1. demonmr98
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    demonmr98 New Member

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    Killing Parents

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by demonmr98, Sep 4, 2011.

    Often, in popular YA and childrens books, the parents of the main character are either dead, irrelevant, or simply gone. This occurs as well in nearly every Disney movie and in countless anime and manga.

    Now here is where I pose my question: Do you think that killing off the parents of a main character is overused or that it would make you put down the book? Do you think its a cheap trick to relieve the main character of nagging parents? :confused:

    Personally I find that it is quite overused but it isn't something that will make me put down a book, or stop watching a movie. Also what are some alternatives to killing off parents, but that still keeps the parents unimportant while keeping the main character "free" of them?

    I'd love to hear all of your opinions on this. :)
     
  2. Show
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    I'd be hypocritical if I did this because I frequently whack one or both of the parents of most of my younger characters. I think it helps add immediate conflict and makes 1-2 less characters for the story. I also think that orphans are popular choices in fiction for a lot of reasons. As lazy as it is, it kind of makes a lot of things easier.

    Is it overused? Yeah, probably. But I doubt it would make the average person put down a book. A lot is "overused" in fiction. But I think if the writing is good, it doesn't really matter. Just about every book in print probably has something that can be seen as "overused." I wouldn't really worry about it one way or another. Strong writing shouldn't feel compelled either way on this issue. It is what it is. If the story calls for it, being overused shouldn't make us go against it.
     
  3. Hollis
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    Hollis New Member

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    The killing off of parents/mentors does bug me. Mostly because you usually know it's coming from the moment that character is introduced. I mean, if you think about it there are plenty of creative alternatives to straight-up death.
    Maybe an accident happens during a time-pressed journey. The parent stays behind or goes to get help and the mc continues on to arrive before time runs out. Maybe the parent is called away for some important business (willingly or otherwise) and leaves the mc to watch over things.
    The parent doesn't need to die necessarily if you just want them out of the picture. All you need to do is think of a way to get some distance between them and the main character.

    Although, a parent's death can be a significant motivator.
     
  4. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've had both parents be dead in my most recent piece, but the character is a grown man.

    I also just realised that my two favourite novels involve the parents of the main characters being dead, but the parents of the love interest being alive and basically major characters themselves...
     
  5. Show
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    Well, if it happened already before the story begins, then I don't feel this is an issue.
     
  6. AllThingsMagical
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    AllThingsMagical Member

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    With younger characters especially it helps them grow up a bit and be more independent which is hard to replicate in different situations. I think it's one of those things that every author does at some point or other.

    Alternatives might include putting the parents in a hospital or prison. Thinking about it though stories from my childhood such as Famous Five had the parents in the background but the kids would still go off and have their own adventures. So it could be a case off giving parents a very minor role just so you don't have to kill them.
     
  7. Heather
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    Heather Contributing Member

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    Yes, it can be overused, but you need something to get the parents out of the way. In a story where a child is the main character, you need some reason why there isn't adult interference, which is another reason why a boarding school type setting is popular among children's literature. Yes, killing the parents is an easy way to make sure they are out of the way and give the child free reign, but if it works and isn't that important to the story why they are gone, as long as they are gone, does it matter?
     
  8. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    Parents represent hurdles in many fictional works that don't centre around school and house life. It helps the protagonist branch out better rather than being stuck with caretakers. It's especially easy when the protagonist is travelling and isn't tied down by, say, a curfew or chores. However, a writer has to take into account what kind of psychological impact that creates on the orphan. They won't operate like a normal child with parents in any society. Where will they live? How will they survive on their own? Where will they receive formal education? There are other foreign things to take into account when writing about an orphan. In one sense, it's easier because then your character is not being held back. In another sense, they will act and think differently compared to anyone else whose led a normal life in a home where they were nurtured.
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Personally, if you're going to kill off the parents, I would expect to see some kind of consequence ranging from a sub-plot or the MC wondering what would be like to have parents and live a normal life.

    But then again, I'd be a hypocrite myself if I said I'd never just made up a main character, whacked off the parents and never looked back.

    It's doable to write a story where the parents are, in fact, alive, but aren't involved with the protagonist's adventure. Either because they don't know or they are really understanding parents.

    It all has to do with what story you're telling, to be frank.
     
  10. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    All of my old stories were about orphans. Every single one of them - just orphans freaking everywhere. Now, I'm kind of sick of seeing it, but I guess it works if you're writing in a fantasy or historical setting.

    Personally, I'd like to see more parents in YA fiction, because parents are pretty important.
     
  11. Show
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    I always replace my orphans' parents eventually. :p
     
  12. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I don't have a problem with the parents being dead in books/ movies but other way to have the same basic effort without the morbid event -

    -parents could be divorsed and the parent the MC is living with is very busy working
    -lots of brothers and sisters, a large family divides attention and can be protrayed in a way that allow freedom of movement for the MC
    -dad's a workaholic and mom is addicted to TV
    -another sibling gets the spotlight
    -parental style is very lax
    -parent go on a cruise or other trip together, MC is old enough to be left home alone (since grandma lives down the street or the neighbor is a good friend...)
    -parents are having marital problems and it's all consuming
     
  13. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    I do think it can be overused, but I understand why the author does it. Usually, to have an interesting story, you need to free the kid of constraints.

    Now, I myself have found ways around this... but I couldn't put into YA fiction. Namely, making the parents themselves antagonists(i.e. domestic abuse) or, in one case, creating a story that mostly takes place inside a character's head. The latter is... quite difficult to say the least.
     
  14. demonmr98
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    demonmr98 New Member

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    I totally agree that it makes the story much easier to write without the constraints of parents, but is it really more interesting? Think of it from the readers point of view, would you rather see a kid with dead parents or something more original?

    I am biased a writer towards the point that there is nothing wrong with taking out the parents. But if we really look hard past our biases as writers, is it more interesting to not take out the parents? The majority of you are saying that being rid of the parents is easier and more interesting if it serves a purpose to the story, but I personally find it is overused a great deal and fear that it may give the reader an instant dislike of the story.

    So what I'm really saying here is would you rather see originality in that front or the common murdering of parents.
     

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