1. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,059
    Likes Received:
    5,264
    Location:
    California, US

    Getting out from under the thumbs of the parents

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Steerpike, Apr 18, 2016.

    An issue that arises in the context of children's stories, where the main character(s) is a child, is that of the parents. One reason you see so many orphans in children's stories is that it's an easy way to free the character from the control of the parents. You can have the character going off to do whatever you need them to do without the reader asking "where are the parents during all this?"

    My current children's story, the MC is a 12-year old girl, and she is about to set off on a grand adventure across the world. I do not want to make her an orphan. Among the alternatives are: 1) she sneaks away; and 2) her parents give their blessing.

    I don't like option #1. Her parents would be looking for her the whole time, plus I don't feel that it is in line with my vision of the character.

    #2 is what I'm leaning toward. This is SF/F, and not set in the real world. I'm thinking of having her leave home to pursue her dreams, and her parents, though sad to see her go, supporting her going out into the world like this.

    What ways do you guys handle this, and do you think option #2 would work for you as a reader?
     
  2. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    My 12 year old girl isn't getting my blessing to go to movie by herself, much less depart on a grand adventure. I'd be wondering the whole time about her terrible, terrible parents.

    "Hey, your daughter hasn't been in school in a couple of days."
    "Yeah, she's gone off to pursue her dreams."
    "Okay, well we're going to find her, and when we bring her back, you don't get to raise children anymore."
     
    Mikmaxs, CameronHag94, Yoav and 3 others like this.
  3. TheApprentice
    Offline

    TheApprentice Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2013
    Messages:
    1,198
    Likes Received:
    154
    Perhaps you should tell us a little more about the society in your world. Maybe parents letting their young preteen run off and travel the world alone is socially acceptable in this place?
     
    123456789 and Steerpike like this.
  4. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,059
    Likes Received:
    5,264
    Location:
    California, US
    My initial thought is that in this society, it's common for boys to leave their parents for things like apprenticeships, or even to just try to make their way in the world (depending on where the boys' vocational talents lay), but that it's not common for girls. This girl is determined. It wouldn't be unheard of for the parents to consent if it was a boy, by the rules of this society, so it's not much more of a stretch for them to consent to her (I think), except that it bucks societal trends/traditions.
     
  5. TheApprentice
    Offline

    TheApprentice Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2013
    Messages:
    1,198
    Likes Received:
    154
    I would say go with option 2. Considering what you just explained, it would make sense with her being the hero and all. Plus, if she is doing something uncommon for her place in that society that makes her more interesting.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  6. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,059
    Likes Received:
    5,264
    Location:
    California, US
    I suppose it's also worth noting the story is for kids maybe age nine to twelve, so maybe it doesn't matter what adults would think of this...
     
  7. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,957
    Likes Received:
    5,486
    It sounds to me like you own all of the societal elements that make this permissible or not permissible, so you can decide that it's permissible.

    If you're concerned about whether modern readers will be able to wrap their minds around a twelve-year-old wandering independently...I can, but I don't know what the consensus would be.

    Would she be completely independent most of the time, or would she attach herself to adults, pretending to be their daughter or son, acting as their employee, and so on?

    And would her parents know exactly what she's doing, or would she tell them some handy half-truth? ("Oh, I'm going as a companion for the Smiths' daughter," and then she leaves the Smiths at the first port, or the Smiths never actually existed.)
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  8. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,059
    Likes Received:
    5,264
    Location:
    California, US
    Good questions @ChickenFreak.

    Yeah, I was more thinking of modern readers, though maybe the parents don't matter. I want her to be independent. She certainly meets adults along the way who help her. But she's going to push the plot by her own action. Her parents know what she's supposed to be doing, but that goes off the rails early on and the adventure starts.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,957
    Likes Received:
    5,486
    I find myself thinking of her making up some sort of reusable lie. Like, she makes up an employer who's an elderly veiled widow, and all of her errands are for "Mrs. Smith." At some point this turns weird and she has to recruit someone to put on a veil and pose as Mrs. Smith.

    Or something. I do feel that you may need some sort of explanatory structure like this, even if it doesn't fully hold together.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  10. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,336
    Likes Received:
    3,084
    You know, parents are an issue for MCs of many ages, not just kids. I can think of plenty of novels with adult MCs who have dead parents. I guess moms and dads are often just not that interesting :S
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  11. Cat Cherry
    Offline

    Cat Cherry Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2016
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    76
    Location:
    USA
    You could have her go to some kind of interesting boarding school, a la Harry Potter or any number of other kids'/YA books that circumvent the problem of parents by putting kids into situations where they are being supervised, but not as closely as they would be at home, thereby alleviating the parents' worries while giving the kids a little more wiggle room.

    You could also have someone/something accompany her on her journey--some sort of companion, whether it's the family's faithful talking dog, a senile great-uncle who doesn't really do a great job of making sure she stays out of trouble, or a supposedly reliable nineteen-year-old friend of the family who turns out to have a major drinking problem. This option is even better than the first one, I think, because it gives you a convenient foil with whom your heroine can discuss different aspects of her journey, making it easier for you to show and not tell your action. The companion idea also gives you a potentially interesting built-in source of conflict (this is why there are so many buddy movies).
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  12. Wayjor Frippery
    Offline

    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2016
    Messages:
    609
    Likes Received:
    707
    Location:
    Tranquility Base
    Other than the fact that adults will buy it for their kids, which makes their opinion important. Perhaps. I don't know. Your call.

