Tag Archives: why are parents always dead in stories

Why Are Parents Dead in Fiction?

24 Sep

Announcements:

ShannonAThompson.com hit 18,000 followers! As a surprise, I shared the meaning behind all the chapter titles in Take Me Tomorrow on my Facebook page. Every chapter title is actually a direct quote from the chapter you’re about to read. This is to represent the clairvoyant drug, tomo, since it allows takers to experience the future. For those who haven’t read the story, tomo does not necessarily give you clear visions. It affects all people and all senses differently. Sometimes, you hear it, taste it, smell it, or feel it. In fact, it’s hardly ever clear as to what is happening. Only those who are experienced with the drug are able to interpret what they are experiencing, and even then, everything is just a guess, and the drug itself is debatable. But the chapter titles aren’t! If you go through the novel you will see the titles later on in the prose. Chapter One – Don’t Come Back – is found in this quote, “My heart lurched at his sudden change in demeanor, but I managed a nod toward the north. The forest opened up to the only park Topeka still had. ‘Don’t come back.’”

When Eat Books For Breakfast reviewed Take Me Tomorrow, she said it “was definitely an intriguing read—different from most of the other books in its genre…I would recommend it to readers of young adult dystopian fiction.” Read the full review by clicking here or check out my latest novel here.

I would also like to take a moment to thank Dan Thompson for including Take Me Tomorrow in his post Two Books Are Better Than One. (And no, believe it or not, we’re not related.)

Thank you for reading my announcements today!

Why Are Parents Dead in Fiction?

The other day, I was sitting in a hookah house while attending an online event. (I don’t always have the Internet at home, so I go there to work.) That’s when a good friend of mine came up to keep me company, and I was telling him about a novel I am working on. The main character is an orphan. That’s when we got to talking.

Why are parents always dead or absent?

This isn’t a new conversation. I’ve had it with many people, mainly in regards to Disney movies, but I think it applies to most fiction, especially young-adult fiction, but I’ll get to why I think that in a minute. First, I would like to admit that my stories are no exception. The Timely Death Trilogy involves two protagonists – Eric’s biological mother committed suicide, and his father doesn’t have the best relationship with his son, while both of Jessica’s biological parents died in a car wreck, but she was adopted, and she does have a good relationship with her adoptive parents. In Take Me Tomorrow, Sophia’s father is practically absent due to his traveling job, and her mother hasn’t been in her life since she was seven, but she does live with a mother-sister figure named Lyn. Why did I do this? I can’t speak for every author when I explain my theories, but I will explain my personal reasons for deceased or absent parents as well as a hypothesis from the literary side. Before I continue, I want to clarify that I am (in general) talking about fiction for children and young adults.

Literary reason:

Coming-of-age is a popular topic among fiction for teens and preteens, mainly because they are going through it themselves. That being said, I think a huge factor of “coming-of-age” is finding yourself through independence. This is one of the main reasons I believe parents aren’t included in fiction, whether that is through death or absence, but another reason includes freedom. I know. I know. I sound horrible for saying freedom in regards to an absent parent, but I don’t mean “freedom” as a good thing. I mean it as a driving force for a character to venture outside of their home, to go on adventures, to strive to survive on their own. If they had a perfect family at home, this need for survival or adventure would be hard to justify. But I would like to point out one thing that others seem to forget to mention. Even if a character is an orphan or under other unfortunate circumstances, the character (usually) has a parental figure, and I think that is just as important as having a “real” parent in the story. To me, a “real” parent doesn’t have to give life to a child or adopt a child or anything in terms of a traditional definition. I believe a parent can be anyone who is the main guide and protector for a child. In that sense, I don’t believe we take parents out of fiction. I think we show readers that parents (guidance) can come from many places, which can be vital during a time in which young people are striving for independence outside the home.

From The Write Catch

From The Write Catch

Personal reason:

I am only including this section to give insight to an author’s reasoning behind it (rather than my above section that simply guesses as to why we find ourselves in those instances.) When it comes to dead or removed parents in fiction, I can relate to it. My mother died when I was 11, and my father was a traveling businessman. I hardly saw him growing up. In fact, I saw nannies more, and we never had the same one for long. Mainly because my brother and I were rather…well…angry might be the best way of saying it. The only time we did have another parent in the house was my stepmother, and she was only married to my dad for a year before they were divorced, and we definitely didn’t get along. Whew. Is that enough personal information? I don’t necessarily have a problem sharing it, even if it makes others uncomfortable, because it was my life. My life is much better now. But it’s hard for me to imagine a teenage-life with parents being actively involved, so I personally write about orphans or absent parents because that was my life growing up, and my characters are going to reflect certain parts of my life, even when I don’t realize it. That being said, I still believe that parents are in my fiction (like Lyn with Sophia in Take Me Tomorrow or Jessica’s adoptive parents in The Timely Death Trilogy, not to mention Eric’s stepmother.)

