Misadventures in Middle Grade Fiction

Once again, I surprised myself with this week’s writing prompt. Taken from NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program Dare Machine, the prompt was “have one of your main characters break a bone.”

Having just gone through the experience of having one of my children break his arm and all the drama that goes along with that, this should have been a fairly easy assignment. My issue wasn’t so much writing about a broken bone experience, as it was about which character should experience this sort of injury. That wasn’t such an easy task.

In my fantasy fiction, there is a lot of fighting and warfare. Broken bones are probably inevitable. It isn’t likely that my main characters in these stories are going to be able to avoid injury. However, the experience of such an injury isn’t going to look at all like it did for me and my son a few weeks back here in our modern society with ambulances, pain meds and x-rays.

My middle grade adventure fiction, however, takes place right here in this world with real world kids who experience real world life. To keep things simple, I decided to start with one of these characters for the purposes of this exercise.

There are six main characters, three boys and three girls. Most of them are active in sports and various other activities. Injury of this sort would not be unreasonable. The dilemma was in who I should afflict with such an injury. It isn’t easy to just decide to injure someone, even a fictional someone.

I explored what I know about these six pre-teens and decided it was one of three who would be the most likely to break a bone. One boy tends to be reckless on his bike and skateboard, taking unnecessary risks just for the fun of it. He is, however, uncommonly graceful. Or perhaps lucky.

Another boy is the least athletic of the six. He’s overcautious and accident prone. I thought it could easily be this one who suffers such a serious injury. He’s also more likely to be subject to reinjury due to the clumsiness that comes from crutches and ungainly casts.

In the end, it was one of the girls who got hurt. She isn’t the most athletic of the girls, but she does play sports. She tends to try to overcompensate for being a girl in order to compete with the boys. This is, of course, a ridiculous notion, but one girls seem to feel too often. She tends to try too hard and take the wrong sort of chances, leading her into a greater risk of injury.

The story I started writing then, is one that I hope will show that girls are capable of being the best of who they are. That they don’t need to be just like the boys in order to be “good enough.” They are good enough just by being themselves. Unfortunately, my girl gets hurt while on their adventure. But hopefully, valuable lessons are learned along the way.

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