re: Must a Murdering Dad Make Good by “The End”?

in Characterization/Plot/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

My protagonist’s father is convicted of murder. He also has a history of abuse. He’s found innocent of the murder, and promises a better life for his family. My critique group wants him rehabilitated. How can I resolve this and stay true to the time period when spousal abuse was sadly hidden or ignored?



Dear Maria…

In teen fiction, your primary responsibility is to your teen protagonist. It’s her story, above all else, and your readers care about her struggle to overcome a situation, be it one at school, one at home, or one that involves a murderous, abusive parent. Your story must end with your protagonist finding a new maturity or understanding of herself and how she can live her life in full knowledge of her father’s crime(s). It’s not about a tidy ending, with Dad making good. Sometimes dads don’t make good. If being true to the story, the era, and the culture means that Dad shouldn’t get rehabilitated, then don’t force it for the sake of a pat ending. You want a satisfying ending, and that satisfaction will come from your protagonist’s emotional empowerment.

Happy writing!

The Editor


  1. I really appreciate the advice about who’s story it has to be. I have had this said to me so much, it has become my mantra. It makes a story stronger, more focused and letting the character lead the way is what the story demands and the reader appreciates!

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