Finding Their Voices

In a middle grade novel, it’s important for each main character and the main cast of supporting minor characters to each have their own unique voice. Important in novels for adults, it’s especially important for a novel for kids in elementary school, the target age of middle grade novels. Just look at any highly successful MG novel such as Charlotte’s Web and you’ll see how important voice is.

When you’re writing a middle grade novel, before you write that new scene, imagine sitting down with each of your main characters and minor characters. Picture you all sitting in a circle together. Now ask everyone to answer the same exact question about the upcoming scene. Write down what they each say.

If they each respond in their own unique voice—great! They’re ready to enter on the “stage” of this new scene. If, however, they all end up sounding vaguely similar in their response, work on their voice until they each answer in a way that’s uniquely true to their character.

For instance, let’s sit down with several characters from Charlotte’s Web. Pretend we’re E.B. White and are about to write the scene where they capture Wilbur to put him in the crate so he’s ready for the fair. Ask each character to answer the question, “Why should Wilbur struggle against his capture?” Here’s how some of the characters might answer:

Charlotte: “It’s important that Mr. and Mrs. Zuckerman believe that Wilbur is a special pig, but not a strange pig. A special pig still acts like a pig and struggles when being caught.”

Templeton: “I don’t care if he struggles. What do I care? As long as he doesn’t step on my tail it doesn’t matter to me what the Zuckermans think about Wilbur.”

The Goose: “Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Run around, Wilbur! Run around! Pretend like you don’t want to get caught, caught, caught.”

Can you see how each voice is unique for each character? Their very own voice reveals their very own personality. The choice of words and the way they say it work together to define their role in the story. That’s the importance of voice, and that’s how you want each of your main characters and supporting characters to talk in your own middle grade novel.

-Contributed by Nancy I. Sanders

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2 responses to “Finding Their Voices

  1. Gloria McQueen Stockstill

    Nancy,
    Such a difference in each of the characters you wrote about! I hope my characters are so easily distinguishable!

    Gloria

  2. Shirley Shibley

    This is just what was bothering me today when I was working on my current middle grade novel–the voices. All the characters sound alike, and I fear, sound like me!

    Ouch, Shirley

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