Understanding your audience

‘Oh, but you must have been a little girl once, Headmistress. Surely you were.’
‘Not for long anyway,’ Miss Trunchbull barked, grinning. ‘I became a woman very quickly.’
Matilda, Roald Dahl


If you’re writing about children, for children, you’re going to have to understand children. 

Getting to grips with who you are writing for – their expectations and desires – is crucial. Fortunately, you’re at an advantage when it comes to writing for children, because (unlike Miss Trunchbull) you were a child once. It may have been a few years ago, it may have been half a century ago: either way, you know what it’s like to be a child.

Middle grade is, in my opinion, the best age group to write for. Children of this age are curious, enthusiastic, whimsical, open-minded and optimistic. They are yet to acquire many of the inhibitions that come with adolescence, and they are brutally charmingly honest critics. In addition to this, their reading ability and comprehension are expanding exponentially, allowing middle grade authors to explore complex themes and issues, confidently introduce new vocabulary, and be more ambitious in their storytelling aims.

If you have children of your own, or work with them, you may already have a good understanding of children’s attitudes and interests, but it’s essential to tap into your own experiences – to rediscover your inner child – if you want to create authentic middle grade characters.