So where am I going with this?

Sometimes authors aren’t writing about orphans or neglected kids for literary reasons. Sometimes they are writing from their heart, and – in reality – I have met more teenagers who can relate to absent situations than not. Having a “perfect” family is…let’s be real…impossible. No one is perfect. Everyone is human. And families will reflect that both in life and in fiction.

The reason that parents are generally dead and/or absent is simple: it happens. But that doesn’t mean we can’t add more parents to story lines. In my little opinion, including them is just as fine as not including them as long as the author is being true to the story.

Feel free to comment below with your reasons or thoughts on this topic! I know we’ve all at least read a novel or seen a Disney movie that includes this debate, so chat away,

~SAT

Fiction Complaints I’m Complaining About

26 Jul

Announcements:

We had a very exciting day yesterday! Take Me Tomorrow hit the top 100 in dystopian novels! It was even next to two of my favorite novels, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, and Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi so my little heart was filled with overwhelming joy.

65 in dystopian!

65 in dystopian!

Thank you for your support! Whether or not the sequel is released is entirely up to you, the readers and fans, so I hope you continue to check out my latest novel. (Because I really want to release the sequel!) Be sure to let me know if you post a review on your blog, so I can share it with everyone. Just email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

To celebrate, I finally uploaded the soundtrack of Take Me Tomorrow to my favorite music station, 8tracks, so you can check it out by clicking here.

In other news, I was interviewed by Diary of an Eager Reader, and you can read it by clicking here. We talk about my biggest challenges as a writer, but we also discussed Take Me Tomorrow if you want to read more about it! And if you want to interview me, again, I’m available at shannonathompson@aol.com. I love speaking with you! So please don’t hesitate to message me.

Fiction Complaints I’m Complaining About

We’ve all dealt with this. You’re interested in a novel, and you tiptoe over to Amazon to check it out. Once you read the synopsis, you scroll a little further (hesitantly, of course) to see what other readers are saying. That’s when you read “Best Book Ever!” and “I hate this piece of crap” right next to one another. Confusing? Yes. But even worse are the ones that don’t explain.

Today, I wanted to talk about my top fiction complaints that have left me staring at my screen a little too hard. I only hesitated to write about this because I’m an author, too, and I don’t want any reviewer to think I’m complaining about them. In fact – this might seem strange – but I don’t mind these complaints as an author. If I saw any of these on my books, it doesn’t bother me. After all, readers are allowed to say whatever they want. But it does bother me as a reader when I’m looking for book suggestions because the reviews suddenly become very difficult to sift through. That being said, I normally don’t buy books based on reviews. Generally, I read the synopsis, take a look at the first three chapters, and go from there, but I do find myself reading the reviews after I’m done reading, and these are the top complaints I see that I truly don’t understand:

I hate this genre

So…why did you pick it up? No. Seriously. I want to know. Did you think this would be an exception? Why did you think it would be an exception? Why did it not turn out to be an exception? I don’t necessarily mind this complaint if they answer these questions, but I hardly ever see that. I just see one or two stars and this single statement. This doesn’t help me decide if this book is good or bad or in-between or anything. It just tells me about your preference, which can get really confusing since genres can describe a wide range of stories. In fact, genres are normally only picked for marketing reasons.

I bought this book for are friends, and there not happy with it, so don’t waist you’re money.

Sigh. Seriously. ::facepalm:: This kind of review blows my mind – especially if they complain that the book wasn’t professionally edited.

Parent/s and/or sibling/s are dead (or absent)

Warning: longest rant to come:

I realize that there is an abundance of these instances, but of course there are. Someone is going to be dead or absent or mean or have some kind of conflicting problem. If a character’s family were perfect, how annoying would that be? (Not to mention that it would be entirely unrealistic.) I don’t know about you guys, but every person I’ve met isn’t perfect, including parents, and “imperfections” is generally why someone is interesting because it’s make them…you know…human.

