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View Full Version : Should parents be absent or distant in YA?



Southern_girl29
03-10-2007, 12:05 AM
I was doing some research on the genre and found one author who said she thought parents should be in the background or completely absent in YA and MG.

The reason I ask is that my character's father is out of the picture for the first five chapters of my new WIP. However, she does a lot of interacting with her momma and granny. Her father comes back into the picture in chapter 5, and he will help her deal with problems she's having. She's a psychic and so is he, and he's going to help her develop her skills and learn to manage the visions she has.

She does go to school, and I have those kinds of scenes in there, too. But, a lot of it is going to be centered around her parents. Is this a problem?

Claudia Gray
03-10-2007, 12:51 AM
I don't think it's a problem, as long as your YA character remains the focus and there's a valid reason for her relationship with her father and/or mother to be a big part of what's going on (as it seems you do here). I definitely think that YA readers are not interested in teenagers' relationships with their parents, but if they are interested in the events in your character's life in which her parents naturally play a role, then that is okay.

In my YA book, the character is very close to her parents, which is unusual for the genre. But it was right for her, because she was supposed to be extremely sheltered and shy. Trust your story, I'd say.

Mr. Jinx
03-10-2007, 02:07 AM
However you do it the main character needs to solve the problems and/or face the conflict without the intervention of adult characters. At least that is my take on the rule about keeping adults out of YA and MG.

In my manuscript there are adults who occassionaly give some guidance, but when the chips are down its up to the YA characters to use (or not use) that guidance combined with their own experience when faced with the challenges in the story.

It sounds like something similar might be happening in your story where her father comes back and provides her with some key tools she uses to overcome the final challenge(s) in the last act. As long as she is the one who ultimately faces them I dont think you should run into any problems having her folks around.

Dancre
03-10-2007, 07:31 AM
Well, as I remember Nancy Drew's father was just there to help out when she needed it. And I can remember loving the fact her parents weren't there, she seemed so independent. I wanted to be just like her. sigh . . . to be a child again.

weatherfield
03-10-2007, 07:44 AM
I agree wholeheartedly with what Mr. Jinx said. Autonomy and independence are very important in YA, but I think it's important to show family relationships as well. Just because teenagers are in the process of becoming independent doesn't mean that their families don't have a significant impact on them, and I think it's unrealistic for the parent characters to recede completely into the background.

An author who, in my opinion, handles parents very well is Laurie Halse Anderson. In both Speak and Catalyst, the parents are fleshed out and seem real and present, even though they don't actually get a lot of page time. It always bothered me when I would read YA and the parents would be completely absent, because even if you're at a point where you don't see them a lot, your parents are still a large part of who you are and how you've experienced the world growing up. Well, it sure took me a long time to say that I think parents are important in YA. That is, as long as they don't interfere with the MC figuring things out on her own :D

Shady Lane
03-10-2007, 08:51 AM
I have a really hard time writing adults because, well, I've never been one, but I love parents in YA. They're really one of the most integral parts of the story. To be honest, a teenager's relationship with his parents determines his relationship with everyone else. Seeing the parents and children together shows huge aspects of the character.

So absolutely plug in parents if they're useful to the story. But please try to steer away from the usual stereotypes, you know: drunk abusive fathers, stupid mothers. They get old.

Elektra
03-10-2007, 10:11 PM
Ditto to Jinx--also, your character sounds like he's stepped away from the more traditional father role, and into the wise-old-man-as-mentor role.

Melanie Nilles
03-10-2007, 11:35 PM
I have a really hard time writing adults because, well, I've never been one, but I love parents in YA. They're really one of the most integral parts of the story. To be honest, a teenager's relationship with his parents determines his relationship with everyone else. Seeing the parents and children together shows huge aspects of the character.

So absolutely plug in parents if they're useful to the story. But please try to steer away from the usual stereotypes, you know: drunk abusive fathers, stupid mothers. They get old.

