Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving. Lots to do.
But, I’ve been thinking about something lately, so I’ll talk about it here. I’ve recently finished (yesterday, as a matter of fact) an interesting indie book (FLEDGLING by Nicole Conway). This made me think of the prevalence of orphan and/or abused and/or seriously misunderstood protagonists, especially in middle grade/young adult stories.
Harry Potter immediately comes to mind, of course, but he was far from the first. Anne McCaffrey’s Menolly in the Harper Hall trilogy. Taran in Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. Even Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy. I could go on and on. The trope of the orphan boy or widow’s son who makes good goes all the way back to fairy/folk tales.
And it made me wonder. Why? Why do so many stories start with this kind of hero? I think there are several reasons.
For one, at least as far as middle grade stories are concerned, I think we all go through a period around those years when we believe no one understands us. It’s something the readers can relate to, at least as far as the misunderstood protagonist goes.
Another reason might be that it builds in some initial conflict while the story gets started. While the narrative is building to the inciting incident, the character already has something to fight against. And it can even be a further complication–something, perhaps, that makes the hero doubt himself–once the real story problem is in full tilt.
But sometimes I think it’s just done to build sympathy for the main character, like having him pet the cat. And that just makes me want to break type. Someday, I’m going to have to write a story in which the orphan is bitter and becomes the villain. Just because I can.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.