Writing Christian Fantasy Tip #3: No Missing Parents

Does your main character not know who he/she is? Have the parents been killed, leaving relatives to raise him/her? The third tip for writing Christian fantasy challenges you to change that plot line.

Why should you avoid the missing parents plot line?

Simple. It’s overused. From The Sword of Shannara series, The Wheel of Time series, The Inheritance Cycle, Star Wars (although not pure fantasy, it includes many fantasy elements), and many more draw from this story line. Even Frodo in the The Lord of the Rings lived with his relative, Bilbo.

Can it still work in Christian Fantasy?

Yes, of course. We like this kind of story, and it relates back to the classics, so the story line always appeals to readers. And, be honest, haven’t we all hoped that somehow we were related to royalty? My grandmother’s maiden name was Salisbury, and for years, I was convinced that since there is a town named Salisbury in England, I was long lost royalty. Maybe not a princess, but surely a duchess or something! (Note: I was wrong.)

So why shouldn’t the parents go missing?

First, it’s easy to figure out. It’s so simple that readers will see the surprise coming. It doesn’t take much work to realize that the main character doesn’t know who his parents are, and then there’s a missing prince. Hm. Sherlock wouldn’t even blink. Obviously, your main character is the missing prince. The reader may think that there are no twists and quit reading.

Second., it’s lazy. One of the main reasons I love fantasy is that it’s filled with creativity. When you find a well-written fantasy novel, people, problems and cultures are completely new and exciting. When a writer uses this plot line, often it’s because they haven’t thought about the story too much. Instead of contemplating the story for different ways to tell it, it’s easy to fall into this line of thinking.

I did this with Toxic when I first started plotting it. I wanted one character to reach a certain place and thought it would be fun to make him/her an orphan although he/she didn’t know it. (I’m being vague as the series isn’t finished, and you’re not getting any spoilers!) After some time, I came to realize that I could get this person to the same spot by the end, and the best thing? You’re never going to see it coming!

Honestly, this way is a lot more fun! It was harder to think of, but it’s going to be well worth it!

Action Steps

Take some time to think about where you want your main character to be when the book or series ends. Look at how you got that person there. Is it because of some lost inheritance or because the parents went missing? Take a walk, do the dishes, and think of other ways you could get that person to the same spot without using old, familiar plot lines. If you absolutely need your main character raised by relatives, keep it and move on. However, if there’s another way to tell your story, it might be worth exploring.

Do you think this plot line is worn out and familiar? Do you have any suggestions on how to make it a new and exciting story where the reader doesn’t see the twists coming?

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3 Comments

  1. How about this the main character “the lost prince” loses just one of his parents. Say the father secraficed himself for his son/daughter , and the mom played dead not to avoid getting killed herself but to aid in any way she can. How about the protagonist, still somewhat have byts of memoris just enough for him/her to remeber and his/shes tould “your mother/father ( who ever survived ) is recovering or due to the blood lost or some other conplication/”conplication” canot join them for some period of time or “He/She are waiting for you” in only God kowns were. Or if the child truly has no memory due to trauma, or coma or, he/she are to afraid to even try remeber. Or they dont remeber at all and the “master of shadows” or the “dark Lord” makes them remeber as a “the author was to lazy to give me real plot and plan to distract you in this critical moment of our final show down”. The mising perant is overused and badley. Or how about we use it not for royals but for commun flock like God becomes a father figure for a group of orphans who will never see their earthley perents. How about that?

  2. Yes, this trope is very commonly used and often really results in the feel of having been “easy” on the part of the author. Instead of a dynamic back story it ends up being kind of “blah”. 😉
    Of course, mixing it up a little can add spice back into the trope, and that’s always fun to see! 🙂

    1. Your comment made me think of the “switched at birth” plot line as well. I haven’t seen that much in fantasy. In fact, I haven’t seen that much at all. Hm, that’s got me thinking of a new story that might be a lot of fun to write. I think that it’s challenging to mix it up a bit, like you said, but it’s a lot more fun for the reader and the writer. Thanks for commenting!

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