My breath rushed in when I realized what she was planning. “Oh, my goodness!” I said.
What? Oh, my goodness? How bland. How boring. You would have to work pretty hard to write that with any less emotion or tension. Have you ever had one of your characters say something like that? Or something equally innocuous? Sometimes it works. Other times it’s really painful, and it feels totally wrong to have to resort to something so weak. You know, and your reader knows, what the character should be saying. And sometimes it ain’t, “Oh, my goodness!” Sometimes it’s more like:
My breath rushed in when I realized what the crazy bitch was planning. “Holy Jesus on a treadmill!" I yelled. "Have you lost what's left of your fucking mind?”
Obviously, it’s a little tricky saying what we really want to say in a middle grade manuscript. And, we’ve all been middle grade students in the past. If I remember correctly, we had a different vocabulary we used among ourselves when there were no grown ups around. Didn’t we? So how do you stay true to your character? How do you clearly convey what the character is feeling when you have some genre-imposed restrictions on your vocabulary? What's permissible? What's forbidden? And should those restrictions be lifted occasionally? You tell me.