Monday, November 12, 2018

Unconventional Structures

How can you make your middle grade book stand out in an already-crowded market?

The answer might be an unconventional structure.

What is this, you ask?

Well, it might be writing every-other-chapter from the perspective of a different character, like Erin Entrada Kelly does in YOU GO FIRST.

Or it might be including hilarious footnotes at the end of some chapters, like Tae Keller does in THE SCIENCE OF BREAKABLE THINGS.

It might mean writing alternating chapters in verse, like in Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison do in EVERY SHINY THING.

If you are artistic, it might mean including charts, maps, or drawings to enhance the text.

Creative chapter titles are another way to make your book stand out. In YOU GO FIRST, the chapters written from Charlotte’s point of view all begin with facts called the “Rabbit Hole”. A rabbit hole was what Charlotte’s dad called it when she got swept up researching useless information online. The facts seem random, but all relate to something that will happen in the upcoming chapter. (“Rabbit Hole: In 2017, Haitian immigrant Denis Estimon started a club at his Boca Raton high school called We Dine Together. Its purpose is to make sure no one eats lunch alone.”)

Breaking your book into sections is another way to get creative. Like THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH, the novel THE SCIENCE OF BREAKABLE THINGS is divided into the parts of the scientific method. Each section begins with quotes from the protagonist’s seventh grade science teacher:

Step One: OBSERVE: This is the first step in the scientific process! Sharpen and hone your observational skillz! What is going on in the world around you? Note everything you see and experience! #MrNeelysScientificAdventure

Step Two: QUESTION: What baffles you about the world? Find something that intrigues you and study it with all your heart! Don your detective cap and become your own private investigator! Or, should I say, your own scientific investigator! #SeventhGradeSleuths

Step Three: INVESTIGATIVE RESEARCH: Grab your magnifying glass and your decoder ring because you’re going to be investigating! Investigating science, that is! You’ll all be researching your question, because research is fun, fun, fun! #SherlockScientificProcess

Step Four: HYPOTHESIS: A hypothesis is an educated guess! And since you’re all educated and good at guessing, this assignment is perfect for you! Time to put those ol’ brainz to the test! #EducatedStudentz

Step Five: PROCEDURE: Time to create a plan of action! How will your experiment work? Take a moment to lay out your steps. Remember: planning makes perfect! #PlanForPerfect

Step Six: EXPERIMENT: And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Time to test those hypothesis! Will your educated guesses stand up against the Great Scientific Process? #MomentOfTruth #GetPumped

Step Seven: RESULTS: All your hard work has paid off! Now reap your rewardz! Record the results of your experiments. Remember: there are no losers in #science #life.

Step Eight: ANALYZE YOUR RESULTS: What can you learn from your results? What would you do differently? Your journey has finally come to an end, and I hope you had as much fun as I did exploring, investigating, and experimenting! Turn in your lab notebooks on Friday, and have a great summer. #TheEnd

I love the hashtags at the end of each step!

What other interesting structures have you seen in middle grade?

What have you tried in your own writing?


Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

These are all such good ideas. An innovation I tried in my latest book, The Carnival of the Animals, (which is told in fairytale fashion) was to start each story with a variation on "Once upon a time . . ." Instead, they began, "Once upon a hillside in Provence . . ." "Once upon a field in Spain . . ." etc. It seemed to work. When I read it to classes, that was a feature they like.

Unknown said...

Love that idea!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Gosh, I really love this post! Such creative ideas.