“To be successful, I knew I needed to write a fast-paced action-thriller with plenty of interesting turns and twists.” Today, Cynthia C. Huijgens shares us how we can successfully craft a story that would appeal to the interests of middle graders.
The Art of Writing a Fast-Paced Adventure for Kids
by Cynthia C. Huijgens
I once had two middle grade readers in my house. One son was a ferocious consumer of books, anything by Darren Shan, Anthony Horowitz, D.J MacHale, Erin Hunter, Robert Muchamore and so many others. He even wrote his own stories, some of them graphic novels, and made films with his friends. The other son just wanted to make music on his drums or guitar, ride his skateboard, and play video games. When I set out to write my first novel, it was important to me that I craft a story that appealed to both of these middle graders, the one totally into reading the action and the other who was more interested in living the action. To be successful, I knew I needed to write a fast-paced action-thriller with plenty of interesting turns and twists. I started writing my first novel as a ‘panser’, which is a term widely recognized within the writing community as someone who writes without the guidance of an outline. Being a ‘panser’ turned out to be great for generating a high word count but terrible for my story’s plot and character development. One editor told me my writing was solid, but nothing happened in my story. This criticism was hard to hear, but she was right. My ‘panser’ approach to storytelling had left me with hundreds of pages – thousands of words, but no action. And no action meant no story, and neither of my middle graders were interested in reading it. Two important things happened to move me from being a panser’ to a full-fledged ‘plotter’: I went back to school and I got a mentor. Through The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University, I workshopped my novel in progress. I learned that a well thought out outline can save you time writing and editing. An outline is the place where you chart your pacing and plot your action. It’s where you anticipate your protagonist’s motivations, the ones that dictate their actions and reactions. It’s where you lay down the obstacles that challenge your character’s resolve. It’s where you build tension. Will your protagonist get what they want, or what they need? Who is going to stop them? Learning to be a ‘plotter’ meant my story had more substance, a likeable protagonist who went on a journey, a world-class nasty villain to throw a wrench into the works from time to time, and a few cliff hangers. One key to developing a fast-paced adventure is a ticking clock. In Boy Between Worlds: The Novice Collector, I use a ticking clock literally, to set the pace and heighten tension. Sometimes the clock is fast – tick.tick.tick, and other times it’ deathly slow – tick….tick….tick… It lets you know what its thinking too – tisk, tisk, tisk. I also throw in a few Egyptian cultural elements, including Arabic words and phrases and plot twists, to bring the reader into the place and culture where the story is unfolding. My once middle graders are now men, but I keep their middle grade interests and personality differences in mind as I’m writing. One thing I do, and I’m not sure anyone else is doing this, is format my books to resemble content on the internet – no indents – so young readers feel a sense of familiarity when reading my books. I also mix-up American and British words, grammar, and spelling because kids these days are internet saavy and there are no cultural boundaries on the internet. My own children are third culture kids (TCK) or third culture individuals (TCI), that means people raised in a culture other than their parents' or the culture of their country of nationality. In the Boy Between Worlds series, the protagonist, Max, struggles with his identity and his journey is greatly influenced by that of my own children trying to find their familial roots after years of living in different countries. While that part of Max’s story unfolds slowly, overall, it’s a fast-paced action-thriller with plenty of ancient Egyptian artefacts and plot points to keep young readers motivated. About the Book
Written by Cynthia C. Huijgens
Ages 8-12 | 187 Pages
Publisher: Idle Time Press | ISBN-13: 9781732925847
Publisher’s Synopsis: On his thirteenth birthday, Max Mead wakes up battered and bruised in the villa of his grandfather, a famous antiquities expert, in Cairo. He has a hard time remembering how he got there, but slowly details of his quest to locate his missing grandfather begin to emerge. But the Lieutenant, leader of a ruthless antiquities trafficking gang, has left Max with more than a few nasty bruises.
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One (1) grand prize winner receives:
- An autographed copy of Boy Between Worlds: The Novice Collector
- Two (2) 100% pashminas purchased from a vendor in the Khan el Kahlili, Cairo
- A custom bookmark
- An Idle Time Press t-shirt
About the Author
Cynthia C. Huijgens writes for children of all ages, including children’s picture books. She holds a BA in Art and Design, Masters in Education, and is a certified K-12 Art Teacher. Cynthia graduated from Simon Fraser University’s The Writer’s Studio.
For more information, visit https://www.idletimepress.com.