Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's Time To Off The Parents

I'm currently writing a middle-grade novel.  One obstacle in writing for children-- and for young adults-- is figuring out a way to get rid of the parents.  Why?  Because when it comes to saving the world, parents just get in the way.  

No conscientious adult would knowingly allow a child to date a vampire, or go on a quest against the gods to find a bolt of lightening, or have a direct face-off against the world's vilest wizard.   They just wouldn't.  Somewhere along the way, a parent would say, "Hold up.  That's too dangerous.  I really don't think you should walk down into that dark cave by yourself to chat with that evil monster who just wants to kill you." 

So you have to get rid of the parents.  

The challenge is how to do this realistically and creatively.  I've only come up with a few ways to make this happen-- and none of them are that creative.  But I'm going to share them with you anyway:

First, you can kill them off.    Car accidents are always useful for this kind of thing.  Even better, you can  have them killed by the villain (that allows you the added bonus of giving the hero motive to go after said villain).   Killed in a plane crash, eaten by a monster, destroyed in some natural disaster--  really the options are endless (personally, mine get blown up in a grain silo explosion).  

The biggest obstacle with this choice is that it is so overdone.  Show me a child-hero and I can almost always show you an orphan.

A second option is to remove the parent from the scene of action.   Send them on a vacation, or off to work, or into the hospital.  It works even better if you get rid of the adult right at the moment they're needed most.  For example, an evil wizard is about to attack the school just as the headmaster is forced to give up his position (sound familiar?)  You can also move the child.  Send them on vacation or away to school. 

The problem with this choice is that usually when a responsible parent goes away, they leave a another responsible adult in their place.  If they don't, you have to provide a valid reason why.  Which means you're pretty much right back to where you started. 

This leads to the third option.  Give the parent (or other adult) a huge character flaw.  They can be crazy, complete idiots, or even evil.   This way, they are either oblivious to the danger of sending their child into that creepy cave all alone, or they're aware of it but have no qualms about sending them anyway.

The biggest problem with this choice is realism.  Seriously, wouldn't a loving parent at least have some idea that their child is dating a vampire?   And if crazy or evil is your method of choice, it's very difficult to portray a totally dysfunctional parent raising a totally well-adjusted child.  There's got to be some kind of fall-out.  Good authors can sometimes use this dysfunction as the very thing that makes the child a hero-- but it's tricky to do.

So what are some other options?  Does anyone out there have a brilliant way to get rid of the parents without killing them, sending them away, or making them crazy and evil?  But be warned, if you share it, I just might use it!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You Know You're A Heroine In A Romance Novel If...

We all have times when it's hard to see ourselves clearly or analyze a situation in our lives with clarity and objectivity.  Heroines in romance novels seem particularly lacking in the self-awareness department.  So, in case any of you out there are wondering if you're a heroine out of a Romance novel, I've come up with some signs that might help you figure it out:

1. The first time you meet your love interest, you instantly hate him, and he feels the same way about you.
2.  Despite your hatred, you can't help but acknowledge that he has a devilish smile and smoldering eyes.  And for some reason that is completely beyond you, every time he touches you or even steps near you it sends chills up your spine. Although you still hate him.
3.  Your love interest is virtually bereft of morals.  A rogue.  But for some reason he can't explain, he feels protective of you and flies into a rage if your safety, reputation, or feelings are at risk (that is, unless he's the one that's putting them at risk).  Although he still hates you.
4. Despite your obvious distaste for each other, fate continually throws you together in strange ways- like in a barn during a freak and totally unexpected thunderstorm, locked into a room together without a key, or lost in the woods and separated from anyone else.  Sometimes, all three of these.
5. You see your love interest in a compromising situation and instantly jump to the worst conclusion.  You also refuse to question him about it because, as far as you're concerned, having a frank and honest conversation is theworst way to work out a problem.
6.  In a completely shocking and totally sudden burst of insight, you realize that you have been in love with him from the moment you first met and that he is also in love with you.
7.  You two live happily ever after.
1. The first time you see your love interested (and usually before either of you has uttered a word), you fall madly, deeply in love.  The kind of love that makes you willing to sacrifice everything you hold most dear- including your life.
2.  You wake up in the middle of the night to find your love interest has broken into your house and is staring at you from the corner of the room.  And you think it's sweet.
3.  Your love interest has an enemy who is intent on destroying him by hurting you (either that, or his enemy is in love with you.  Either option works.)
3.  Within a few weeks (or days) of meeting, you will have to sacrifice everything you hold most dear- including your life.
4.  Your love interest will also be willing to sacrifice his life, and somehow that cancels out both your sacrifices and you get to keep everything.
5.  You two live happily ever after.

And in case you were wondering if you were in a Paranormal Romance, all of the above apply, with a few extras:
1.  Your love interest wants to eat you, drink your blood, or sacrifice you to some unknown power (particularly if you are fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen-years-old.  You might think you are in a horror novel, but you're confused- you're actually in a YA Paranormal Romance).
2.  Despite the fact that you've never entertained the idea of anything supernatural before, you take the fact that your boyfriend has supernatural abilities at face value without questioning it, nor does it make you question if any other kinds of supernatural creatures exist.  That would just be silly.

And if you thought you might be in a Romantic Comedy:
1. At some point within the first few days of meeting your love interest, you utterly and completely humiliate yourself in front of him.
2.  You lose your job, a family member, your home, or your best friend.  But you can laugh at it.

I hope this helped you.  It certainly helped me.  Imagine my surprise, after compiling this list, when I discovered that I'm not a romance heroine.  I'm actually more of a side character in a middle grade novel.  Go figure.