Monday, May 9, 2011

Mothers of Romance

It was Mothers’ Day yesterday. So to all Mothers, that include people who nurture others whether or not they gave birth to them, I wish you a belated Happy Mothers’ Day.

Mothers play a huge role in our lives in reality. The same goes to the world of imagination that connects us as writers. Mothers play a big role in our stories, especially in romance. So today I want to examine some of the different kinds of mothers we find in romance stories.

1. The control freak
These are the maternal characters who try to hold on to their sons and daughters, and schedule every aspect of their lives. They become the mothers-in-law from hell, criticizing everything the love interest does. For them, there is never a man good enough for their daughter; never a woman good enough for their son. They are usually the conflict the couple has to overcome to get their happily ever after (HEA).

2. The abusive/neglecter
This is most often present as back story. It mars the hero’s childhood and leaves him untrusting toward his love interests. Or he becomes a serial dater, never trusting in the good of woman. In many instances, the mother is absent, jet setting behind a new love interest or husband number X and not very involved in the life of her child.

3. The match maker
That could be good or bad. Sometimes the matchmaker mother hand picks a woman for the man and his love interest fights an uphill battle to win her over. Eventually she comes around. Other times, the matchmaking mother is trying to match the hero and heroine, who have no interest in each other until some circumstance brings them together. This of course makes the mother very happy.

4. The big heart
This woman is trusting and welcomes every one into her life. This mother is usually a good cook (or tries to be) and her kitchen becomes the cornerstone of their lives.

5. The big presence
In this instance, the mother has probably died. It could be when the hero/heroine was young or grown. But her presence is still felt. That person keeps her with him/her and looks for things in the love interest that’s reminiscent of the mother. That mother shapes everything from their achievement in life, to the qualities they look for in a spouse. While this can be good, sometimes the love interest has to compete with a larger than life memory in order to gain that HEA.

I know I have barely scratched the surface of character types of mothers that exist in romance novels. So I welcome you to add to the list. Tell me of the different character types you encounter in novels of any genre and how they compare to your own.

As for my own mother, she is a complex hybrid, but falls best into the category of "the big heart."


KeVin K. said...

Both my mother and my mother-in-law (with whom I got along very well for 28 years) were variations on the big heart theme, though they each carried it off differently. My mother was an adventurer, always interested in going somewhere she'd never been or trying something new. She encouraged and inspired that in both her sons (and I guess my dad, now that I think of it). My mother-in-law was more the matriarch -- I guess a combination of big heart and big presence. Nothing happened in her extended family that she was not part of or did not have a say in. Which may sound limiting or controlling, but in fact she was encouraging and supporting. Her home was always the center for holidays, with family from South Carolina, New York, DC, Georgia, and California crowding the house every Thanksgiving.

Every mother, in real life and in fiction, is a complex blend. In fiction they are sometimes simplified (which can turn them into a cliche if not done wisely). In real life, while the person remains complex, the protagonist may perceive them as only one thing -- such as the adult son who only remembers her condemnation of his teenage choices -- or as a symbol -- such as the woman whose childhood memory of her late mother is of an all-knowing saint. These perceptions -- and the conflicts they engender -- can be rich fodder for fiction.

Jewel Amethyst said...

That is true, Kevin, mothers in real life are a complex blend while in novels they then tend to be simplified. Though I find, in some novels (especially well written ones) the mothers can be a complex blend of conflicting archetypes.

In many romances(except family series and parallel romances) the maternal characters tend to be muted I guess not to detract from the main characters' love affair.

In most my books, mothers play rather strong roles. That is because having lost my father at a relatively early age, my mother played a very central role in my life (and my loves).

Liane Spicer said...

Powerful figures, mothers, in and out of fiction.

My mother would be a variation on the big heart type. She's the inspiration for the mother in one of my current WIPs and I almost despair of doing her complexity justice.