One Writer’s Journey

June 2, 2017

Parents in Children’s Literature

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:39 am
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Early in my writing career, we used to joke that you definitely did not want to be a parent in a Sharon Creech novel.  Something bad was sure to happen to you to get you out-of-the-way of a great story.

And that’s one of the toughest parts about writing for children and teens.  You have to find a way to work around the character’s parents.  You can’t let them shield the character from whatever is needed to get the story rolling.  You can’t let them say “no, don’t go in there because it seems like a bad idea.”  And you definitely can’t have them solving the story problem.

One of the oldest tricks in the book is to bump the parents off.  Orphans, you see, are free to have great adventures as did Harry Potter and the Baudelaire’s in a Series of Unfortunate events.  Without a caring adult presence they can get into and out of mischief with impunity and no one is there to say no.

Sometimes parents and children are forcibly separated through no fault of their own.  That works especially well in dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and Divergent in which society separated parent and child.  In Matt de la Pena’s The Living, an earthquake causes a tidal wave.  Teens working on the ship have no way of knowing who back home may have survived but for the time being their greatest concern is their own survival.  And?  There are no adults capable of saving the day.

This doesn’t mean that you need to write a dystopian book or bump off mom and dad.  Drug addicted parents.  Clueless parents.  Hard working parents who put in a lot of hours.  All of this and more can put a young character in a position to solve their own problems.

Smaller problems,   such as those encountered in picture books, often don’t require drastic measures.  After all, David Shannon’s No David books all revolved around Mom and Dad telling David what not to do.

All you have to do is make sure that your characters are free to get into just enough mischief to make a great story.  How you make this happen?  It all depends on your story.



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