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!
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?