VM focuses on a troika of three fundamental elements in fiction writing (see VM’s Literary Troika). Each has certain primary components, here shown in italics:
Story – Plot & Thematic Intent
Ideas – a Theme showing distinct Values, and Virtues & Vices, for what they mean to life & happiness
Craft - Style & Characterization
1. In Story
Plot -The plot is the fundamental line of events of the story. VM seeks plots that present choices the hero must resolve— where the young reader can take a side in a definite conflict. Plots and climaxes that are contrived around false ideas and out-of-context facts, perhaps as propaganda for a certain view, receive low scores. Plots should integrate well with the theme. That is, all the elements of the plot unfold examples and ideas that build the theme logically, either directly or by contrast. The plot should climax properly and bring the theme to a head. All the major conflict(s) of the story must be sensibly resolved. We want it to make us cheer, or to at least ‘slam the door’ in a memorable way.
Theme – The theme is the primary abstraction (idea), for which the events of the story serve as concretes (see Reading and the Child’s Mind). VM believes a child needs themes showing that his world is a benevolent place in which he can orchestrate his own success. The hero must be able to make right choices using information he has learned from the facts of the ‘real’ world of the story. Right and wrong action (see Virtues below) must be shown to produce their logically correct outcomes. We do not believe children should be saddled with improperly explained adult worries and beliefs, before they know enough to think them through independently. A child should look forward to life!
2. In Ideas
Values – VM seeks books that encourage the achievement of rational values. Besides concrete values (e.g. defeating a physical threat) there are also abstract values. Abstract values are broad ideas a child should learn early, and keep throughout his life. There are three essential, abstract values a child should come to consciously grasp, and that good literature can show. First, he must see that he can do his best by training his mind to use reason. Just as winning Olympic athletes seek the smartest training regimen, those who apply the same focus to their lives, live best. Second, he must grasp that the pursuit of a challenging purpose, of his own choosing, is the only way he can truly enrich his life. Third, he must act to build his own self esteem. That is, he must act so that he can love and respect himself, that he may live a life of well-deserved happiness.
Virtues – Whereas values are those things for which one acts to gain or keep, virtues are the actions one takes to achieve values. VM is particularly interested in the virtues a book portrays, and how it does so. A child needs to see how to act and why. He needs many stories that bring virtuous and vicious acts to their logical consequence.
VM is focused on seven virtues (each is better explained at the Scoring Schematic page):
Rationality —accepting reason as one’s only source of knowledge
Independence —one can only gain & judge knowledge & truth for oneself
Integrity —always acting according to one’s values
Honesty —recognizing that the unreal IS unreal
Justice —never faking the moral character of men
Productiveness —sensible production of things sustain & enhance one’s life
Pride —ensuring you are your own highest value, by earning that judgment.
Consistent application of these virtues, or their derivatives, improves one’s chances of success (and self-esteem) in the face of a confusing array of good and bad options. Of particular note is the fact that if a man cheats on any one of these virtues, one way or another he cheats on them all as they are all connected! If a children’s story makes one of the seven virtues its theme, and shows its importance through sensible, compelling drama, then we want to know about it.
3. In Craft
Style - Like body language, the manner in which a work is executed influences how its ideas are perceived by the reader. Besides the writer’s manner of forming sentences, writing style is a function of the balance struck between showing and telling, between abstract ideas and their concrete expression, between adjectives and imagery, between dialogue and narration, between fantasy and realism. All these aspects of style are dependent on the nature of the author’s selection of content for scenes and characters. Any contradiction or imbalance among these elements weakens the work.
Characterization – In fiction, characters make the difference between dull destiny and heroic choice. The characters do not have to be ‘real’, provided they ‘realistically’ portray legitimate abstract human qualities: what makes the lazy son-in-law lazy, the dedicated ballerina dedicated, the clinging girlfriend clingy etc.
The main character must have the ability to change the course of events. Otherwise successes and disasters occurring will be of no importance, regardless of how colorful the events and secondary characters may be. The plot must present a definite conflict of moral concern to the hero, and the reader. This means the hero, and the anti-hero(s), must have definite motives —motives best revealed with dramatic intrigue through action and dialogue. To be believable, characters must be consistent. Their shallower motives must always be a function of deeper, more slowly revealed, motives.
If you are quite sure a book meets our standards, we’d love to hear of it.
Please send the title and author name to firstname.lastname@example.org.>