1. Miku

    Miku New Member

    Sep 28, 2012
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    The orphaned protagonist: Overdone or justified trope?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Miku, Sep 30, 2012.

    I am in the beginning stages of my story and am stuck on whether I should make my protagonist an orphan or not. I know it is easier for the protagonist to cut ties and live out their adventures when they are orphans, but it is rare to see parents alive in contemporary fantasy books so I don't want to "jump on the bandwagon" so to speak.
    For a little background information, my story is set in an alternative reality in which werewolves exist and the world progressed based on alchemy rather than other sciences. Alchemy is a science but also has a bit of magic to it as well. The story is set in the United States, which was once one of the leading world powers but fell after a terrible economic downfall. Years later, the alchemists discovered a substance in American soil that could be used as a superconductor for alchemy, and their land possessed 70% of that mineral, giving them an edge which helped them regain power. The country is still in its reconstruction stage. Werewolves, who protected the country from invasion while it was too weak to defend itself, are no longer needed, and the territories that they once lived on have been taken over for mining. The tension between the humans and werewolves became worse over time as werewolves lost territories, fell into poverty, and now mostly work in the dangerous mines.
    I toyed with the idea of making my main heroine an orphan, her parents the victims of a massacre that occurred in her childhood home, a werewolf commune on the outskirts of a metropolis. I thought that her parents being dead would reflect the times in that many werewolves living outside of the designated metropolises are subject to harsh discrimination and violence. But now I am wondering if I should keep her parents alive.
    Are your protagonist's parents alive? Why did you choose to keep them alive at the beginning if so? Which do you prefer and why?
  2. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    No story element is overdone. It is either done well, or it is done badly.

    But consider this: Parents make a great complication, and complications are the meat, potatoes, and dessert of plot.
  3. lixAxil

    lixAxil Self-Proclaimed Senator of the RPG subforum. Contributor

    Sep 1, 2012
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    The sea of fragments


    There exist nothing that is overused, anything, even the most "cliche" story can be original according of how is pulled
  4. Show

    Show Contributor Contributor

    Jul 25, 2008
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    It's no more overdone than characters with parents complicating their lives. ;)
  5. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Sep 24, 2009
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    Alabama, USA
    Exactly. It's all how you work it into your story.

    Most of my characters are orphaned because the story demands that they be orphans. Amos, his parents were killed by the British and their Indian allies during the French and Indian War. Mishu Jerni, her parents died in a carriage accident that rendered her blind. I did toy with the idea that her lover, Akeshia Valmorn had two dead parents as well, or that only her mother was dead, but I didn't want to rip off of Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender with the 'dead mom, but living dad in a war' thing, so I'm considering altering her family a bit so that she can still have her parents.

    Helen Chert isn't an orphan, but her parents spend most of their time on the Earth and don't appear often. They understand that their baby girl has to go onto dangerous missions, and don't interfere that much. xD Though she DOES fall in love with a man who was orphaned at a young age. So there are some orphans here and there in my stories, be they the protags or not.

    If it makes more sense for your MC to be an orphan, then do it.
  6. captain kate

    captain kate Active Member

    May 4, 2008
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    Cruising through space.
    But lack of them, and the massive struggles it can bring about, also can give you the meat, potatoes and creme brulee of a plot also. Depending on the skill of a writer, he or she can take the lack of parents, and make it something the character overcomes, or if one really wanted to be plain evil (depending on the type of novel you're writing) it could be used as a tool for psychological manipulations.
  7. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Dec 30, 2010
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    Put the parents in if there's a function for them in the story. If not, then do what you like, to be honest - have them as side characters or omit them altogether. Frankly I don't think the reader will care unless the presence of parents or the lack of actually plays a part in the plot.

    For mine - my MC is an orphan, it just made sense and his parents have no role in the story at all, and besides he's a poor uneducated thief in a fantasy story so orphan just sorta made sense. I became this way - I didn't just go "Ok he's gonna be an orphan" but the more I thought about my plot the more it made sense to simply omit the parents altogether. Besides, the novel actually started out with my MC not being a natural born being anyway and he actually began with adoptive parents, who got deleted later.

    My female MC - her parents are indeed alive but they never appear in the book. I saw no reason to mention whether they're dead or alive, it just didn't matter, but if someone asked then yes, the parents are actually alive. Her father is an important figure in my book but only as a past trauma on my male MC's teenage life, so the father is mentioned but never physically there.

    My next 2 novel ideas which I'm developing - Megan and Lukas both have parents (crime novel) but Lukas' will never appear, to be honest, and Megan's only appear because I have to introduce her sister Ashley, who gets kidnapped and trafficked into the sex industry in Prague. And my other idea with Tim and Cora - Cora is the mother of Tim, and there's a father figure but the dad is an abusive drunk and I haven't decided if he's gonna play a role or even appear yet. He might, because this one (a thriller I think) is about second chances and making amends.
  8. AlexinDelhi

    AlexinDelhi New Member

    Sep 30, 2012
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    "I thought that her parents being dead would reflect the times in that many werewolves living outside of the designated metropolises are subject to harsh discrimination and violence."
    Go with it.

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