Wednesday, March 06, 2013

On Mothers in Fiction

For most women, one of the most important and sometimes difficult relationships in their lives is with their mother.

She's the one we first love, on whom we depend, the one who teaches us our first important lessons and the one who makes us the most crazy when we are teens. Even once we are adults, the relationship isn't an easy or straightforward one because as grown up and successful we might become in our lives, we are still that baby she nursed, or that toddler she scolded.

For this reason, I think a lot of authors, especially in genre fiction, avoid exploring mother/daughter relationships. When I first started writing, I remember a workshop or article I read that suggested we find ways to remove parents from our stories. And in young adult fiction, unless the story is about the mother relationship, usually one or both parents are also absent.

Now, I think the reasons aren't just avoidance or laziness... I think the idea in, say, the romance genre, is to remove the heroine's most obvious source of support, with the aim of making her life more difficult. And in YA fiction it's definitely to avoid having a parent solve all the story problems. If a teen has functioning, effective parents at her disposal, why wouldn't she just run to them when problems arise? She'd seem dumb if she didn't, and YA fiction is about the teens driving the stories and solving the problems...

BUT... all that said. With competent adults as protagonists, adding a mother to a story can add another dimension, not just of support, but of conflict. But it's difficult conflict to mine for many of us, because it forces us to dig deep into our own relationships with our mothers... It can be painful and show pieces of ourselves some of us would rather keep hidden. :)

And that's why I admire authors, like Eileen, who are willing to explore these complicated relationships as part of their bigger story and/or series. And Melina's ongoing relationship with her mom adds a richness to this fabulous series as well as complications.

How about you?

Readers: Do you like when mother/daughter relationships are included in stories?
Writers: Do you include your protagonists' moms in your books?


Anonymous said...

Such a good point and I know we've discussed it. Mothers generally try and solve their children's problems, or dispense good advice. They are drama killers.


Anonymous said...

Just found you. Havnt read your books. But im looking forward to keeping up with you. . I still mind my mom, better than my kids kind me . Tamibates

Eileen said...

I certainly mind my mother better now than i did as a teenager!

I've had fun writing about the relationship between Melina and her mother and grandmother. I kept thinking about how hard it would be on Melina's mother that her daughter had almost drowned at such an early age while on her watch. If she then found out something more had happened to Melina at that time, how would she feel?

In Dead on Delivery, I was more interested in Melina deciding to trust her mother. In Dead Letter Day, I wanted to think about how her mother would feel. Of course, I then had to deal with it all from Melina's POV. Ah, the joys of 1st person. :-)

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