Monday, March 4, 2013

Checklist - Out of the Mouths of Babes

by Jemi Fraser

As many of you know, I teach elementary school (10 - 12 year olds this year). The other day I asked my students what makes a great book. In order, here are their answers in their words (I didn't edit/suggest a single thing)...
  • strong beginning/hook
  • good conclusion - have to wrap it up right
  • interesting characters who act like real people
  • interesting setting
  • no boring stuff in the middle (they loved when I described this as "saggy middles")
  • unique plot twists and surprises
  • strong vocabulary - especially good verbs
  • suspense - you have to wonder what's going to happen next
  • action, excitement and/or horrifying moments
  • cliffhangers
  • more books by the author (they don't like when they can't read another by their favourite author right away!)
  • good cover and title - otherwise who's going to take a risk?
Don't you love kids? Maybe they didn't mention everything, but I think they did a pretty good job!

When I use this as a checklist for my own writing, I realize I'm going to have to work on my cliffhangers. How about you? How does your wip stack up with their list?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs and tweets while searching for those HEAs.

33 comments:

Old Kitty said...

Love the phrase "saggy middles"! LOL!

What a great list!! Glad to know young minds are as discerning as ever! Take care
x

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great list. Your students are so smart and nail everything in what makes a good book.

Jemi Fraser said...

Old Kitty - they loved it too! And, yes, kids often see more than we expect!

Natalie - they really did! And it poured out of them so quickly too! :)

Laura Marcella said...

Impressive! Well, these are things other writers are constantly giving advice and helpful tips about so that's good. Great checklist!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Some smart kids there. I could probably work on my cliffhangers as well.

Yvonne Osborne said...

This came from 10-12 year olds? It's a credit to their teacher that they are so book-worldly. I especially love that they mention good verbs and characters who act like real people. I hope I don't have a "saggy middle" but I definitely need a better title.

LD Masterson said...

Yup, they pretty much nailed it.

Teresa Coltrin said...

This IS a great list.

SC Author said...

Dang, they got it! That's all we writers try to accomplish. You got smart students :D

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Sounds like a great checklist to me! The kids know what works. :)

Tracy Bermeo (A2Z Mommy) said...

That's an excellent list. Worthy of printing and putting on the wall by my desk. Saggy middles is an awesome term ! Smart kids.

Jemi Fraser said...

Laura - thanks! I was so impressed with them :)

Alex - I like to wrap things up at the end of scenes - gotta work on leaving people hanging!

Yvonne - thanks! We do have lots of conversations about reading and writing and they love to read!!

Linda - I thought so too!

Teresa - I was very proud of them :)

SC - I do! They love their books and we're working on writing now too :)

Elizabeth - they really do! I've got some smart cookies!

Tracy - they are! I've got it up on the classroom wall now for when we are writing narratives :)

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

That looks like a good solid foundation to start writing.

I can't be having a saggy middle after all!

Jemi Fraser said...

Wendy - I really try to avoid those saggy middles myself :)

Carol Kilgore said...

Great list! You have a group of budding writers there :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Carol - I do! I can't wait to see what they decide to write about! :)

DMS said...

Love this list! Stephanie teaches 5th grade and her students give us feedback about writing and it is so helpful. Thanks so much for sharing their thoughts with us. Lots to think about!
~Jess

Jemi Fraser said...

Jess - you're very welcome! We're using the list in class now and trying to figure out HOW to do those things with their short stories! FUN! :)

Medeia Sharif said...

They most certainly did do a good job. Today my students told me they want a strong conflict.

Rosalind Adam said...

Our of the mouths of babes indeed! Maybe you should let the publishers know about the "must have lots of follow up books" request!!

Jemi Fraser said...

Medeia - that's awesome! We've now started working on narratives and just started talking about conflict yesterday :)

Rosalind - maybe I should! I'm sure they'd listen :)

Debra McKellan said...

Train up a child!! Yes! lol

Jemi Fraser said...

Debra - absolutely!! Get 'em while they're young :)

Romance Book Haven said...

Jemi, your 10-12 year olds came up with all the elements which work.

Great young minds you have there!

Nas

Jemi Fraser said...

Nas - I know! They're a great group of kids!! :)

Belle Wong said...

Wow, they really did do a great job. That's basically my own list in a nutshell!

Jemi Fraser said...

Belle - me too! I'm really proud of them :)

Mel Kinnel said...

Sometimes kids know more than we do. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Mel - that's so very, very true!!! :)

Nicki Elson said...

You must be a very good teacher - because that is an excellent list!

Jemi Fraser said...

Nicki - awwww - thank you! We talk a lot about books and it seems to have all sunk in! :)

Adriana Dascalu said...

this check list will soon prove useful to me, Jemi!

Jemi Fraser said...

Glad it will help you Adriana! :)