I’ve been tackling an interesting aspect of character recently.
The mother of my protagonist (Abigail) is in a coma throughout the whole of my YA novel. I’ve been conscious of needing to create their relationship pre-coma, so that the reader cares about her waking up.
The street kid who stows away on board Abigail’s spaceship had a bad relationship with his neglectful adoptive mother. When he hints at this to Abigail, I have her remembering a moment with her own mother that shows how much she was loved and cared for, and then looking at him and saying, “I’m sorry.”
I went down the most obvious “my mother loves me” route: A 6-year-old Abigail can’t sleep one night and comes down to the room where her mum and step-dad are playing Scrabble. The light is soft, and her mother comes immediately to her with concerned eyes, and says, “What’s wrong, darling?” Abigail goes and sits on her lap and listens to them cheat each other at Scrabble until she falls asleep.
The funny thing about this passage is that for me, it didn’t actually evoke what I wanted it to, at all. I don’t think relationship is a direct equation between love/overt displays of love.
My instinct here is that Abigail needs to remember a time when her mother told her off, or teased her, or was exasperated with her. I need to show them actually in relationship with each other, and what that allows between them.
These oddities of fiction don’t really fit into any set of rules, but I guess my first try didn’t work in the same way that “I’m hot, you’re hot” does not a romance make.
One of my most distinct memories of my mum, with a sense of love and care attached to it, is the time she and I were doing the dishes together and she drew the entire female reproductive system on the steamed-up window above the sink. Not the first thing it would occur to you to write…
What’s a memory that sticks out for you about a parent or guardian, that shows love and care?
If only parents had even the slightest clue what would be the memorable thing!
A reply to this might be a bit late, but anyway…
The most distinct memory I have of my father is of a time he teased me about how much louder than I he could blow his nose and I retaliated by feeding him a Ferrero Rocher that our Riesenschnauzer had spit out. When I told him that the slobber wasn’t mine but our dog’s he was pretty shaken but only laughed after he had overcome his speachlessness.
A memory of my mother that I’ll probably never forget is that moment when we both peacefully read in the kitchen after I had complained that I still hadn’t found a boyfriend and she suddenly looks up and says: “You know, I wouldn’t mind if you had a girlfriend either.”
I love both of these memories. And what a great mum – to just casually throw out there how she’ll love you no matter what. Mums are the best.