Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Protagonist vs. Adults

by C. LaRene Hall
I, like many of you, am looking forward to attending some writer’s conferences this year. It’s a time to learn new things and a time to reflect on things already learned. It’s a time to improve in our writing and meet new and old friends.

With this in mind, I pulled out some notes from last year. There is one class I attended that somehow slipped right past me. The name of the class taught by Tyler Whitesides, was called The Hero/Family Relationship in Middle Grade and Y/A. I enjoyed the class but I didn’t do anything about it. Since that's the age group I write for I should pay better attention. That means I never read my notes and I didn’t try to do better by putting the things I heard in the class into my writing.

Why? I have no idea. I just know that if you don’t try the things you learn or hear, you may as well have stayed home. Maybe old habits are hard to break.

The class objective that day was to analyze the relationship that exists between your protagonist and the adults in your manuscript. He told us that Fantasy novels in particular 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.

He spoke about their age, place in the family, personality, and background experiences. Understanding the relationship/interactions between your hero and the adults will give 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 kid in danger and have them save the day.

This has made me stop and think about my newest story and wonder what I can do different. I don’t think I can leave the parents out of the story but I’m going to read my notes carefully and think this story through.


Keith N Fisher said...

I guess every protagonist can't be an orphan. Too bad. who wants to deal with parents?

James Duckett said...

Good article. And you were right, I was just thinking about this a few hours ago regarding my WIP. I thought, "Wait, I can't have him running into his parents at this part of the story, his mother would put a stop to everything he is trying to do, and his father would ruin the big reveal at the end of the story." So now I have to rub them out of a few scenes.