Ok. Here's the deal. I have a character, and I can't decide if he's necessary or not. He's the father of the main character, abusive, drunk, and unhappy with his life. Basically, he takes it out on his wife and his seventeen-year old son (main character). He acts as something of a foil in the book. But that's the problem. His sole purpose is more or less to create conflict in the story. He's the reason his son wants to get out of town, is so unsatisfied with life, is angry, so on and so forth. I also worry that I can't write scenes with the father well. I've never had an abusive parent, so writing it into my novel is difficult. Plus, because of the subject matter, I want to make sure that it doesn't come off disingenuously. Lots of families across the world suffer with an abusive parent or spouse, so i don't want to screw it up or belittle the topic. I'm thinking I could just change the plot, and remove the father altogether. Then the mother would be a single parent trying to raise a large family in small-town USA. Most of the other stuff would fall into place, but: it also raises some questions, like, what's a single mom with a large-ish family DOING in rural New Hampshire? How is she supporting herself? There are also some critical scenes in the novel, when the main character's best friend knows not to just walk into the house because he hears the parents fighting. Also, it changes the dynamic of the family. Suddenly, the main character is a boy without a childhood instead of a boy with an unfortunate one. I feel like there is an element of middle-class suburban teenage ennui that i would be unable to capture if the boy is being raised by a single, struggling parent. Another option would be to simply tone down the personality of the father so that the family seems a bit more stable and my main character can still have a childhood. Still, I don't know the best way to do that. How do you tone that kind of character down, and by how much. I feel like this is the best option, but also the hardest. What do you guys think? How can you tell when a character is unnecessary? What would you do in this situation? I'm really in a bind here, so any advice would be great!