July 2nd, 2017

Why do writers love orphans? They're everywhere - even on TV shows. “How ‘bout you? Ya’ got any family?” is always followed with “nah, mom and dad died horribly...” I think there are two reasons this is so useful. The easy answer is the orphan is always “ready to jam” to paraphrase The Breakfast Club.

The story can go off on a wild ride like a rollercoaster cresting the lift hill. No familial entanglements, no awkward “I can't go until I check with mom first” The assumption is that such a request from the characters, presumably in their late teens or early twenties (to avoid the other kind of familial entanglements), would be denied. This is probably false, in my opinion, but let's set that aside for the moment. The other reason for chopping off the parents from the story is pity. Empathy toward the orphan character can be established easily by tapping into that ancient part of the brain terrified of being alone which probably stems from a very real danger of being left behind to be eaten by the everything lurking in the paleolithic shadows.