Worldview and the YA/MG Genre

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For the past few years, Young Adult (YA) and Middle Grade (MG) has been extremely popular beyond their “normal” target audience. With the success of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, the Hunger Games, and the Divergent series, more and more authors are turning to teen and children’s literature and trying to write one.


Children and teen literature are a gold mine for story ideas in the Worldview Genre. The reason why is because children and teens are often “coming of age stories.” These stories frequently show the protagonist learning about their external and internal worlds. In the end, this is a perfect set-up for a Worldview Genre woven into your story.
In this article, I will go over a review of the Worldview Genre, the differences between children’s literature versus Middle Grade and Young Adult. Then, I’m going to go over a couple of novels that explore elements of the Worldview Genre.

Let’s begin, shall we?

The Worldview Genre

“The Worldview Maturation Story is essentially the hero’s journey. All stories have maturation built into them as each story’s change arc requires the protagonist to shift their point of view in order to attain wisdom or experience.”

Shawn Coyne

The Worldview Genre is all about changing one’s viewpoint and learning about the world around us. It is the ultimate “coming of age” story. According to Shawn, “people choose to read a Worldview story because they want to experience relief or satisfaction of emerging whole from a threat to their internal status quo, or to feel pity for a less fortunate character.”


The Worldview Genre can be both an arch-plot and a mini-plot, and it is an internal genre. The Global Value scale (see above) runs along the values of naiveté and sophistication, and there are four sub-genres: Maturation, Disillusionment, Education, and Revelation.

Obligatory Scenes

  • An Inciting opportunity or challenge
  • Protagonist denies responsibility to respond to the opportunity or challenge
  • Forced to respond, the protagonist lashes out against the requirement to change behavior.
  • Protagonist learns what their external Antagonist’s Object of Desire is.
  • Protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver Antagonist fails.
  • During an All is Lost moment, protagonist realizes they must change their black/white view of the world to allow for life’s irony.
  • The action moment is when the protagonist’s gift is expressed as acceptance of an imperfect world.
  • The protagonist’s loss of innocence is rewarded with a deeper understanding of the universe.

Conventions

  • Strong Mentor Figure (Atticus Finch, Mr. Miyagi).
  • Big Social Problem as subtext (racism, misogamy, class conflict, etc.)
  • Shapeshifters as hypocrites: secondary characters say one thing, do another.
  • A clear Point of No Return; the moment when the protagonist knows they can’t go back to the way things used to be.
  • Ironic win-but-lose, lose-but-win bittersweet ending.

In a nutshell, that’s the Worldview Genre. You will often see a Worldview Genre paired with an external genre such as Action, Horror, Love, or Crime. The balance of having the external and internal genres with the Hero’s Journey woven into it will heighten your novel’s emotion and empathy.


Let’s look at the differences in children’s literature.

A Look at Children and YA Genre

Rebellious, unschooled writers break the rules. Artists master the form.

Robert McKee

There are several different types of children’s and teenage literature. How do you know what you are writing? Children and Teen literature often is considered to be a genre and not a category of writing.

“Middle grade” and “young adult” aren’t genres, though people call them that all the time. They’re audiences… When pitching, don’t say that you’re writing for the “young adult genre.” That incorrect. A better thing to say would be, for example: “I’m writing an urban fantasy YA novel” or “a coming of age novel for the middle grade audience.” Since children’s books have so many guidelines, you will appear savvy if you use the terms correctly.”

Mary Kole, the author of Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers.

There are many differences between MG and YA books. However, they are categories and in the publishing world they refer to a marketing audience. Let’s look at the breakdown of each category and then we will look at how the Worldview Genre is connected.

Middle Grade Books

What is a middle grade book? Middle Grade fiction is more sophisticated than a children’s novel (like a picture book or an early chapter reader), however it doesn’t have the mature themes of a YA novel.

  • The Protagonists are between 10 and 13 (readers read up; more than likely never down).
  • They contain no profanity or graphic violence.
  • Romance is limited to crushes and first kisses.
  • These novels are typically between 30,000 and 50,000 words long
  • They are usually written in the third person.
  • Characters typically react to what happens to them within their immediate world with a focus on friends and family.
  • The protagonist (and narrator) generally do not delve too much into self-reflection but instead focus on real-life situations.

Examples? Harry Potter, despite its popularity with adults, is considered a MG novel and was published in the children’s literature category. The themes and conflicts that occur in Harry Potter are often typical of that age group. For example, the themes usually resolve around loss, friendship and loyalty.

Young Adult Novels

The books published in the YA category, are typically read by readers 12 to 18. However, there is a growing number of adults reading YA fiction. These books usually explore a characters integration into the outside world and are often considered “coming of age stories” where the characters “come into their own.”

  • Protagonists are usually between 15-18
  • Profanity and graphic violence are allowed.
  • Romance is allowed, but do not make it erotic.
  • YA is generally 50,000 and 80,000 words. (Fantasy and Science Fiction does tend to exceed that length.)
  • Young adult fiction is typically focused on how the main character fits in the ‘grown-up‘ world beyond their family and friends. This category reflects on events and tries to come up with meaning, and to try to understand themselves, their journey, and the world they live in.
  • YA is internally reflected whereas MG is external.
  • YA is typically a “coming of age story” (Worldview).
  • Because of the amount of self-reflection and internality, YA novels are often told in the first person from the protagonist’s point of view.

