June 8, 2011

Where's the family?

After Monday's post, I was still thinking about children as characters in fiction. I realized that the vast majority of the time, in order for children to be central characters in an adventure plot, their parents have to be 'disposed of' in some way or other by the author. Killing them off always works--orphans have all kinds of adventures--and sending them away on the proverbial long trip is usually sufficient to allow the kids to have some thrilling adventure.
But then it occurred to me: what has happened to the family unit in fiction? I've read books about kids having adventures without their parents around, and I've read books about parents without their kids around... but I couldn't think of a single book about a family unit--parents and children--having an adventure together.
I understand that 99.999% of the time, a story has to have a main character, one person that is focused on, and who changes and grows over the course of the story. But the cast of central characters surrounding the main character most often consists of friends, maybe a sibling here and there. Why do fictional people never have adventures with their families?
The more I think about it, the more I wonder if perhaps this is yet another manifestation of the American culture's disregard and even disdain of the traditional family unit. The political incorrectness of parent's authority could be playing a part in it too.
Having realized and thought about this, I would really like to see some fiction that casts a family unit, parents and children, together as the central characters of a story. I don't have a problem with one person, parent or kid, being the main character, but I want the main character's family to be the central characters surrounding them.
What are your thoughts on this issue? If any of you creative geniuses out there are writing fiction centered around a traditional family unit, I would love to know about it. Even if you aren't writing it yourself, if you know of any fiction centered around the family, please share it!


  1. Hmmm, I never thought about it, but you're right! Hmmm (put's thinking cap on). I may try to write something like that. Who knows, we may be able to start a revolution in fiction :D
    I guess one reason for not having a whole family on an adventure is because probably most people think of a family as a group of people continually at odds with each other, so the adventure would add misery to the dangers they faced :)
    Wait, Pilgrim's Progress has Christiana and her sons altogether. Of course, Christian isn't with them, but it's not exactly his fault. So there's one. But then, that was written ages ago.
    I guess a lot of books could also be written because children find it exciting to read about children who have adventures and do things by themselves.
    Well, you've given me a lot to think about :D

  2. I like your idea of starting a revolution in fiction, Laura Elizabeth! In fact, I was talking to my dad about this topic and he said almost the same thing. I think Christian fiction could really benefit from a revolution like that. I know that there are a lot of books my mom didn't allow me to read as a kid because the main character(s) were kids and choosing to act independently of their parents, going behind their parents' backs, and so forth. In fiction it always ends up working for the best and usually (true to politically correct form) the parents end up learning that they were wrong, that their kid really does know how to look after themselves, that they should have listened after all, and blah, blah, blah. (Case in point: Pixar's Finding Nemo.)But in real life it doesn't work that way, and kids don't need to be getting the idea that it does. That kind of thinking only leads to discontent and rebellion.
    So Laura Elizabeth, I say let's go for it! I'm always up for a good revolution : )

  3. Well...I start out with two complete families, but by the middle, it's down to half a one--it's not my fault they all die on me! They live in a very dangerous world. Actually, if you want to blam anyone, blame Joel. He kills most of them himself.

  4. Well, there's the Swiss Family Robinson. :)

  5. Kate found one! Hurrah for Kate! : ) I don't know why I didn't think of that myself!
    Galadriel--I know how you feel. I've had characters die on me much against my wishes before, too.

  6. The first book that comes to mind regarding family adventures is one I recently finished reading--Cascade by Lisa Tawn Bergren. It's a time travel tale that has a mom and her two daughters going back in to the medieval era. The focus is on the two teen girls, but they do share a strong family bond.

    Sharon Hinck's Restorer series (fantasy) also deals with the adventures of a family, with each book focusing more on a different member.

    I'm sure I've read others, but those are the first that come to mind. That said, I agree with you that it's not very common.

    Part of it does reflect the American culture and views on family life, but I also think there's an element where it can be convenient when plotting to have a teen or child having to handle things on their own, without the wisdom of a parental figure to guide them or take care of them (as in cases where the protagonists are orphans). It heightens the sense of danger by removing the safety net, so to speak.


What are your thoughts on this post? I'd love to hear your comments, questions, or ideas, even if you don't agree with me. Please be aware that I reserve the right to delete comments that are uncivil or vulgar, however.