When I sat down to write a Father’s Day post, I found myself thinking about dads in fiction. More specifically – I found myself thinking about how I write about dads in my fiction! So far, I have to confess, they haven’t come off that well!
In Can’t Live Without, Stella’s dad is in prison. He’s a great bloke really (you’ll have to read it, no spoilers), but obviously she feels incredibly let down. Paul Smart finds out he’s got a young daughter he never knew about – big surprise to him, as he left the child’s mother when she found out she was pregnant. Hmm, Paul is really popular with readers, so I must do a fairly good job of explaining all his reasons for this, but still … And Stella’s ex, John Dean, left her when their daughter was only a baby. It looks like I don’t have a very high opinion of fathers in my books!
Well, that’s not true of course. When I started writing Can’t Live Without I was in my mid-thirties, not married, not even seriously dating, and I was starting to think family life and motherhood would never be on the cards for me. Maybe I invented Paul to resolve some of these issues – he becomes a wonderfully committed dad, and the revelation marks a big turning point for him. (Of course, Stella can’t forget his past – as in real life, this comes back to haunt them both in The Family Trap.)
I think the answer to the question about dads in fiction getting a bad deal comes, surprisingly, from one of my most critical reviewers on Amazon. This reader is properly disgusted by how dysfunctional the family is in Can’t Live Without – and this, I guess, is the point. Fiction – good, interesting, page-turning fiction, is about conflict. Conflict between characters is a key driving force behind a compelling plot. Characters don’t have to be totally dysfunctional – but it helps if they are battling with problems, both outwardly and inwardly. The alternative would be pretty bland, surely?
Anyway, not all fathers are portrayed badly – I’ve read lots of books that featured wonderful, dedicated dads. But if they were a central character, they would probably have had other flaws. The fact is, in my books the mothers are just as bad as the dads – if not more so! I think I’ve got the equality right 🙂 What do you think? As an overall impression, do certain genres seem to deal with fatherhood differently to others?
Oh, and happy Father’s Day to my wonderful husband. You are an amazing dad. (Now get up and make me a cup of tea! You’re milking it a bit, to be honest.) 😉