Here’s an interesting creative writing thought to think about… What do you do with your main character’s parents in middle grade writing?
This might not be entirely a middle grade writing example, but take Disney films. As in the animated ones.
How many parents are missing from those movies?
There’s Bambi, whose mother gets shot and whose father is largely a deadbeat dad and therefore not in the picture too much. Meanwhile, in Dumbo, mama Jumbo gets locked up in jail quickly enough for protecting her baby.
Incidentally, two of my best friends absolutely hate both movies because of those angles. They’re quite adamant about how they’re never going to stroll down memory lane with me over either one.
They will, however, watch Beauty and the Beast, no matter that Belle’s mom is dead and her father is largely out of the picture… Snow White even though she’s an out-and-out orphan… Tangled despite how she’s kidnapped by a wicked old woman right at the beginning, thereby cutting mother and father out of the picture… and the list goes on.
Parents are very expendable in Disney movies. And the same applies to main characters’ parents in middle grade writing
To a creative writing degree, that makes a lot of sense, as our Writing Challenge below both acknowledges – and takes to task.
Find a way to involve your main character’s parents.
Middle grade writing has a bad tendency to completely remove Mom and Dad from the picture. Certainly, it is true that proper parents can complicate a plot pretty significantly. After all, if they’re doing their job, they’re going to make sure that eight to 12-year-olds aren’t getting into too much trouble. And then what’s there to write about?
Even so, in a world that’s filled with so many disturbing influences, it’s probably not a bad idea to portray parents as offering loving advice and caring supervision.
After all, kids can occasionally get into pretty significant trouble even with the best of parents involved. Thinking back to my own childhood, I’m sure I can recall a few adventures I probably shouldn’t have taken but did anyway. Because, hey, Mom and Dad couldn’t watch me 24-7, right?
Now, admittedly, those adventures were limited. But there are always creative writing ways around such issues as proper parenting.
For instance, maybe Mom and Dad have to go on a joint business trip since they run their own tax consultancy together. There’s a tax consultancy conference five states away in Arizona that could open up whole new business doors, and they’re taking the opportunity while they can.
Or perhaps they won a free week-long cruise. Either way, you know what that means, right?
And you know how babysitters can be tricked, manipulated and otherwise tied up (perhaps literally) every other page. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Let the adventures begin!
There’s also the option of setting your plot up during the summertime, when Dad is working his full-time job and Mom is tending to her ailing mother-in-law on a weekly basis. Again, opportunities abound.
Yet opportunities also abound to establish parents as worthwhile resources for readers who are just starting to really question what Mom and Dad say, potentially setting them up for some pretty nasty falls.
Your main character’s parents in middle grade writing don’t have to be on every single page. They don’t even have to be in every single chapter. But keep in mind that your plot could become more powerful for a solid mention every now and then.
Not to mention what it could do to your readers.