Examples? The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, follows Katnis Everdeen (the protagonist), who begins to explore the world beyond her district. Ultimately, her journey sparks and inspires a revolution within it by the conclusion of the three-novel series.

A Comparison

So, how do you know what you are writing? Here is a quick and brief comparison of the two categories side-by-side.

Middle GradeYoung Adult
Third PersonFirst Person
30,000 to 50,000 words50,000 to 80,000 words (sometimes more)
external internal
deals with relationships between characters family and friendsis more self-reflected and internal
Romance is limited to a crush or a first kiss.

Less violence.
Romance can be in more depth, but not erotic.

More violence allowed.
Target Audience: 8 – 12Target Audience: 12 to 18 (with a growing popularity of middle-aged women)

Writing the Coming of Age Story

There are usually three things we find in a coming of age story. They are:

  • Loss of innocence
  • Having to learn to let go of their self (or their shadow side or even embrace it) and enter the world
  • Start to see the world isn’t so simple as they thought it was.

Sometimes, the protagonist already has obtained a “loss of innocence.” For example, Katnis Everdeen has already experienced a “loss of innocence” when she her father died in a mining accident. From then on, she had to take care of her family because her mother could not longer function.

Five Tips on creating a Protagonist

  • The protagonist has to have a problem that needs to be solved and only the protagonist can solve this. No one else can solve the problem.
  • Your audience needs to be behind your protagonist. All readers want to be able to root for them or at least sympathize for them.
  • Your protagonist needs to have something to lose, this will act as a motivating tool, forcing your character to take risks.
  • One of the most important things about a protagonist in a “coming of age story” is showing that character progression. Remember your character is going to start as a child and finish as an adult so we really need to see that the experience they have had has changed them.

A Look at an Example

So what kind of stories in the YA and MG categories have a Worldview Genre woven into it? A lot of them.

For example, The Giver by Lois Lowry is about a boy named Jonas who lives in a Community isolated from al other towns. In this Community, everyone from small infants to adults have an assigned role. Like most dystopian novels, Jonah is assigned his “role” in life. Jonah is selected to be next “Giver” and becomes the “Receiver of Memory” in the novel and begins training. It is revealed that “the Giver” alone knows the truth about humanity’s past: war, famine, hunger, birthdays, color, sliding, etc.

Jonah’s world changes throughout the novel. As a result of him being chosen as the next “Receiver of Memory,” Jonah realizes the dangers of the Community and how wrong they are. He changed and develops the courage to leave the Community and escape to a new life.

If you read the novel, you will see that The Giver follows the conventions of a Worldview Genre.

  • Strong Mentor Figure: The Giver trains Jonah to be the next Receiver of Memory and helps him learn about humanity’s past. For example, war, birthdays, pain, colors, etc.
  • Big Social Problem as subtext (racism, misogamy, class conflict, etc.): The Community has forgotten about about their history and they have embraced the ideal of “sameness” where everyone is alike and no was is different. The Community Jonah lives in will not tolerate anything different. For example, a set of twins was born and one of the twins had to die because it would make the set of twins stand out to the other Community members.
  • Shapeshifters as hypocrites: secondary characters say one thing, do another. Throughout the book, you hear the Community members say that everyone matters, however it is clear that everyone matters until you violate a rule or stand out.
  • A clear Point of No Return; the moment when the protagonist knows they can go back to the way things used to be. Jonah realizes that he can’t keep living in the Community after he sees his father release a baby to “Elsewhere” and dumps the baby down a garbage chute. Essentially, his father kills the baby. Jonah realizes that he can’t stay in the Community and must leave. When he leaves, the Community will have to deal with the memories of the past that Jonah has been holding onto.
  • Ironic win-but-lose, lose-but-win bittersweet ending. Jonah escapes the Community with one of the babies that was sentenced to be released to Elsewhere. Jonah and the baby get lost and it is unclear whether or not they lived. It is later revealed in other books that they did live.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is a lot of overlap in MG and YA stories and the Worldview Genre. Will all stories incorporate the Worldview Genre? No, of course not. However, MG and YA novels are classic examples of “coming of age” stories which usually have some sort of Worldview story built into it.

I hope you all enjoyed your holiday, and I hope that 2021 will bring you the great joy and a much happier year. Take care – Victoria (Tory)

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About the Author

Victoria R. Girmonde resides in beautiful upstate New York and believes that everyone has a story inside of them and enjoys the long-game of crafting a novel that works. She earned a B.A. in Journalism and a M.A. in Professional Writing. Visit her at www.kyrunediting.com, where she frequently blogs about worldbuilding and story craft. She specializes in fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, romance and memoirs.
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Author Victoria R. Girmonde

5 Comments

Julia says:

Great article and exceptionally useful. I’ve bookmarked it to read again at leisure. But I think under Conventions it was intended to read, “can’t go back to the way they were”.
This is going to impact how I write, for sure. Thank you.

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Roland Denzel says:

This was very helpful. I saves the list of obligatory scenes so I’d have them handy when it’s time for my next pass over my book!

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