We tend to ignore characters if they make things difficult for us. We see so many vampires and werewolves because they're much sexier than mummies. We avoid the parents because we want to put our MC in danger. We're all aware of the trope - the teen MC with dead or otherwise incapacitated parents, or the uninvolved, either selfish or simply ignorant mother/father. I'm talking YA, but the truth is this is even harder to deal with in MG because of the level of independence a 12 year old has when compared to a 16 year old.
So what do we do? How do we cope? We know we can't rush to the rescue, so we need some way to keep the parents out of the way. Right? Not always. Here are three possibilities that may make the characters more complex:
- The parent is part of the story in an integral and positive way. Sometimes they can play the role of guide or support. Yes, the MC needs to solve the problem herself. But we allow her friends and love interests, so why not adult interaction? Don't be afraid to give it a try, you might be surprised with what you find.
- The parent has an agenda of his/her own that whether well intentioned or not, is in some way at odds with that of the MC. So they may be around, offer guidance even, but it may not be what the MC really needs.
- The missing (whether physically or mentally) parent. I'm absolutely guilty of ditching the parents in my own work. I admit it. Sometimes it's just plain necessary. But (and here's the key I think) I TRY to make it a genuine part of the story - not just a convenience. It's important to me to make the pieces connect back to the larger puzzle. Sometimes I strike out, and I have to work even harder, but it's a worthy goal so I strive to meet it.
What other inventive ways can we involve the parents in the story?