• Sunayna Prasad

When Child Characters Need to Rely on Adults


A while back, I have watched a video about developing children’s novel characters. The person in the clip said that the characters have to make their own decisions at all times. She also said that adults should be kept out of the story as much as possible. I’d say, “Yes and no.” It really depends on your story’s setting and plot.


If it’s olden times in history, when children were expected to have more independence and it was considered standard and safe during that time, then it make sense to keep adults out. Or if your story is set in another country that has different laws from the US about child safety and restrictions, then being 100% independent can work as well. This would certainly apply if your characters go to a made-up planet if it's science-fiction or a made-up enchanted land if it's fantasy.


However, if your story is set in modern times, and in a country like the US, Canada, UK, etc., depending on your novel plot, it can be harder to keep adults out of the story. Of course, you shouldn’t have your child character ask his or her parents for homework help. But, depending on the kid’s age, they can’t do certain things too independently. Otherwise, readers could expect social services to show up at the character’s home (unless that is part of the plot).


Bringing me to the purpose of this post, I am now going to give examples of when a child character needs to rely on an adult.

1: Provide family income and shelter

This is an obvious one, even if it doesn’t play a role to your story. You cannot have a kid live by him or herself unless your story is set in a very poor place or a very old time, like an ancient civilization. But it’s just not possible.

2: Being Driven

Unless your character is old enough for a license, he or she is going to need to depend on an adult to drive him or her. That being said, they can still think about their own decisions while in the car or whatever vehicle he or she is in.

3: Having certain papers that require parent/guardian signatures

From legal documents to school permission slips, a child will need to have an adult sign these types of papers to make the story believable. Unless it’s necessary for your plot to have the kid forge the signature, he or she has to get an adult.

4: Being escorted in places forbidding un-accompanied minors

With so much security and surveillance today, it would be hard to have a child character go somewhere like what is mentioned above without adult supervision. Of course, this also depends on your setting. But if it’s modern times in a nation like the US, then it would only be believable if the kid is escorted by a grown-up.

Other than these exceptions, your child character should make his or her own decisions and be independent. Do you have any examples of when child characters need to depend on adults?

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