Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Hero/Family Relationship in Middle Grade and Y/A

by C. LaRne Hall

This is going to take a few more weeks to be able to tell you about the writing classes I attended at the Storymakers conference the beginning of May. Today I'm starting on the classes that I took on Saturday. The first one was taught by Tyler Whitesides. This class made me stop and think about the things that my writing is missing.

Class Objective – analyze the relationship that exists between your protagonist and the adults in your manuscript and learn how to deal with parents or guardians while staying true to your hero’s character.

Fantasy novels often benefit from the absence of parents cluttering up the story. The child protagonists in such stories often engage in adventures and feats which no sane parent would permit; leaving the parents out of the story prevents these complications.

“A dead parent is one fewer character to have to write. When authors omit parents for the sake of convenience, I take issue because a convenient story is not the same as a good story.” by Leila Sales

Who is responsible for your protagonist? There is almost always an adult responsible. Who? It could be parents, relatives, and legal guardians, and caregivers, institutions such as orphanage or boarding school. The adults could be abusive, neglectful, incapable, disbelieving, overly busy, unintelligible, inarticulate, supportive, positive, or overly involved.

Your Hero
Age – How does this age affect his/her feelings towards adults?
Place in family – oldest – youngest – only-child – orphan. How does this affect him/her?
What are some of your hero’s personality traits? Is your hero shy – outspoken – mischievous – truthful? How does this affect his/her interactions with adults?
Background/experiences – betrayed – neglected – spoiled. What background/experiences has your hero had that may affect the way he/she views adults?

The Caregivers
Personality of the adult responsible for your hero in your manuscript – are they controlling – lax – paranoid? What are some of the caregiver’s personality traits? How does this affect your hero?
Background/experiences – personal childhood – personal mistakes – imposed aspirations.
Responsibilities – money – work – housing. What responsibilities does the caregiver have? How does this affect your hero?

Bypassing Adults – parents are involved in the story – child lies to/deceives parents (it has to be in the protragonist personality) – child tells adults, but they don’t listen. This will lend credibility to your story. Maybe there are no adults in the story at all – it’s a setting in a parent-free environment. It could be a place unknown or unreachable by adults or the parents are under a spell.

If you understand the relationship/interactions between your hero and the adults it will give more realism to your story. At the end of the story, your protagonist has to be the hero, whether or not adults are there. When all the action is coming together have the kids in danger and have them save the day.


Donna K. Weaver said...

Yes. There needs to be a reason why the child/youth protagonist can't got to an adult.

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