When it comes to the young adult genre, I think it’s also important to remember that teen readers are in a time in their life where they are striving to be independent, so they probably don’t want to read a novel full of parental influence. Not that parental influence is a bad thing, but a teen might even look at a perfectly good parent as a bad parent just because they are teens. I know I was that way at one point, so if the book is told from their perspective that could be another reason this trend happens.

But I want to add this to the conversation: As a kid who went through the loss of a parent, gaining a stepfamily, and watching my dad get a divorce from said stepfamily, I am not special. I met dozens of teens that were also going through many of the same shifts I was going through. The divorce rate is currently 50%, and 1/7 people will lose a parent or a sibling before the age of 20, not to mention other issues families can have. But you still feel rather alone when you’re young, and seeing teens in books going through the same kind of struggles helps. That being said, I would like to see more books with both parents actively involved, but I wouldn’t complain about a book where a parent or sibling is absent whether it is physical or emotional because it happens often in real life.

Factually wrong information in general

We’ve all seen it. That one review that says something like, “This book is told in third person, and it’s really weird.” But when you open the sample novel up, it’s told in first person, and you’re sitting there, scratching your head as you seriously consider whether you forgot the definition of first and third person until you realize – nope, you’re not crazy. The reviewer put the review on the wrong book. Or – worse – they didn’t read the book at all.

There are too many boys/girls in the book

Why does their gender matter? As long as the characters are round – complicated and they are there for a reason – I could care less if they are boys or girls. I understand this complaint if it follows up with “every girl was falling in love with him for no reason” but I have seen someone mention exact numbers like, “there were 10 boys and 4 girls” without elaborating on WHY this was annoying…especially when the book takes place in an all-boys school or in some other instance where the extreme numbers make sense. Without mentioning a specific book, I did read a book about a boy character who had a lot of friends that were girls in which someone complained about it, but I didn’t understand, because the boy was raised by his mother and sister, so he was more comfortable around girls, and it made sense. I can relate to this. As a girl raised by my father and brother, I mainly had guy friends growing up. That doesn’t mean every single one of them felt romantic toward me. In fact, I was as attractive to them as a lamp would be – meaning, not at all – but I don’t see anything wrong with a boy having girls around him or a girl having guys around them as long as it makes sense to the story and isn’t an excuse to have an empty array of love interests.

(Insert controversial political or religious topic here)

Keep your politics out of fiction reviews unless the book is specifically about discussing them. I’m looking at you, anti-reviewers of erotica. (At least, this is where I see it the most.) I have nothing wrong with someone having specific beliefs about when a man or a woman or anyone has sex with someone, but don’t shove it down others’ throats by filling up erotica book reviews with “I only read romance novels when they’re married like you should be” when you haven’t read a single page of their book. It doesn’t help potential buyers, and it will probably only hurt your review ranking, especially if you’re – in fact – wrong because I have seen this on a book where the characters were married, but (I’m assuming) the reviewer was mass reviewing erotica novels because it was against their personal beliefs. Amazon should not be your political or religious platform UNLESS the book is slated toward that discussion. Then again – on the contrary – I see nothing wrong with someone reading and reviewing a novel and stating something along the lines like “this book will not appeal to readers who are uncomfortable with premarital sex.” Just don’t go mass searching for these novels just to put them down.

And finally –

Complaining about another’s complaint

Haha. Yes, I just did it to myself. I’m just as guilty as everyone else. I am here, talking about the types I hate, but here’s the truth – readers are allowed to review a book for whatever reason they want to review it as. There is no rule that states your review has to be detailed or helpful to someone else, but I do believe Amazon asks reviewers to be helpful (and definitely not spiteful.) But I am amazed sometimes by the amount of drama I’ve seen unfold on someone’s review by other reviewers. If you think it’s spiteful, please report it to Amazon or Goodreads, but yelling at one another is getting us nowhere. We all have different opinions. I’m sure I’ve written a 5-star review on a novel that another reader thought was so bad it was insane. For all I know, someone is writing on their blog right now and using my review as an example as what not to do. But that’s okay because we’re all allowed our own opinions. That’s the beauty of it all! Just try to back up your opinion with sincere criticism and encouragement.

So those are my top types of reviews that I cannot stand as a reader. What can I say? I meant to do five, but I kept typing. Have you ever seen a review complaint that you couldn’t believe? As a reader, do they ever sway you one way or another?

Feel free to share below!

~SAT

%d bloggers like this: