1. My protagonist is in a situation similar to Harry’s where he is constantly searching for more info about his deceased parents, and people are always comparing him to his dad.  In his case it adds a lot of pressure because his parent was a famous and very successful military captain.  People recognize him wherever he goes because he looks a lot like his dad, so he can’t escape the comparison.  Ultimately it drives him to be better and more ambitious, in his attempts to live up to his father’s legacy.  But his likeness to his dad also lands him in the sights of enemies who would like nothing better than to crush him in vengeance against his father…those are the enemy antagonists, but I should play with that theme a little more on the “good” side too!  Surely not everyone loved and revered his father! And it would also be neat to explore how striving to be like his dad could push him to overestimate himself and get cocky about his success, and the fallout that could occur from that. Very interesting idea…

    Thanks for the thought-provoking article! 🙂

    • Amy Davis says:


      I love that you’re using the death of your protagonist’s parents to help him grow and find out more about himself! It sounds like you’ve got great ideas for expanding on that.  I’m glad you found the article helpful.

  2. Kessie says:

    I’ve read plenty of how-to books that recommend killing off the parents so the kid has to stand on their own. That’s why certain father-figures in Harry Potter had to die–in the end, Harry had to stand alone.

    That said, I think parents are a great point of conflict, especially in older YA/NA. In my Spacetime books, Carda has a helicopter mother and a father who keeps secrets. Indal’s parents are divorced, but battle each other by giving him costly gifts to sway his loyalty one way or the other. There’s never been an unhappier spoiled rich kid.

    Alternatively, in Malevolent, my paranormal romance, Libby’s parents are loving and supportive Christians who nurture her through a bad boyfriend and breakup, then try fruitlessly to warn her away from Mal (who of course is a nice guy under his scary monstrous exterior).

    • Amy Davis says:


      I definitely agree that having a character’s parents/parent figures meet an untimely demise can be necessary to progress a character. Too often, I think, authors don’t use the deaths to strengthen their characters in a plausible way. I know there are mixed reviews on JK Rowling’s writing style, but that is one thing I believe she handled well in HP.

      The parent relationships you’ve listed sound fascinating. Good for you for not shying away from addressing real-life issues in other worlds!

  3. Love this article! One of the things people have commented about my writing is that I never ignore the parents. I love the way it grounds fantastical stories. I understand how they can seem to “get in the way” but it really can add such depth to character, and allow for interesting plot twists!

    My heroine’s parents live in another country, but are definitely a part of her and her brother’s lives (yup, she has a sibling, they have a decent relationship, and they’re room-mates). It’s cultural for her race to live in large family compounds–but at the start of the story, the distance is due to a political scandal. She has some issues connecting with her parents and family because a mysterious injury robbed her of her memories, which is a fun tension to play with. They remember all of these intimate family details, and she doesn’t, so she feels left out. Then, spoilers, her memories slowly get restored, and that adds a nice healing subplot to the main story.

  4. Amy Davis says:


    Thanks for your comment. Your plot sounds really interesting. I’m glad you decided to add those family details that make the story resound with readers!

  5. Tracey says:

    FABULOUS post, Ms. Davis! I’ve noticed this trend too. There are so many orphaned protagonists out there, and even the ones that aren’t seldom have a strong family bond.

    I’m planning the rewrites of book 2 in the fantasy series I’m working on, and this version will include a lot more family struggles. Circumstances prevented my two teenaged MCs from telling their parents what was going on in book 1 (mainly the fact that they were traveling to another world to save it), but in this book . . . *rubs hands* They tell their parents, and tension abounds! There’s so much opportunity for conflict and, eventually, healing. 🙂

    • Amy Davis says:


      Appreciate the comment! Isn’t tension fun? At least when I’m writing it. 😉 Hope the rewrite goes well!

  6. Leanna says:

    I don’t think it makes sense to call it a trend since I’m pretty sure the pattern of poor/non-existent parent characters has been around since the first books with young protagonists. Even Newbery classics suffer from this sometimes. It’s just the easiest way to focus all the attention of the choices of the child/teen.

    That said, I agree with everything else in this article. 🙂 Write real relationships!

    • Amy Davis says:


      Fair enough. 🙂 I mostly meant in the books I’ve picked up recently, but you’re correct. It’s an easy method for focusing on the young protagonist. Thank you for reading!

What do you think?