posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy
Since our theme this month is mothers and motherhood, I sat down to write this blog intending to post about some of the fictional mothers in my work. Then I realized, there aren't any! Well, hardly any... And very few of them are ever actually "on stage" during the course of the story.
Here's what I mean: both my hero, Donovan, and heroine, Rylie in The Wild Sight are motherless. Donovan's mother disappeared when he was seven years old, and Rylie's mother died six months before the story takes place. No real mother figures there, and I won't even start on the "daddy" issues!
In The Treasures of Venice, my hero, Keirnan also lost his mother as a child. He was eleven and his sister was sixteen, and she became his substitute mother figure. One of the reasons he is so desperate to save her. The heroine Samantha actually has a mother (At Last!), but she's never seen "on stage." She's also described as flighty and someone who never got out of her adolescent stage, so poor Samantha had to take on the parent role in her early teens.
Okay, my track record isn't very good thus far and I'm afraid my July release The Wild Irish Sea doesn't improve things. My hero, Kevin has lost both his mother and father. And while heroine Amber has both parents, they were divorced long ago, and neither scored many points in the parenting Olympics, especially with protecting Amber and her brother Parker. These two wound up depending chiefly on each other.
To make matters worse, the suspense storyline also involves two motherless children, thirteen year old Meriol and eight year old Ronan. I never really intended to write about young children, much less motherless ones, but these two sort of snuck up on me and insinuated themselves into the story!
Come to think of it, the best example of devoted motherhood in all three of my books is probably a seal in The Wild Irish Sea!
WHAT IS UP with that?!?!
While it is true that I lost my own mother in 1999, I think all these missing literary parent figures goes beyond that somehow. There seems to be a preponderance of orphans and motherless characters in literature as well as contemporary stories. Oliver Twist and Jane Eyre come readily to mind. In more recent stories, poor Frodo Baggins was an orphan who was adopted by his Uncle Bilbo, and Diana Gabaldon's heroine Claire Beauchamp Randall Frazier was raised by her uncle too. Nice to know I'm not the only writer whose characters lack parents.
My theory is that writers, and also readers, feel an instant and sympathetic connection with an orphan. An emotional connection with a character is essential to fully engage the reader. I'm not saying a character has to be missing a parent, but it is one way to provide motivation and conflict, and reader investment.
What do you think? Do you feel sorry for fictional motherless children? Or have you had your fill of all these orphans? What was the last book you read in which the hero or heroine (or BOTH) had lost one or both parents?