The Dark Mother in Books and Movies

Just as a warning, this post contains dark imagery and unsettling pictures. Viewer discretion is advised. 

 

I love tropes. I know other people have mixed feelings about this, but I find them fascinating. While diving too far into tropes can become cliche, every writer uses them. Just one look at tvtropes.org, and it’s almost impossible not to.

So to celebrate tropes, I’m picking a few of my favorite to highlight in my Writing Wednesday posts. I’ll do one a month until I get tired of it, maybe more if people have suggestions for tropes they enjoy.

Today’s trope is….

The Dark Mother

With every trope or archetype, there is a dark side, and if there’s one archetype I love the most it’s that of the Dark Mother. She’s a force to be reckoned with and can be any caretaker or mother figure with dark intentions.

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Patron Saint of Last Nights Tears 5×5 oval oil by Jasmine Worth

 

Examples in Literature –

The Other Mother – Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Evil Stepmother/Queen – Every fairy tale ever
Cathy Ames/Kate Trask – East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Norma Bates – Psycho by Robert Bloch
Margaret White – Carrie by Stephen King

Examples in Movies –

Alien Den Mother – Aliens
Stephanie Smith – 8 Mile
Mary Jones – Precious
Queen Bavmorda – Willow

Why do I love this trope so much?

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Mother Catrina by liransz on Deviant Art

Mothers are supposed to be loving and caring. They’re our caretakers, who we learn love from, and when we have nothing, we’re supposed to be able to count on them to be there for us. As someone who’s a fan of flipping tropes on their head, the idea of a Dark Mother, one who gives life, but also takes it, has always been fascinating. She’s strong, but in a wicked way, and is morally compromised at every turn.

I hope to do her justice in some of my future novels, both as an antagonist, and as the powerful female figure she is.

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Aura by Lourdes Saraiva Art https://www.facebook.com/l.saraiva.illustrator

 

Which mother do you prefer in your movies and novels? The Light or Dark? Who’s your favorite example of a Dark Mother?

Why Authors Love the Pacific Northwest

I’ve traveled across the United States, from Texas to Washington, D.C., back to Texas, and then childhood summers spent up in Michigan. I remember family trips across the hot deserts of the American West, and sticky falls spent along the Gulf of Mexico through swamps. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 did I finally make it to the Pacific Northwest.

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Beach at Solo Point. See my instagram for more pictures of my setting adventures.

Besides living with a family that loved to travel, I’m a military spouse who moves every two to four years. It’s left me with a wide array of places to chose from for a setting. From the city outskirts of Washington D.C., to back roads in the Texas Hill Country, to long twisted highways that carve through the Colorado Rockies; my mental setting bank is full.

Last year I moved to Washington state. It’s a part of the country I’ve only seen in television shows, books, and movies, and I’ve always wondered, what makes this area so special? What is it about the Pacific Northwest that pulls writers in?

I haven’t been here a year yet, and let me tell you. It’s been an experience. It rains more than I’ve ever seen, the people are eccentric, and the cities are small. But none of those are bad things. If anything, the area reminds me of growing up in Austin in the 90’s. People are active in their community, the land isn’t built up with subdivisions, and there are plenty of outdoor events for people to get back to nature.

When you get out of the cities, you find small communities centered around churches, rocky beaches with whole tree trunks tossed on the shore and if you go out east, over the Snoqualmie Pass, you find orange deserts and oasis towns.

With my next project in the works, a dark comedy and drama both of them supernatural pieces having to do with ghosts and death, I’ve set parts of it in the Pacific Northwest for a setting. Trips to Solo Point, a beach for military personnel to unload their boats, have been the most inspiring. The scenery is stunning and I hope to take a kayak out to the small island off shore to do some more exploring.

The longer I’m in this part of the country, the more I realize why writers and artists are drawn to this area. It’s lush, vibrant, and in spite of the rain, it’s beautiful.

Is there a part of the country you find yourself drawn to? Where do you enjoy setting your placing your novels?

What’s your favorite “How To” writing book?

I’ve been picky about what “how to” writing books I buy lately. Most of them are less about story structure, and more about the nitty gritty parts of writing.

Here are some of my favorite books on writing, but I’m in the market for more. Have any suggestions that improved your writing in any particular area?

16681583_1300483536656800_6852415959332937314_n1. The Emotion Thesaurus
Good for – writing character feelings through their body language.
Lacking in – For a thesaurus, it doesn’t list off as many emotions as I’d hope.

2. Writer’s Guide to Character Traits 
Good for – Nailing down Character behavior regarding their mental status.
Lacking in – It’s one sided and stereotypical at times.

3. Writing from the Senses
Good for – Writing more expressive and meaningful scenes.
Lacking in – It’s a little “How To” and repeats what I’ve read in other books.

4. Plot Vs. Character
Good for – Helps see things from a plot/character writer’s perspective.
Lacking in – Not sure. I really enjoyed this one.

5. Bullies Bastards and Bitches
Good for – Creating fun, deep, well rounded villains.
Lacking in – Can read a little Creative Writing 101.

