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On Writing Busy Parents

Anonymous asked: “So, I’m working on a story with neglectful parents – not abusive – they love their child. It’s more like, they are always busy. Do you have any tips for me?”

The first thing that comes to mind are working parents. I’m not going to be one to generalize here so know, I’m talking about how we can think through some situations and think about writing these kinds of characters. 

When both parents work full-time, it’s going to be a bit of a juggling act between spending time with family and working (some people are better at juggling this than others.) Even in those situations, the child of working parents might not feel “neglected” exactly. A friend of mine describes it as she’s “used to being alone” – and that’s far from true for all children of working parents. I think it to some extent it’ll matter what the parents are doing. Where are they working? Can they see their child often? What’s their relationship like? Parent-child relationships are unique, while in general there’s a lot of things across the board that are expected, but then there’s all the particularities – how much do they share with each other? What do they like to talk about with each other? What are things they like to do together? 

One example that sticks out in my mind is from the recent film Gifted – it’s about a seven year old math prodigy who is caught in a custody battle between her grandmother and her uncle. Throughout the film though, you get to see so many great scenes between the little girl and her uncle that show what they’re relationship is like. It’s not typical, but the characters aren’t typical either. The kinds of things that they talk about both show what their relationship is like, but also help color who they are as individuals. 

And since I’m bringing up examples now, let’s also talk about one from fiction – Blue and Maura Sargent from The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I love this example. Maura is a single mother – Blue’s biological father disappeared mysteriously – and Maura works out of their home, 300 Fox Way, with a few other long time friends as a psychic. I love all of the characters in this book series, but I think it’s worth mentioning that Maura and Blue have a really well-developed relationship or at the very least, I liked to read about them.  

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