Never been an adult? I like how you put that :)

I include the adults in my YA. They're characters too, part of the teens' lives. Why should they be excluded or shoved to the background? In my stories, there is a more traditional, "normal" relationship with the parents/guardians. You're right about the stereotypes--they're almost too cliche. My teens are ordinary teens in modern society thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and in one story the MC only thinks she's human until she discovers the truth. (I tend to write paranormal/SFF YA.) A friend of mine loves that one and the fact that the relationships with the adults are there and are "normal"--she reads it over and over and can't wait until she can hold the book (Dark Angel). She's an adult but prefers reading YA.

I think writing adults into YA is like anything else in writing--do what's right for the story. I don't even think otherwise when I'm writing. In my current WIP, the MC has a special relationship with his grandfather, who seems to be the only person in his life interested in the things happening to him, since he isn't sure he should tell his friends. He's afraid of his friends thinking he's nuts and turning away from him.

The adults don't take a front seat but are there like everything else in the MC's life and he or she will interact with them.

Melanie

Christine N.
03-11-2007, 03:26 AM
Agreed. Parents may be 'there' but they cannot solve the MC's problems. They can be used as a sounding board, a source of comfort or conflict (hey, they're teenagers, conflict is more likely), and even support, but they cannot save the day.
Even Harry Potter, who has no parents. The adults around him were stripped away, one by one, so now in the final book it's going to be all up to him.

Or else, why write it? :D

The_Grand_Duchess
03-11-2007, 03:30 AM
I think having parents in YA is fine becuase teenagers (for the most part) have parents. Realistically there will be a time when they interact with an adult figure in thier home unless its some sort of orphan/people live on thier own earlier storyline.

But I also agree with what others have said in that the teen needs to solve things mostly on thier own.

AllyWoof
03-11-2007, 08:16 PM
I have seen a lot of YA novels that feature adults. However, there presence should be linked to whatever the "children" are doing in some way. Don't just throw them in for the hell of it.

Southern_girl29
03-12-2007, 09:53 PM
Thanks everyone. My character will eventually face down the killer by herself with the help of two of her friends. Her mother has been kidnapped by the killer, and her father is hurt, so she has to go alone with her friends. I think that's the best way to do it.

giftedrhonda
03-12-2007, 10:01 PM
Have the parents involved as necessary for the plot--not too much, but not invisible (unless that's part of the plot). In short, do what's right for your story. :D

Jordygirl
05-14-2007, 03:21 AM
Like so many things, it depends on your story. Obviously if you're writing something like John Green's Looking for Alaska, parents wouldn't be there. But if you're writing something like Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever, parents are an important part of the story. I don't think there is (or should be) a set "rule" about parents or other adults in YA. The writer has to decide based on what the story is about and what is propelling the story.

Ex: My current WIP is about two sisters (not twins!!) who are best friends. The parents are there, and they pop out of the woodwork every so often, but the girls' relationships with Mom and Dad aren't a big part of the story. It's about the sisters and their lives.

SilverVistani
05-16-2007, 12:45 PM
I'd never really considered the role of adult characters in YA fiction. Really, I don't think that it's a problem to have adult characters involved. I agree with the thought that they shouldn't solve the problems, but they definitely shouldn't just 'disappear' in my opinion.

I don't know... perhaps it's just that I always had strong ties to my parents and a handful of my aunts/uncles. But even as I continue to grow older (I'll be turning 21 next month) I still go to them when I need advice or even just a loving hug and a shoulder to cry on.

Another thing to consider, is that everyone's relationship with their parents/guardians will be different. Generally, also, it tends to be an important part of who the character becomes. So that's another thing to consider when writing your characters and their adult relations.

Keep at it! I think the story sounds very interesting, and I'll bet that it wouldn't be the same without the adult characters. Especially when you consider that the main character -would- in fact -need- someone to help her figure out her powers. Mentors (and eventually peers) are very important in any step of a person's life. That's something I think will always be true.

So, good luck! I wish you all the best with your story.

justpat
05-17-2007, 07:34 AM
Parents? I don't think it matters if they're around or not, but like Mr. Jinx says, they can't solve the problem for you MC. But that goes for any genre, the MC has to resolve the conflict. The movie 'Adaptation' has some great parts about just that.

TsukiRyoko
05-17-2007, 07:39 AM
So long as your MC remains the MC, I see no problem.