Parents in Stories

1:00 AM

As writers, parents in stories can be tricky. I mean, if you look at most classic stories, the parents are absent. So, here are a few tips for having your parents in your story.

Remember that adventures and parents can go together. Many stories start with the assumption that if the parents aren't there, the story will be stronger. I've found that is sometimes the case. However, also having parents along can create some pretty interesting situations and food for thought.

Parents are as diverse as people are, with complex motivations. Often, we (which includes me) often cast our parents in stereotypes which I call Clueless, Useless, and Evil. Clueless parents are usually pretty stupid and the kid is smarter then they are. Useless is a parent that is present, but self-absorbed and is unaware or doesn't care about what is going on. They usually aren't bad, they just don't notice. Of course, there is the most popular of an evil parent, the over-controlling mother, the father that is cruel, and so on.  When writing parents, consider breaking the mold and giving them complex motivations, and realistic involvement in their childs life. Also, if you write multiple books, consider having different types of parents in the story. 

Have the courage to tackle things that aren't easy. Many books have parents who have died or have made major mistakes. Consider bucking the trend. Show the struggles between parents and their grown children who have a pretty good relationship, but still struggle. Perhaps show a parent who has hurt their child in some way in the past, but has repented. Or how about taking on how to honor your parents as an adult living at home? There are a lot of areas to explore. 

Write what you know or spend time to learn. I've been very blessed with two amazing parents. I don't have first hand expirace with bad ones. So, when I've written parents that were not stellar parents, it was important that I dig in and read or talk with someone who had delt with a parent with the flaws the character had. One of the more helpful resources is Christan raidio/podcasts where teachers interview people who have had a hard time, but see it through the lens of God's redemptive power.

What is your favorite fictional parent(s)? 

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  1. This is such a great reminder, Sarah! So often I've seen authors, especially younger ones, leave out the parents completely, or mostly, or give them "new" parents. You are right, it just seems "more exciting" or something to not have the parents, but God's plan for the family includes parents. Thanks for promoting this. :)

  2. Great points, Sarah! I've also read many books where parents were kind and involved but just undeveloped because they didn't play a big role. As I've grown older, I've wanted to write about and read about more complex parents. Some of my favorite dads in literature are Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird and Jeremiah Land in Peace Like a River. They both taught their children important lessons but fought their own struggles as well. I might comment again later when I remember who my favorite moms are. :)

  3. The world could use more books with good parents in them! Though I know I've been guilty of conveniently getting them out of the way, I'm trying hard not to do that as much anymore. ;P Personally my favorite book parents are from Keira by Kate Willis. They were epic.