Monday, August 25, 2014

30-Week Writing Survey: Week 21: Writing Children



Today's question: Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them/how comfortable do you feel writing them?

Oho! Yay, a question I can get excited about!

Well, obviously "how well do you write them" is a subjective question, and it's not something that an author can honestly answer themselves unless it's directly related to how comfortable you feel writing them or how much you like it or something.

Anyway, yes, some of my characters have children. As you Negative One webcomic readers know.

Negative One is probably the best example I have of writing children, actually, because one of the main storylines focuses on the parent-child relationship. Mommy Meri Lin tells her story all the way from pregnancy through parenting a toddler, and even though the situation is VERY unusual, a lot of the same things all parents go through are highlighted. (Baby Amanda has unexplained superpowers, which screws with the balance of power in the household; it's very difficult to parent a baby who can say "no" and really MEAN it if she wants to. You can't make her behave by putting her in the playpen. Not when she can fly out!)

Meri Lin Ling and her partner Fred Fisher do the best they can taking care of their daughter. And I do assume I do a decent job writing about this odd little family; I've been told on more than one occasion--by parents and non-parents alike--that it's surprising to learn I'm not a mother myself after reading such a story. Apparently I've attained a level of realism that makes it hard to imagine I'm not speaking from personal experience. (Of course, I'm HOPING they're not also assuming that I've taken care of a child with telekinetic powers . . . but assuming that no one has done that, I guess they are taking my word for it as to what it would be like. They don't have to do that for motherhood if they have been through it.)

So, Meri Lin and Fred are probably the most significant parents in my writings, and their baby starts telling her own narrative line at about age two; writing from a perspective that young is challenging, but I'm having fun with it. There are a few other parents in Negative One that deserve a mention too, though. . . .

Also in Negative One, Adele's parents have to deal with the difficult idea of their child leaving home and never coming back, so that was another challenging parent/child relationship I had to write. Thing is, Adele has a teacher who has fulfilled just as much of a parenthood role as her mother, and I would wholeheartedly say that adoptive parents--official or not--constitute parents as well. Tabitha was a good pseudo-mother to Adele in the ways that she could be while still being a good teacher. That was a much different dynamic than the Meri Lin/Fred story, of course, but beyond all the other weird stuff, Adele is also nineteen years old when the story starts, so parenting an adult is a different story. I'm not sure the question here wanted me to address adult children, but considering Adele is still very much a dependent of her parents in the story at the time it starts, I'd say it's worth mentioning.

Theresa from Negative One is also a mother, but her kids aren't in the story. What you DO see is her fanatical devotion to them. She no longer has custody of her children and she's doing everything she can to get them back, drafting her plan day and night and thinking of little else. She's very motherly toward the other children she encounters in the comic storyline, but she pushes them away a little because she knows herself and she knows how easy it would be to just let herself mother them when she needs to focus first and foremost on getting her own kids back. That's a rough position to be in. I also feature the mother character Mary Margaret Falconer (known as Miss Margaret), a divorced single mother with a bakery in New York City that she runs and operates pretty much on her own. She takes care of baby Ivy along with her daughter Charlotte (who's maybe a year older than Ivy). Miss Margaret's very good at reading what will satisfy and nurture children, and loves letting the kids help her run her bakery.

Moving away from the comic and into the related old novel The House That Ivy Built, there are plenty of parents there too. Francis and Carl Fairchild are the parents of Nina, who is arguably the most significant character of the first book besides teenage Ivy herself. Nina's a very gifted seven-year-old with serious social problems, and her parents are in profound disagreement about how to handle it. Ivy develops a close relationship with Francis and a rather antagonistic one with Carl. Francis and Carl have two children--Nina and her older brother Jeremy--and later Francis has another baby and they name him Erik.

And on to a different universe: Bad Fairy.

Obviously, the mom of the protagonist is going to be significant. Delia's mom, Gena Morningstar, is really one of the only people who loves Delia unconditionally throughout her whole life. It's clear that she does not understand her daughter, but that she loves her . . . and that when she criticizes her, it's because it pains her so much that her child is being ostracized. Gena just wants people to like Delia. She knows how special she is and it's hard for her to watch her daughter being rejected. Like most parents, she also has trouble letting go when Delia decides to go off on her own, and she is profoundly confused and saddened by Delia's choices. The relationship between this mother and daughter is strained mightily when Delia has to go into hiding for fifteen years and they can't see each other. The follow-up of that was painful and joyous and difficult to write, and I do eventually write about the experience of losing a parent in this series. I think this highlights an interesting aspect of parenthood: it doesn't end when your child is an adult. The relationship changes and grows but the parents don't stop being parents.

My children's book, Joint Custody, is written from the point of view of an eleven-year-old, so of course his parents are in the picture. Bay Cassidy is dealing with having divorced parents, and I don't think his mom has a name in the story as such but his dad's name is Tom. We get to hear about their parenting practices through his eyes, mostly with regards to how they differ from each other and what he can get away with at his dad's house that he can't at his mom's, etc. We also get to hear about how his mom is dating and what Bay thinks of that. I highlight how they show their love and their concern, and so far that's about it.

Cassie in Finding Mulligan is seventeen, and her parents really only appear in the first and the last chapter. In both they're interested and protective of their daughter, but sort of distant because they are always giving more attention to her chronically ill sister, Haley. Her parents' way of paying attention to her was significant in how her mind formed and how her personality came out, but I mostly focus on Cassie herself, not the parents, so I feel like their characters aren't fully explored in the book.

And finally, my short story "Her Mother's Child" is from the point of view of a mother. She's nameless in the story, and struggles throughout with her relationship with her third daughter, Iris, who is about to have her sunday (which is sort of like an adulthood rite in their culture). The mother and daughter try to see eye to eye, with the mother trying to figure out how to parent a daughter she doesn't really understand and with whom she feels a rift has developed. Oddly enough, it's primarily about communication, but the mother is physically unable to speak in the story. The narration doesn't say why. This story was accepted for publication in Kaleidotrope but it won't be published until next year.

Interestingly, I have a story called "The Mother" and a story called "Mother's Day," and there's no actual moms in either one. :D (They're mentioned, but sometimes as symbols and sometimes as reflections, and the mom of the main character of "Mother's Day" died 400 years before he was born.) There's also quite a lot of discussion of Thomas's relationship with his mom in the story "Wind," but his mom is dead too. What's up with my stories of dead parents?

That's it for now!

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