It never ceases to amaze me when my son gives me advice on writing. He is an avid reader at nine years old, so I take his advice very seriously.
Last night at dinner, he mentioned a book that he read last year. He considers it one of his all-time favorites: The Gorillas of Gill Park. Sadly, I have not read this book yet, so I can't tell you anything about it myself, but Elijah loved the characters in the book. I asked him what made them so good, and he said "just who they were." I prodded further (usually necessary with a nine-year-old boy). He said the characters were kind, polite. Funny, I ask? Not necessarily, he said. He just liked that they were kids who did the right thing.
So I jump in and give him an idea for a MG character I'm working on. A boy with a personal flaw he wants to hide. Elijah says, "Mom, your characters shouldn't have a problem within themselves. The problem needs to come from the environment." I'm not kidding...he said this. And then I thought, yeah...what tween doesn't already have a whole slew of things they feel embarrassed about. It must be refreshing for that age to pick up a book and read about characters that face and beat down problems on the outside, despite all their personal flaws, which rightfully take second fiddle to the real issues.
I hope he can be my agent when I grow up.