Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Writing Middle Grade Time Travel

So I got to Chapter 7 where the watch and how it manipulates time is explained.  I'll be talking with my agent today about it and some of the other changes, but my big question throughout all of this was "How much is too much?"

We're talking six-grade readers here, not Stephen Hawking.

I've heard various opinions about this, and I think it depends on the story itself, and must be true to the story.  If you're writing a hard-core science fiction novel, even for middle graders, you can probably go into some detail about wormholes, etc.,  but not too much.  Too much explanation in middle grade fiction will turn off the reader immediately.  On the other hand, if it's too ridiculously simple - like the hero simply turns around three times and clicks his heels together - you lose some credibility there.

Not to mention my particular issue - what I call the Sound of Thunder Time Conundrum.  Read Ray Bradbury's short story "A Sound of Thunder" to see what I mean.  Basically, I wanted to send a message that everything happens for a reason, and the world is as it is even with the tragedies we experience.  If we go back and change one little thing, the ripple effect could be huge.  For example, I know a lot of people would want to kill Hitler if they could go back in time.  But what if they did?  Sure millions of Jewish people would live, plus countless American soldiers.  Sounds good, right?  But what about other changes:  would there be a state of Isreal?  Would the Middle East conflict rise quickly to the point of nuclear war?  Would the Cold War escalated to a nuclear war?  We don't know, and the point of my story is that we should NEVER know.  It's too risky.

Dan Gutman does a great job balancing both of these fronts, having his hero travel back in time via baseball cards, and seeing famous baseball players without going into too much concern about changing the present.  I've read a couple and I highly recommend them for a great way to tell a story without getting bogged down in the "what if's" too much, or the complexity of time travel.  It just is, and for middle graders that's enough.

So we'll see what happens today when I talk to Special Agent CB.  I've set up the analogy that time travels onward like a train on a track - if you could go back in time and throw a switch, the train goes down a different track.  Sometimes that may be ok, but other times, there may be a train heading right for you.

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