I've been hitting the books. Middle-grade fantasy books, that is. I hadn't read the genre much lately and thought I should have a refresher course.
While reading Percy Jackson - The Lightning Thief last night, a bolt of lightning whacked me in the head.
REPETITION REPETITION REPETITION REPETITION REPETITION REPETITION
That's what my books are lacking. I don't have my main character repeating over and over how dismal is their lot in life. Apparently, witers, agents, and publishers believe that middle-grade kids (ages 9-12 in my estimation) are not capable of remembering the basic plot problem, so they tell us what it is at least forty-two times within the first forty-one pages.
Percy, you dear little smartass, you didn't need to tell the reader multiple times that you're a failure at school and that you're a problem magnet. True, Rick Riordan shows the reader the various aspects that reiterate Percy's problem. I'm certainly not saying that the book is too much tell and not enough show. Showing is what we writers have hammered into our brains via our dearly beloved (and I mean that!) critters.
However, I found myself getting a little antsy, shall we say, because I really didn't need to be shown yet one more example of Percy's school problems.
Is this because I'm an adult and get it faster than your average 5th grader? Do kids need constant repetition to have the point finally driven nail-like into their little heads?
I'm going to stand up here for 5th-7th grade kids and say that I think they get it much faster than we stodgy adults, but are so used to putting up with the repetition foisted on them at school to be bothered by it.
So, let's all get behind kid's books not needing to be 400 pages long just so adult writers can show their superior teaching methods. Admit it, Rick, that book could really be 200 pages long if you quit repeating yourself.
One last word: I'm enjoying The Lightning Thief a lot. Riordan is a damned good writer. I'm only using his book to illustrate my point because that's the one I was reading when the lightning bolt struck my pointy head.