Friday, July 15, 2011

School's... IN

It’s still summer, don’t worry! (Believe me, I really need my summer break.) But for your middle-grade characters, school is probably an important aspect of their lives. Thus, you’ll need to develop your in-class time well.

Start with the basics: what grade is your main character in? There will be technical details to take care of based on this, things like how long recess is, or whether the students are allowed off school property at lunch. Grade also tends to determine what the children do at recess: for example, younger kids might play wallball and hopscotch, while older, nearing-teen students would rather hang out on the pavement and talk, or play volleyball. How about who packs lunch? Maybe grade 4s still get their PB&Js (with crusts off, of course) wrapped by Mum, but grade 7s need to make their own sandwiches and warm up the Thermos.

Once you have little details down, think about the education aspect of school. Will what your characters learn be important in the rest of the story? Try finding out what a typical grade 6 curriculum looks like; workbooks like SummerSmart 5-6, usually intended to help students keep expanding their knowledge over the summer, would be a good start. (Though if you have kids, please don’t give them these workbooks. Trust me — I speak from experience — they contain mind-numbing exercises which will not expand their knowledge. They’ll give you insight to the curriculum, but that’s about it.)

Often, school is a part of your protag’s growing up, but may not be directly related to the plot. In that case, how school life influences and changes his or her perspective and outlook will be the most important thing to focus on.

And you probably want to give the stereotype "all kids hate school" a rethinking. I happen to have a younger sister who's currently lamenting the fact she can't go to school and see her friends daily. Can you believe it? ;)


  1. I love your point about how to take stereotypes and rethink them. It's also important to do your research. Because kids are so immersed in the school environment, they, know it inside and out.

  2. I wish I'd had recess in middle school. Heck, I wish I had recess here at work.

  3. It's true about schools in books--authentic details colored thru the MC's viewpoint can really make a difference. And, like Matt, I wish I'd had recess in middle school!! :-) :-) :-) (The Boy Who Howled has a wonderful cafeteria scene.)

  4. Great reminder! And classroom scenes can be a revealing and engaging backdrop for whispered conversations or confrontation.

  5. I'm with Matt. I'd really like recess.

    I vote we add it to the workday?

  6. Great points to make here to inject realism into the writing. Thanks so much! :)

    Angela@ The Bookshelf Muse

  7. I think kids these days are more prone to like school because the curriculum is easy which goes to show why our country is swiftly becoming one of the dumbest ones on the planet.

  8. School life is very lovely and very enjoyment..well entrainment..i could not forget school days event..really it was so nice of it..and the post is very nice of it..thanks for sharing here with us..

  9. I believe this is why there are so many teachers that make solid careers for themselves as writers of MG/YA. Intimate knowledge is crucial for anything, and the same thing goes for writing about school in MG/YA. Great post, Yahong.

  10. I had a love/hate thing going on with school. If I was not interested in a showed! I'm one of those weird people who needed to get out of school to truly enjoy learning. Now, I'm a research junkie! I can't get enough of it.

    It's fun to go back in time and remember those middle-grade days. My son is only 8, but I get tons of great ideas from him. Although he swears up and down every kid in his class has a cell phone, which is NOT true!

    Great post, Yahong!

  11. Andrea -- very true! Kids will probably notice if you make a glaring error in writing a school scene.

    Matthew -- wouldn't we all?

    Paul -- yes, it's all through the MC's POV! :)

    Marissa -- now that sounds intriguing. You're not planning anything, are you? ;)

    Jen -- *casts vote*

    Angela -- thank you for the compliment, and you're welcome! :)

    Michael Offutt -- well that's another subject entirely to debate.

    seo greece -- You're welcome.

    Mike Winchell -- YES. That's true, true true.

    Hilary -- hahaha, kids would be a good source of research... as long as they're not lying to get a cell phone! :D

  12. If you learn new things school only. every one life never forget that school life moment. each and every moment live her own way.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!