    As for the believability element, you said it was SF/F where boys commonly go wandering at that age, so maybe your only problem is that adult characters in your story will be surprised that your MC is a girl, which can make a nice story point that shows your MC's independence of mind. If it's all self consistent in your story world — problem solved.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  13. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,504
    Likes Received:
    1,337
    I'm thinking Arya Stark...

    As @ChickenFreak suggests, some sort of recyclable lie seems necessary...and that can, in itself, create problems that need resolution.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  14. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    Arya is pretty thoroughly orphaned.
     
    Yoav likes this.
  15. IlaridaArch
    Offline

    IlaridaArch Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2014
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    170
    You can always play around things.

    > She runs away, and obviously parents get worried. (I agree, they would never give their blessing)
    > Delay parents getting worried. What if they walk her to a carriage that takes her to a town closeby, where her brother(?) lives. For some reason?
    > Maybe brother was never there waiting at the end of the ride? What happens? What will the girl do?

    I don't know, but you can always play around with plottwists and thus this way avoid problems. That would buy you time with parents getting worried. I don't know what kind of society is this, and how the information flow. But good luck. :)
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  16. Elven Candy
    Offline

    Elven Candy Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2016
    Messages:
    285
    Likes Received:
    171
    If you go with option 2, the girl isn't running away or disobeying her parents. That keeps young eaders from thinking such actions are "cool," which means I'd be more likely to let my children read it. The society you describe makes it a reasonable course of events, in my opinion.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  17. Yoav
    Offline

    Yoav Member

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2016
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    In the SQL server
    Could be she escapes from something. This is what happens to Arya, as @Shadowfax suggested.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  18. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,840
    Likes Received:
    10,017
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Agreed. She may technically still have family, but.... She's a de facto orphan by dint of her situation.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  19. Lea`Brooks
    Offline

    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 11, 2013
    Messages:
    2,613
    Likes Received:
    1,714
    Location:
    Virginia, United States
    I agree option two would be best, especially since the boys do it. And if you make it a point to talk about that, make your MC upset that boys get to go but she doesn't, it makes sense. She's just doing what everyone else does, except she's a girl. And as Elven Candy brought up, the readers of this book wouldn't just want to up and run away because your character did. She got the blessing of her parents first.

    Yes, I definitely think it could work.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  20. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,783
    Likes Received:
    7,298
    Location:
    Scotland
    Might there be a third option? What if something has happened to her parents to prevent them being together with her? The parents are in prison for crimes they didn't commit or something like that? And she doesn't want to be taken care of by anybody else, so she escapes foster custody? Perhaps one of her long-term goals would be to help/rescue her parents?
     
    Steerpike and 123456789 like this.
  21. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Plenty of parents buck trends. If hers are a little more forward-thinking, it's perfectly plausible for them to consent to her leaving if she makes a convincing case.

    You could either 1) have the parents hear her out and then consent with their blessing, or 2) hear her out, and then decide to consent because they know their daughter - she's gonna go off anyway :D so why fight it?
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  22. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,059
    Likes Received:
    5,264
    Location:
    California, US
    Thanks, cats.

    These are all good ideas. Information can potentially travel fast in this society, at least over certain distances. There are barriers that make it more difficult across other distances. One reason I like the idea that she has the parent's blessing is that any other option necessarily adds plot elements to the story, which is fine but not what I'm going for in this tale. If her parents are in prison, or she gets somewhere and someone who is supposed to be there is not there, etc. That's stuff that has to be addressed as the story goes on. What happened to this person? What will happen to her parents? All of this has to be pulled into the story. All good ideas, but in my mind I really have this image of the MC just striking out into the world to make her way, to show what she can do and "make good," for lack of a better phrase. Not to have her worrying about rescuing parents or looking for lost relatives or other such things. She does end up doing heroic things, of course, but I'd like to shake loose of potential family and friend obstacles, at least insofar as those obstacles arise out of her backstory.

    It strikes me, as I'm talking about this, that a good analogy is Kiki's Delivery Service. Have any of you seen that? Kiki sets out from home on her 13th birthday to live in the world on her own for a year. In that story, it's something all witches do. Her mother did it when she was young, as well. So while her parents are somewhat sad that she's going, it is considered perfectly normal that at age 13 she leaves home and makes her way, with really no idea where she's going or what she is going to do. If you've seen that movie, did that give you pause? I thought it worked because Miyazaki makes it matter-of-fact: here's what happens when witches turn 13. I'm not quite doing that, because in the society as I currently have it envisioned the things that are normal for boys at 12 are not normal for girls. Part of what the MC does along her journey is dispel the myth that girls don't have talent in certain areas like boys are known to.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2016
  23. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,059
    Likes Received:
    5,264
    Location:
    California, US
    She does have a small companion, and the companion serves some of the functions you suggest. But the companion is in no position to save her if she really gets into trouble. She has to do that on her own.
     
  24. Elven Candy
    Offline

    Elven Candy Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2016
    Messages:
    285
    Likes Received:
    171
    I saw that movie; it was cute. I'm generally OK with that kind of idea in a book/movie because the society is as the author wrote it. Heck, if that was the norm in Japan, I'd be OK with it simply because that's their culture. A lot of cultures see people as grown-up much earlier than we do in America. In one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (Little House on the Prairie series), she knew someone who married as early as 13!
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  25. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,059
    Likes Received:
    5,264
    Location:
    California, US
    True. Maybe it's as simple as having people say "Oh, a girl on her own at that age? My, my, what's the world coming to...." etc. :D
     

Share This Page