Monday, November 14, 2011

If I were Coraline...

So a few weeks ago I watched Coraline on ABC Family's 13 Days of Halloween.
For those of you who don't know it's about a girl who moves with her parents who are writers (how appropriate), they're stuck with deadlines and Coraline feels unappreciated. She meets her "other" family who's perfect. Obviously there has to be drama but you'll have to watch the film to find out.

For this post it just got me thinking on families. How do you write parents? In YA they have to be figured out before the story starts but in Adult stories they don't play as big of a part. I still like to account for mine though.

My question is how do you portray the parents? Do you make them what you wish you had growing up? Do you make them complicated to get rid of them?

I'm always curious how ones dig down deep to utilize the parent role. And for those who have their parents play a key part in the story, what made you go that route?

For me I love the complicated. The mom that means well but no matter what she does seems to complicate matters further. It makes an even messier path for my character to figure herself out before she reaches the terrifying age of thirty.

21 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My stories are adult, but for the most part, the parents are absent. Actually, most of them are dead.

Katie Ganshert said...

I love the complicated too!

You know, I always write parents differently. I seem to kill a lot of parents too. Not during the novel, but in the character's back story.

You know who would have lots of great things to say about this? Jeannie Campbell? Have you heard of Jeannie? She's The Character Therapist. She's amazing and she has all kinds of stuff to say about parent/child relationships.

www.charactertherapist.com

LTM said...

LOL--terrifying age of 30... :D I do have parents in my stories, but mostly my YA ones. But it's because parents are a huge part of your life as a teen. They're the great big NO. :D At the same time, secondary characters must be 3D, so I try to give them their own lives and stories. Just to a lesser extent. Yes? :o) <3

E Louise Bates said...

I write mostly YA and MG - in the YA, I actually like to have the parents play a fairly significant role. Not that they take away from the MC's ability to figure things out, but I really love to write parents who are supportive but believe in letting their kids figure things out for themselves unless the kids actually ask for help. Which is idealized, I know, but if I can make it work, I like to.

Or I have occasionally done the "Mrs Bennet" type mother - the bundle of nerves who makes everyone's life infinitely more complicated. SO MUCH FUN to write!

LynnRush said...

I'm with Alex. Most of my parents are dead. And usually suffered a horrible death. what's that make me?

LOL.

No...I have a few projects where parents are present. I have some who are present and involved (annoyingly in my opinion...which makes it fun) or some who are gone a lot for work....just depends on where the story takes me. :)

Donelle Lacy said...

The relationships between parents and kids in YA seems to reflect a lot of what the writer values - if they think the parents are important or not, mostly. I enjoy writing the father in my Victorian YA fantasy, because he's so flawed. Time has changed him, embittered him, and he's trying to protect his daughter (the MC) in the only way he knows how. They have a very strained relationship which is hard on my MC because her mother's not around (dead/missing).

Like Coraline, my MC Lividia resents her father for keeping her at arm's length, for not sharing certain things with her, for making all her decisions for her. A lot of these things are based on the time period, but a lot have to do with how her father has changed and how he's 'protecting' her. I love family dynamics and complications too. They really help craft a plot. So I think it's important to include them - happy or not - in the story.

Talli Roland said...

Interesting! Hmm... I guess it depends on how I want my main character to be. I usually use the parents for justification. Bet my mum loves that! :)

xoxo said...

I try my best to use parents in my stories, if the characters are the right age. Because I've noticed YA novels nowadays seem to abandon them unrealistically by the wayside.
Xoxo

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Parents are there, but not there in my stories. I usually have the kids "away from home" for one reason or another. Hmmm . . . never thought about that. :)

Sarah Allen said...

Interesting post. I like complicated too. My current is an adult novel, and my MC's dad died before he was born, and his mom is loving but a little whacky. That's what I've got thus far. I think it really depends on each character and each story.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

DL Hammons said...

For most of my life I semi-blamed my parents for making me endure a military life where we moved every couple of years. I've come to accept it now, but it will bleed out every now and again in my stories.

Amie McCracken said...

I think it really depends on the story. But a lot of YA makes the parents neglectful or dead probably to force them out of the story or effect the protagonist.

Johanna Garth said...

All I could think when I read this post is the way my mom reacts to everything I've ever written....well, the mother character doesn't seem to be fully developed! Ack, mom, it's not about you!!

Nicole Zoltack said...

In Elena's Pen, Elena's parents are basically my parents.

In my princess story, Cassandra's parents only make cameo appearances since most of the time, Cassandra is sneaking out of the castle to go on adventures.

In most of my other stories, the parents are dead.

Bish Denham said...

So far my MG stories don't have parents in them except peripherally. We know they are there, that they are good people, but they aren't part of the story.

Jennie Bailey said...

It depends. In my first book, I wrote the Dad that I had always wanted and only had half of. In my second book, the parents weren't in the picture (Dystopian). And in my NaNo, the father is deeply flawed. The mother is actually mentally ill. They just come with the story and I'm not sure where I get them from. GREAT blog post!!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I like complicated to. :)
Dang, I'm sorry I missed that movie.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I write YA, so parents are a biggie. They usually make my mc's life a lot more difficult, though they may not always mean to. I notice a lot of YA gets rid of the parent so the kid can scramble through things on their own (good for character arc). It's tricky finding new ways to get rid of the parents, besides killing them off, which seems to be a popular choice. :)

Amy

Cheree said...

I love the complicated. I write YA, sometimes parents play a big part, but sometimes I do have the absent parent (but there's always a complicated backstory about why they're missing and they're always important to the story).

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

thanks for the shout out, katie! i got the google alert and popped over here. great blog, jen. and of course, please let me know if i can help out with parental stuff. it is a specialty. :)

jeannie
the character therapist

E.R. King said...

Parents are people, too. It's important to show their flaws and strength, especially in parenting because that's realistic. That being said, I love my parents. I know they're not perfect, but as I've grown older they've become my friends. I respect them a lot! I tend to write parents like mine.