Q. What do Cinderella, Oliver Twist, Harry Potter, and Luke Skywalker have in common?
What is it with authors and mothers? Did they have such miserable relationships with their own matriarchs that they feel the need to kill all the mothers in their stories? Possibly. But it’s more likely because “the orphan” is one of fiction’s most popular character archetypes. Why? In a word: conflict. For most of us, parents—and in particular, mothers—are a source of comfort, wisdom, and nourishment of body and soul. Take away that source, and you’ve instantly tossed your character into an uncaring, lonely world. Readers place themselves in that character’s shoes, experience a sense of tremendous loss, and empathize. It’s manipulative, but effective.
A lot of our most beloved and most memorable fictional characters don’t have a mother. Aside from the ones I already listed, try these on for size: Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz), Jane Eyre, Tom Sawyer, Heidi, Cossette (Les Miserables), and Norman Bates from Psycho. If Mom does exist, she’s usually flaky as a biscuit or somehow deeply flawed. Think of Mrs. Bennett (Pride and Prejudice) or her modern counterpart, Bridget’s mum in Bridget Jones’s Diary. How about Margaret White in Stephen King’s Carrie? Or Corinne Dollanganger from Flowers in the Attic. And, once again in a weird way, Mrs. Bates from Psycho. Even comic book superheroes—Batman, Superman, Spiderman—live with foster moms, having been orphaned at a young age. Of my fourteen published books, I have six heroines with dead mothers, seven heroines with difficult mothers, and one with a hard-working, loving mother.
Poor Mom can’t catch a break.
This fictional matricide is a testament to motherhood’s power and influence. Sure, on a day- to-day basis, we don’t see ourselves as all that special. We’re all flying by the seat of our pants—without instruction manuals. We either swear to do raise our kids the same way our parents raised us, or we swear to do the direct opposite. Most days seem routine. We cook meals, drive to practices and recitals, do laundry. But we also kiss boo-boos, nurse ailments, and chase away bedtime monsters. We are the embodiment of love, courage, generosity, and kindness. So it’s no wonder authors have a tendency to create characters without the source of so much of what’s good in the world.
To celebrate Mother’s Day, I’m giving away my latest novella, Charming for Mother’s Day for free in Kindle format and reducing the price of my other independent digital releases to 99 cents for this weekend only. I hope you’ll take advantage of this special deal and enjoy!
Happy Mother’s Day to parents everywhere!
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