Monday, February 7, 2011

A Writer's Shocker

“Children, I hate to have to tell you this,” the old servant began, “but your parents are gone – they died in an awful fire earlier today. And there’s no need to go home. You have no home anymore either. I’m here to take you to your Uncle Olav,” he said sadly.

“Not Uncle Olav!” the children screamed. And with that, the young people were plunged into one disaster after another. All Uncle Olav wanted was their money, and not long after they went to live with their nice cousin Boris, he died in a car accident. Living with Aunt Sylvia became almost like home, until she committed suicide. Each time the kids had a good situation, it seemed that something awful happened.

Now, how would you like to read a story like that? How would you like your children to read a story like that?

photo credit

That is the story line of the very popular eight-book series “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” It is what people read nowadays. But I wonder…Why do all the parents in these stories die, anyway? And the ones that survive seem to act like ignorant morons, always getting in the way.

If someone came up to me and slapped me across the face, I don’t think I would have been more shocked than I was the other day. What I read in the current issue of a major writer’s magazine came as a complete surprise.

There is an article in the magazine about writing stories for children. In this article, they give tips and tricks to develop vivid characters, an unforgettable plot, and a riveting climax. It really has some good ideas. But in the article titled, “How to Avoid Parenting Your Characters,” I find several disturbing things. The first bold heading under the title is, “LOSE THE PARENTS TO ADVANCE THE PLOT. Then it goes on to say,

The No. 1 parenting problem that characters face is adults, usually parents, who stop the fun and solve all of the problems instead of letting the characters get into trouble and then get back out again. The solution is obvious: Get mom and dad out of the way.”

And then a bit further, we read,

From the Boxcar Children to Harry Potter, there is a long tradition of killing off mom and dad to get the story underway….If burying mom and dad doesn’t work for your story, there are other ways to get them out of the way. Adults, both real and imagined, are wonderfully self-absorbed and don’t always notice what is going on under their own noses.”

In other words, keep mom and dad so busy with their own lives that the children are on their own. Does this remind anyone else of a Scripture? “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”

But wait! This gets better…or worse! The next bold heading is, "USE ADULT CHARACTERS AS OBSTACLES." The article continues:

If you simply cannot get the parents out of your story, then make good use of them… adults can be a great device to mix up the lives of young characters. [A juvenile fiction writer says,] “I do sometimes have older characters give misguided advice to younger characters,” she says. “That way rather than solving problems, the adults complicate them.”

How about the attitudes of the young people themselves?

“Allowing my characters to do a little bit of rebellious sneaking around helps me keep parents out of the way,” [the writer is quoted].

Folks, this is from the current issue of a major writer’s magazine. It is how we writers are taught to create compelling fiction for young people in our modern society.

I used to think that it just happened to be that children ran about by themselves all the time in juvenile fiction, but now I see that it’s a purposeful effort on the behalf of publishers (and writers) to literally get adults out of the way or use them as obstacles in the young people’s lives!

Here are just a few of the Scriptures that come to mind:

Ephesians 6:1-2a “Children, obey your parents, for this is right. Honor thy father and thy mother…”

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 5:1 My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding:

Proverbs 4:20 My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.

Does this bother anyone else, or am I the only one this raises a red flag with?! Think twice before you allow your child to bring home from the library some juvenile fiction that is written by an unsaved author. They might wish you would jump out the window someday! :/


Anonymous said...

You are so right! And it is always an eye-opener to read what agenda is forwarded in the virtual "smoke-filled rooms" we can peek in on, via online forums today. Thanks for sounding a warning!

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is very sad. Very sobering to see what our world is becoming.
Thanks for the good post!
God Bless

Kerry said...

Yes, it definitely bothers me! I'm currently searching for juvenile fiction books that are good. One series does lose the parents in the beginning but the children seem to love their grandpa and respect adults.