Friday Ramble: On Dead Mothers in Fiction

153568-425x267-Mother-monumentMy colleague Marie Lamba wrote an excellent blog post about all the dead mothers showing up in her queries. As mother’s day weekend is upon us, and as I’m an actual mother, I’d like to say here and now that I don’t really like all the dead mothers either. And yet…

I started writing a manuscript this week after being very inspired by the keynote addresses of both Sharon Creech and Grace Lin at the New England SCBWI conference I was at this weekend.. Creech remembered thinking (many years ago, when writing one of her first novels) that if she just wrote one page a day that at the end of a year she’d have 365 pages, and basically… a book length manuscript!

“Hmmmm,” I thought to myself. “I could do that. I could write ONE page a day. How difficult could it be?”

But as I started to spin out a story in my mind, a potential thing to actually write down I remembered that not only would I have to create the great characters that were already starting to whisper their stories to me, and place them in an interesting, believable place, but there would also need to be a conflict.

Again I found myself saying, “Hmmmm,” and for a fleeting moment it occurred to me that I could easily do it. I could kill her off and all the characters could be sad or hurt or angry or whatever. Voila! Conflict! But I came to my senses very quickly. That would just be too conveniently easy and too already done.

So anyway, I’ve started writing. Wish me luck, everyone! I’m very good at starting stories but I don’t have a great track record of completing them. But I believe (or maybe it’s hope?) that you all will keep me honest. So do it! Keep me honest. And honor your mother!

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15 responses to “Friday Ramble: On Dead Mothers in Fiction

  1. Lesley C

    Rah rah, go Linda *waves pom pom*

  2. I don’t worry about killing off mothers. I’ve written a story where a mother kills three of her five children—oh, before killing herself. oops… 😮

  3. If you need to avoid the dead-mother syndrome in your writing, you can always kill off a beloved grandparent instead. . . . (Okay, I know that sounds rather callous. Especially from a guy with some truly great grandparents. I’m just saying. . . .)

    Good luck with your writing. Three cheers for MG!

  4. Ok, you’ve put it out there…the interwebs have archived it. Minimum, one page a day. Get up early, go to bed late, write at lunch, whatever it takes. Every day, no revision, no stopping. If there are holes or sticking points, make a note and skip them. Write forward, like a shark; unable to swim backwards. Duct tape your inner editor’s mouth. Daily goals, don’t worry about the big picture. And lastly, [clears throat, assumes best Yoda voice]: Do, or do not. There is no try.
    And I believe you CAN do it!

  5. Linda, you can be my page a day sister. That’s what I’ve been doing these many years, one flippin’ page a day. My critique group thinks I’m a monster of productivity because of it. Two notes: it’s okay if that one page sucks. And, sometimes a page turns into two pages. Don’t fight it! If I get to page two (a day) I usually throw myself a party–at home of course, so that skinny yogi can’t go all KIng Pigeon pose on me. Good luck!

  6. sparrowkatie

    Good luck, good luck! My first drafts often have dead mothers. Much more easier than trying to encapsulate the hugeness of that role in a teen’s life in any kind of real way. Also, Walk Two Moons still makes me teary. Have you read it? Also, yay for boys and dads. I like it already.

  7. Good luck with getting that ass in chair. And double yes to every writer: Let’s save the mothers. Let’s write them flawed, infuriating, but maybe(?) loveable. Let’s try and keep them alive, at least for a while…

  8. You can do it! If, when November arrives, you can sign up for NaNoWriMo. I love the “energy” that seems to exude from knowing that writers all over the world are writing a novel in one month.

    • Thanks for the encouragement! Unfortunately, I’m a NaNoWriMo dropout. Honestly, I’m so much better working on my own without that group pressure, knowing all those high performers are tapping out hundreds of words a day more than I’ll ever write. It just doesn’t do it for me. I feel the same way about exercise and that ever-present skinny chick in the yoga clothes who can touch her nose to her knees and who doesn’t break a sweat on the elliptical and who is (literally or figuratively) always right next to me… I’d rather exercise at home. By myself. But I love that NaNo inspires (other) people!

  9. Funny you brought this up. My mom is reading an advance copy of Swimming Through Clouds right now, and I’m a bit horrified as to her reaction to the “mother” in the story. Praying she won’t take it “personally!” ha. I just keep telling her, “Mom. It’s just a story.” Probably should have picked a different time besides the week of Mother’s Day to spring it on her. Whatcha gonna do?! 🙂

    Happy Writing, Linda!!

    -Raj

  10. Go Linda! You can do it!
    Is it YA?

    • Middle Grade…. Full of boys and Dads and all occurring over the course of one vacation. At least for now. As played out in my head. And HOW do I get that story onto paper and/or into the world?! (Oh yeah. One page at a time.)

  11. Save the mothers! Good luck with your writing, Linda. The wisest writing advice I’ve ever gotten was: write the book to the end…don’t even think of revising anything until then. 🙂