Mother’s Day is happening on Sunday, and not only is it an important day for many; it’s a day that is a good basis for creating characters and stories. Every character, whether hero or villain had a mother, was shaped by that experience.
In fact, this is a great way to figure out what a character is really like. By determining if they got along with, or had trouble with their mother, you can more easily imagine what they will and won’t do. I often explore this fundamental relationship when creating a new character for a TV show or movie.
Here’s the exercise.
Set your timer for 15 minutes.
Step 1. As yourself, write about an early childhood experience with your mother.
Step 2. Focus on how the story shaped you, whether in a negative or positive way. Describe details — colors, scents, music, the place, the time, and the weather.
Step 3. Allow yourself to get lost in the memory and write in greater detail than usual.
Step 4. Repeat the exercise for your main character.
Step 5. Repeat the exercise for your obstacle or villain.
Step 6. Put the exercise away for at least a day. Then reread and ask yourself: How did the experience shape me, and how did the experience affect my character’s lives?
Comparing my characters with myself often gives me a fresh story idea, and new insight about what my characters want.
Although there’s a lot of sentimental stuff written about being a mom, I love what Nora Ephron wrote:
“Here’s what a parent is: A parent is a person who has children. Here’s what’s involved in being a parent: You love your children, you hang out with them from time to time, you throw balls, you read stories, you make sure they know which utensil is the salad fork, you teach them to say please and thank you, you see that they have an occasional haircut, and you ask if they did their homework.”
Here’s a list of movies about mothers. Enjoy!
Lady Bird (2017)
The Joy Luck Club (1993)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Soul Food (1997)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Postcards From the Edge (1990)
The Piano (1993)
Life as We Know It (2010)
Momma Mia (2008)
Forrest Gump (1994)
The Blindside (2009)
Happy Mother’s Day!
Here’s to your successful writing!
Professor Marilyn Horowitz