I look back at the books I’ve read over the years and so many of the characters are orphans. Or they’ve lost a spouse or sibling or child or best friend or everyone they ever loved. (Looking at you GRRM.)
It never bothered me too much. (Except for how NCIS seems to kill off a strong secondary female character every time they need a little extra juice in their story line.) But it was something I noticed.
When I started writing, I really had to think about this. Because when you first start writing you want to be unique and different and not do the same thing a hundred people before you have done.
But, see, here’s the deal. Loss equals change. Especially traumatic loss. It shakes us out of our every day and forces us onto new paths we wouldn’t have taken otherwise.
And those orphans? Well, there aren’t any parents around to protect them or save them. They have to face challenges on their own because they have no other choice. There also aren’t ties to bind them to home so they can run away at a moment’s notice.
Walk up to a lonely, isolated orphan and say, “Want to get away from here and save the world and be the hero and be adored by everyone?” chances are the answer will be yes.
Walk up to a child who is well-loved and well-protected with a strong family and strong community around them and ask the same question and they’ll either want to ask their parents’ permission (who will say no) or they’ll pass. Because why risk everything they have on some potentially catastrophic adventure? And when it does go bad (as things must in all good stories), why not just turn around and go back home?
The best characters, the ones who persevere and push through challenge after challenge, are the ones who have nothing to go back to or are so driven by their loss that they can’t imagine stopping before the end.
So, that’s why I think so many main characters are orphans.