HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Reading & Writing » Writing (Group) » Help me brainstorm someth...

Wed Feb 29, 2012, 06:41 PM

 

Help me brainstorm something.

When I started writing my novel The Sidekick (coming March, 2013, from Month 9 Books -- how good it feels to say that) I wanted my hero to be a High School Senior trying to get into college. I also wanted his foster father to have been recently killed, setting the plot into motion. I didn't want to bother much with having him deal with CPS or DYFS as a result of this, so the easiest answer to it was to start the book on his 18th birthday.

Now my publisher wants the protagonist to be 17 in the first novel and 19 in the sequel I never even dreamed of writing.

I'm not philosophically opposed to having him only be 17, and since the kid is reasonably bright I could always use the "skipped a grade" excuse if needed. Likewise, I could have used the "held back" trope if needed to have him graduating late. But what I can't find my way around is having a minor, even a 17 year old, just left on his own by the state and the school system.

So here are some questions:

(1) The novel starts in January, just as kids are coming back from winter break. It opens with our protagonist at his foster father's funeral on his birthday. For various reasons I would rather not move his birthday or the funeral. I like having both be happening at the same time and the "trying to get into college" subplot works best in that current time frame. For a January birth, at what age would an average kid graduate from High School nowadays? 17 or 18?

(2) Is there any conceivable way for a 17 year old whose long-term foster father has died to be emancipated easily, quickly, and painlessly? Help me figure out a way.

Of course, this is a superhero novel aimed at young adults so it doesn't need to be so horribly close to reality, but I'd at least like it to be plausible.

Ideas?

10 replies, 3303 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 10 replies Author Time Post
Reply Help me brainstorm something. (Original post)
Pab Sungenis Feb 2012 OP
TBF Feb 2012 #1
Pab Sungenis Feb 2012 #2
HopeHoops Feb 2012 #3
Chan790 Feb 2012 #4
Fearless Mar 2012 #5
Pab Sungenis Mar 2012 #6
McCamy Taylor Mar 2012 #7
Pab Sungenis Mar 2012 #8
ZombieHorde Mar 2012 #9
hunter Mar 2012 #10

Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 29, 2012, 06:59 PM

1. Was the foster father abusive -

maybe there was already an emancipation in process? Dunno, hopefully someone with familiarity will respond.

Just off the top of my head though could he stay with a relative (sister of the foster father or something) and perhaps get by that way. The agency might not feel they have to process it immediately if he's in a safe environment (she helps him through the grieving process as a relative). And how about administrative convenience ... would he be automatically remanded back into foster care or would there be some leeway there on how quickly the process would move?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to TBF (Reply #1)

Wed Feb 29, 2012, 07:19 PM

2. Not at all abusive.

 

I do have another character who is a social worker and pulled strings to get him in the home he wound up in, so that might be an answer.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 29, 2012, 07:29 PM

3. Introduce a benevolent caretaker - an uncle or aunt or someone - a lesser character.

 

You don't even have to worry about much character development. It's just there for the story line.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 29, 2012, 08:20 PM

4. It'd be hard...I put an idea at the end you're free to use.

 

There's no way that a teenager just turned 17 would knowingly be allowed to live alone and outside foster care unless emancipated. Maybe if he were a few weeks short of 18, it might be overlooked.

1.)18. As a January birth, he'd almost-certainly be 18 at graduation. Most school districts will not enroll a 4 year old unless they're imminently turning 5 so the DOB cut-off is usually Sept. 1 with a little leeway. As a January birth, he'd be starting K at age 5 and 9 mos. Generally the kids who graduate from HS at 17 are the ones born in the summer...or the ones like my brother the November birth. My parents wanted him in school a year behind me so they basically-lied then once he was enrolled and in-school, dared the district to throw him out and make him re-enroll the following September.

2.) Absent sexual, physical or psychological abuse, no. Even then, the process is an intentionally long one and he'd be group-homed in the meanwhile.

Your simplest solution might be subterfuge...the facade that he's got an adult living with him, as a late-teen he'd be given wide discretion to choose to live with a long-time-known adult friend or the parents of a friend provided that adult passed muster and home-inspection with family-services. It adds another element of intrigue for you to work with, maintaining that facade...especially since they like to do surprise inspections unannounced to catch this exact scheme.

Edit: or as Hope Hoops said an absentee guardian.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Thu Mar 1, 2012, 02:46 AM

5. There is some leeway....

(1) He would be 18 UNLESS (as a teacher I have seen this happen), he had been moved from another district in another state. Often enough a high schooler who was transferred as a junior can be a senior by waivers and credits achieved. Frequently schools in different states teach different level courses at different times... Say US History or Algebra II as a sophomore instead of as a freshman. If you've passed the prerequisite class for (especially) a math curriculum, you'll usually just be bumped ahead. Or equally, they can test into the grade level fairly often. Both are rare, but not unheard of... I grew up with a friend in the 90's who was in my grade yet a year younger in middle school because of the first case.

Additionally, a third option, students who are bright technically can take their required classes in lieu of "elective" courses and graduate a semester and sometimes a year early. Schools only require you have, for example, four years of math and English, three of science and social studies, etc. If a student doubles up on classes instead of taking electives... that is takes English I and II at the same time (or in block, half year class, scheduling, one in the fall and one in the spring semester), instead of taking English I and a Graphic Arts elective, they can graduate at 17.

(2) That does not solve problem two. However, the child could "live" with a relative on paper yet never actually live with the relative. So long as the state believes so. Legally speaking there is also "implied partial emancipation" (google it) which could be an option, if it fits the story.

Good luck!

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Fearless (Reply #5)

Thu Mar 1, 2012, 08:57 AM

6. I might go with the emancipation angle.

 

The character is a former sidekick of a superhero, who has been living under the hero's roof for years. Basically, picture Batman and Robin without the gay innuendo.

As the sole heir to the hero's fortune, including the mansion he's been living in, he could be proven to be financially capable and have a place to live. With the proper pressure, a judge might be willing to emancipate him at 17.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 08:27 AM

7. If he skipped a grade, he could be 17 when he graduates.

Lots of bright kids skip grades. And lots of bright kids start college at 17, too.

Why does the publisher want him to be 17? Is there is a target audience (i.e. "teen" that he is working for? Is your novel "teen"?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to McCamy Taylor (Reply #7)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 08:32 AM

8. The publisher specializes in "young adult" novels.

 

The editors think that more kids would identify with a 17 year old than an 18 year old. I'm going to try and make the case that the fact that he's a high school senior is enough.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Sat Mar 10, 2012, 05:02 PM

9. The best answer to your dilemma is the most obvious: zombie plague.

The father dies during the last zombie plague outbreak, which made so many orphans, 16 is now considered the new 18.

It's so obvious.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Fri Mar 30, 2012, 12:44 PM

10. I was a seventeen year old in college.

High school sucked so I quit. There was some kind of testing and paperwork to get into college, but I don't think it was complicated.

My three siblings who graduated from high school did not go on to four year colleges. They went into business.

The two of us who dropped out of high school are University of California graduates.

In our family quiting high school was a prerequisite for college.

There were a couple of minors in my freshman college class. We all knew one another because we had to attend a special all day Saturday counseling session before the semester started. One of my friends was an emancipated minor. She lived in a broken down motor home parked on a farm.

Of course this was the 'seventies. Times are different. Today we live under a tyranny of regulations that would be impossible to enforce without modern database technology.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread