My critique group is concerned my contemporary middle grade story might be too earnest/serious for the MG market, and they are wondering if I should do some work on sprinkling in more funny moments to break it up. Note: They haven’t read the whole manuscript at one time yet. Do you have a comment on that?
Dear Too Serious?…
Sprinkling in funny bits won’t change the nature of your story. If a playful moment is organic to a scene, then yes, go for it—laughter among tears is great fun. But I advise against trying to make the story what it isn’t. There’s a place for serious, earnest stories for and about middle graders. Consider the quiet success of One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street, with its many awards and starred reviews. Consider the higher profile success of Wonder and The One and Only Ivan. Consider the two Pam Munoz Ryan books my three 10-year-old boys are reading this week in school and for fun: curriculum staple Esperanza Rising and new bestseller Echo. MG fiction has a broad range. Some stories are super serious, some are super funny, plenty are in between. All should resonate in the hearts of young readers.