Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Where's the Plot?

I just finished reading three Middle Grade/Young Adult novels. All well written with great voices and plucky heroines. But all lacking in one important detail. PLOT! Oh, I suppose there's a plot in there somewhere--something do do with personal struggles and overcoming obstacles, but it's all very quiet.
This had me asking, "Where's the plot?" These novels were meant for kids for pete's sake. I'm certain kids love to sit down with a character and live through them, but what if that character actually never does anything? Or at least anything exciting?
The characters I loved as a teen (okay, so I was a big Nancy Drew fan) did BIG things like solve mysteries and discover unknown places. They took us someplace that we never really could go. Maybe that's why fantasy is such a hot genre right now. The fantasy author takes the reader someplace unknown.
At the SCBWI New York Conference in February, the editors in attendance couldn't stop telling the enraptured would-be authors how nothing matters but voice. Hmmm....I suppose... but the novels they sited as great examples (I won't list them here because we're all in the same boat) did nothing to make me feel they were right. I read those novels and although I agree that the voices were authentic, the lives the characters experienced were pretty dull.
There must be a balance. I think "Twilight" did a great job of combining a fast action, page-turning plot with real characters. A "Northern Light" by Jennifer Donnelly also delivered a terrific voice with an engaging plot.
I think as children's fiction writers we can't forget our responsibility to entertain our kids. God knows, there's alot of other things that do.

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