drive home the point that feeling is normal, this character is not, and that lack of feeling is a weakness rather than strength.
3. Slip Humor In. When life is difficult for kids, they don’t spend every minute of every day feeling down in the dumps. If they do, they wish they didn’t. Kids want to be happy and enjoy life. And more than adults, kids can do this in the midst of difficulty. Give your character the ability to find humor even in the most heartbreaking situations and your readers will appreciate that your character laughs during hard times. Kids in hard life situations sometimes need permission to laugh, and you have the power to give it to them.
Have some insight on how to write about difficult topics in a middle-grade book? Share your insight below. And if you’re interested in seeing how I handled relationship woes from a 12-year-old’s perspective, check out I’m 12 Years Old And I Saved The World, published by Sir Brody Books.