7 Tips to Writing Single Father Characters

This list might quickly turn from fiction to reality.  In fact, I might switch between them to cover more ground.  Honestly, this subject feels a little awkward, but I’ve already entered the rabbit hole.  No turning back now.

  1. Fiction: Don’t make it so that the father is an utter idiot when it comes to doing things around the house.  It’s amazing how often you see a father who can fix a vacuum cleaner, but using it is beyond their abilities.  Things can be done differently since men and women don’t always approach problems the same way.  Still, it isn’t like fathers are devoid of common sense once they’re in the house.
  2. Reality:  No matter how long or rough your day was, take some time to be with your child.  Sit and have a snack with them or read a page of their book before bed.  It can even be lying down on the floor, couch, or bed to be nothing more than their jungle gym.  The smallest daily conversation or action to show that you love them goes further than having one big event a week.
  3. Fiction: A single father doesn’t always have to go looking for a new wife.  The kids don’t always have to be pushing him to find one too.  I’ve begun to see that second scenario as a sign that the father isn’t doing a good job.  His kids are obviously aware that they are lacking something and feel that only a mother can get it right.  This tends to go alongside #1.  Just like stories where single mothers show they can balance work and home without a man, you can do it with fathers too.  (I will admit that the ‘need a new partner’ story for single parent characters of any gender is tiring.  Might be a little sensitive or bitter there though.)
  4. Reality: There is the challenge with work in that some employers are less likely to give a father time off for the kids.  I hate to say it, but there is still a big percentage of people who think a child doesn’t really need his/her father in the picture that often.  Even with single parents, this mentality can crop up.  Thankfully, I haven’t faced it, which I want to make clear.  Well, not recently, but I did have one job where mothers got time off with ease and I was told a few times that my ex-wife or parents could handle it.  My point here is that you need to sometimes fight for time with your child.  Yes, you need the job to pay the bills, but your kid is going to be a teenager and then an adult before you know it.
  5. Fiction:  While it has turned up more often in recent years, never be afraid to have your single fathers show their emotions.  We still have to deal with the cold, distance, heart of stone paternal figures in fiction, but those are problematic when they are the only ones for the kids.  Many stories that involve children and parents involve some level of emotional growth.  It could be drawing the father out of that shell, but that really does assume that they are walled off to begin with.  That causes trouble in the younger years and we all know how the story goes.  Going all the way to overly sensitive isn’t any better, but you need to utilize this one character for all sides of a parental figure for the child.  You can’t divide the roles between two or more.  The father is all the kid and the author have for most, if not all, of the story.
  6. Reality:  Don’t keep your emotions pent up, especially if you’re getting stressed over being a single father.  That isn’t healthy.  Talk to a friend who is willing to listen and won’t shut you out if you become too sad.  Find a therapist to get an outside opinion on where you’re coming from.  Everyone talks about how you can’t physically wear down, but we really don’t pay attention to the emotional and mental erosion that can happen here.  Another benefit here is that it sets an example for your child that it is okay to ask for help when you’re stressed.  This can lead to them being more open with you when they’re under pressure and strengthen a healthy relationship.
  7. Reality:  This is more important than fiction, so it gets the extra.  Find time for yourself and your child.  I know I’m not the one to talk, but even an hour of reading a book or watching a show while your kid sleeps can be helpful.  A small, in-home hobby can help on the nights that you have to bow out of social events.  I started doing jigsaw puzzles again and gluing them once I’m done.  It makes the nights go by very fast, but I come out of the puzzle stupor feeling a little better about my situation. To be clear, I’m talking about something that is just for you.  Not something you do with your child, but a hobby that is all about you.  This may sound selfish, but I’m not saying to ignore important things for it.  Just a relaxing hobby that you do whenever you have some time and need to reduce your stress.

And now I’m off to do a few puzzles before bed.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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21 Responses to 7 Tips to Writing Single Father Characters

  1. L. Marie says:

    It so happens that I’m writing a book with a single dad. The story is told from the perspective of his twelve-year-old son. But your tips are really helpful and heartfelt and will help me as I shape the dad’s character. It’s hard that you’re going through this. I appreciate the fact that you want to help others, as you’ve shown through these tips.

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  2. All good points, Charles. You are an experienced voice.

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  3. Good tips, and good life points. I actually have a story thread about a single father in something I’m fiddling with right now.

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  4. acflory says:

    Ah. My ex’s father grew up in a household where Sundays were family days. That was when his Dad spent time ‘playing’ with his kids, or going out as a family to social events /with the kids/. That was the model of fathering my ex learned, and that was the model he continued with the Offspring. I, however, grew up with a Dad very much ahead of his time. Mum taught me to cook and value good food. Dad taught me to /live/. Dads can be every bit as important as Mums, but the stereotypes persist. :/

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    • My dad was pretty involved even though he was working. At the very least, he watched tv with me when he came home. So there was always some time even when his schedule was busy. I’ve met some like what you describe and many have this odd ‘men cannot raise children’ mentality. Me being heavily involved from the beginning throws them off.

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  5. jomz says:

    Is it bad that I chuckled at quote/image you used? Oh, boy…

    Raising kids with a complete family is already tough as it is, and it would definitely be like working with both your arms tied around your back if you’re doing it alone.

    In any case, you can do it. Have a nice day.

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  6. Yeah, they have to do that thing where the single dad (or while mom is on a business trip) is so clueless and incompetent. It’s supposed to be funny, I guess. But it’s way old.

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