6. Word Painting
Good for – Explains writing descriptively better than Writing from the Senses.
Lacking in – Not a whole lot. I really don’t have any complaints about this book.

 

Getting Over the Fear of Judgement From Loved Ones

I love my family. I’m sure some of them will read this one day, so let me repeat myself. I love my family. That being said, growing up where most if not every person in said family is either Catholic, Church of Christ, or Baptist, I’ve always been afraid of them judging my writing.

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My fears weren’t entirely uncalled for. As a child/young teen, I drew a lot, and there were more than a few eyebrows thrown up by what I enjoyed sketching. Fairies, dragons and magic were off limits, practicing the nude human form was scolded, and if I drew in a style that wasn’t approved of, anime for example, I was told to not practice it. While family members saw it as them protecting me, it created a harbor of insecurity for what I was creating.

Needless to say, I never shared my writing with the adults of my family when I started writing. There were a few cousins I trusted with my work, and a best friend I consider a sister, but those were the only people I opened up to. When I told my cousins and “sister” I was going to start submitting to agents, they weren’t surprised at all. For the rest of the family, however, it came as a shock that I was writing in the first place.

When I told them, I’ll admit, I was worried. I write about people with wings that are mistaken as angels, magicians with power over life and death, and ghosts who fall in love with girls and refuse to pass on. I have plans for a novel that revolves around a demon who hunts spirits that escape Hell and another set in a dystopian future that revolves around human cloning.

You can see why I was worried they might judge my subject matter.

How did I get over my fear of judgement and just get to writing?

In part, I found a support group. My husband, “sister”, cousins, and a strict, yet fun, tough love writing group in Texas all gave me a shoulder to lean on but they weren’t the only things that helped.

When I sat back and began to think about what I wanted in life, I realized that writing is what makes me truly happy. I love entertaining people, I love the look on people’s faces when they enjoy my work, and I love creating worlds to let characters run wild in. I love all of it. If my family can’t understand that, and judge me, that’s fine. It’s worth it.

When you’re creating anything, from a sketch, to a play, to a novel, you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Is it something you can’t live without, or are you going to let fear of people who should love you regardless of your interests and what you’re writing stop you from reaching your goals?

What are your insecurities, and how did you overcome them? What advice would you give to artists struggling with judgement from loved ones?

One last note, if you haven’t heard Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech and you’re struggling with fears of rejection, have a listen. I can’t stress how important it was for me to hear this on my road to overcoming fear of insecurities.

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Interviewing for Novel Information

If you have questions while writing your book, chances are the answers are online. For writers, the internet helps us create more believable worlds, shaped our characters to sound more realistic, and given us enough information to become textbook experts on a number of topics.

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That being said, one of the most important tools in a writer’s skill set is the face to face interview.

Over my years of writing, I’ve spoken with a number of people regarding my writings. From a woman who lived at a Hindu temple in Texas, to a Wiccan priestess, to even people who trim trees for a living; I’ve contacted a number of individuals to speak with to help me create my novels.

Here are some questions I get asked from my fellow writers as to how I go about my interview process.

 

How do you find the people to interview?

I’m a wanderer. I like to go for drives to see where I end up, and often times it’s in the most interesting places with interesting people. If I’m not lucky enough to find a place, however, I check with friends and family to see if they know of anyone who’s associated with the topic I’m needing information about. And last case scenario, I check online for people who come recommended in their field.

What type of questions do you ask?

Anything that could possibly pertain to your novel. From personal opinions, to politics of that lifestyle, to what it took to get them to where they are today.  Most people are willing to share it all.

What should I do if I don’t use the information?

There have been a few interviews where the information I gathered wound up not helping me for my novel at all. In most cases, I don’t do anything. I log the information away and see if I can use it in the future. I do, however, keep track of who I interviewed so I can credit them, should I ever use the information they’ve given me.

 

Anything else?

Be up front – Not everyone will want to be interviewed for a novel. If you’re not honest with them, and later on they find out you used things they’ve said in your book, that’s a bridge you could potentially burn for future questions.

Have your questions written out ahead of time – No one wants to spend 45 minutes of an interview fumbling through words, or trying to come up with questions. This is especially important for phone interviews as the interviewee can get bored very quickly, and lose interest in what you’re asking.

Be polite and professional – This should be a no brainer, but keep in mind that this person is taking time to talk about their personal life or work. They don’t want to feel like they’re wasting that time or you don’t know what you’re doing. Again, you don’t want to burn bridges with people you might need in the future.

Be aware of scams/Be safe – This is another thing that should go without saying, but don’t feel like you should have to pay your interviewee. If you’d like to take them out to coffee or lunch, that’s one thing, but if someone’s demanding payment or is asking you to follow them to a location where you don’t feel safe, don’t do it.

Be grateful – I would recommend putting a mention to your interviewees in the acknowledgement of your book. Even if you only use a little bit of information from them, it’s important to show gratitude as a courtesy.

 

Best of luck on your interviews!