Lesson 4: The Art of Mothering - Entertaining vs Illuminating

classic Classic list List threaded Threaded
8 messages Options
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Lesson 4: The Art of Mothering - Entertaining vs Illuminating

Beth Skarupa
This post was updated on .
*Pick one character whom you can make more like anyone. Add that as early as possible in your manuscript. Pick another character who is unlike anyone else. Find one way to make that character even more odd, eccentric, outsider or unique. Reveal that as quickly as you can in the story.



I’d seen Jake’s mom a few times, sitting on a rickety wooden chair while she smoked in her garage with the door up, but we’d never met. She didn’t seem like she wanted to talk and I don’t smoke, so I never felt like I had to go over to say hello. Sometimes she would wave at me, raising her thin, pale arm in the air over her head, then letting it drop back down. I’d wave back, but that was about the extent of our interaction until now.

"Really, you don't have to check in with my mom. She doesn't worry about me," Jake had said back at our house, trying to keep us from following him home after he saw his mom’s green Camry pull into his driveway.

Then he’d left Mikey and me standing at his front door, opening it and disappearing inside without a backwards glance, probably hoping we would give up and go back home. There was nothing for me to do but ring the doorbell.

"Come in!" a woman’s raspy voice called out.

We heard no movement inside the house. I hadn't planned on going in, so I rang the bell again, hoping she would get the message and come to talk to us on the front porch.

"I'm in the kitchen," she called out again. “Just come on in already.”

The house was dark with all the blinds closed and the TV was blaring. Smoke hung in the air. I wrinkled my nose as the storm door swung closed behind Mikey and me. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust and see Jake slouched on a worn leather couch, watching cartoons. Mikey ran to join him and I walked through the room to the kitchen. The house was identical to ours inside with the same tile entryway facing the living room and the doorway to kitchen on the right, except it seemed like their walls were painted a light mocha brown instead of builders’ white.

Jake’s mom was at the stove, stirring a pot of what looked like miniature hot dogs bobbing in boiling water. Her long blond hair was loose under a big white floppy sun hat that she pushed up with her free hand when I walked in. Her red bikini top, cutoff jean shorts and petite figure made her look like a teenager but her weathered skin gave her away.

She let go of the spoon, grabbed a lit cigarette off the stove top, and tapped the ashes into an unused burner. Then she took a long drag of the cigarette, letting the smoke out in a slow stream.

“So, Jake’s been bugging you all day,huh? I told him to stay out of trouble.”

My eyes stung and my throat started to tickle. I took a step back from her.

“Trouble? Oh, no it’s not that, he behaved just fine. But I was worried - ”

“No need to worry about Jake. He takes care of himself just fine. Hell, he takes care of me most days.” She smashed the cigarette, set it on the stove and started stirring the pot again.

“But he was home alone and -”

“Is that what he told you? His step-brother’s here. He’s probably still in bed, but he’s here.”

I didn’t know what to say. When Jake told me his mother wasn’t home I just assumed that meant he was alone.

“Well, when I saw him by the marsh and no one was watching after him, I -”

“Honest mistake. Hey, you want a drink? I have a six-pack in the fridge. Help yourself.” She nodded her head toward the refrigerator behind her. “While you’re at it, get me one too.”
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Lesson 4: The Art of Mothering - Entertaining vs Illuminating

sierragodfrey
This is fantastic Beth! The scene is uncomfortable, the mom is a train wreck, and yet this is so vital to who the other characters are. This is really great and what I recognize to really be this assignment (which I struggled with!) Very nice.
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Lesson 4: The Art of Mothering - Entertaining vs Illuminating

brigitte
In reply to this post by Beth Skarupa
I'm honing in on that part of the assignment, too.
Did this exercise bring out more of Jake's mom than your original description of her?
Leathery skin in a bikini top - well that's quite a telling picture! Well done!
You hit both universal truth in caring for the welfare of a young person and heightened reality in sensing something is amiss. I think that's how this assignment works.
Jake closing the door quickly and him slumping shows a lot.
Thanks for the example.
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Lesson 4: The Art of Mothering - Entertaining vs Illuminating

SandraHutchison
In reply to this post by Beth Skarupa
My chest is constricting just imagining breathing in that house. Poor Jake. (She has a nice car, though! And a leather couch? There was some relative prosperity at some point for these guys.)

Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Lesson 4: The Art of Mothering - Entertaining vs Illuminating

DonaldMaass
In reply to this post by Beth Skarupa
Although well written throughout, this truly became entertaining for me here:

"Honest mistake. Hey, you want a drink? I have a six-pack in the fridge. Help yourself.” She nodded her head toward the refrigerator behind her. “While you’re at it, get me one too.”

Oooo-kaaay.  We're not in the land of ordinary folk anymore, though the boiling hot dogs and cigarettes make this folksy real as well.  I'd say this lands more on the side of entertaining but I wouldn't push this passage, anyway, much more in the other direction.  Blue collar can be so somber, it's nice to enjoy it for a change.
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Lesson 4: The Art of Mothering - Entertaining vs Illuminating

Chelsea Resnick
In reply to this post by Beth Skarupa
This was great, Beth! The way you describe the house--it's so real. And I don't know if I'm gauging Jake's behavior accurately, but it seemed like he didn't want the narrator to come into his house. Like he had some self-consciousness about his mom or the general disorder. Compound that with the fact that he's implied to the MC that he's home completely alone... For me, it really conjured a heartfelt picture of a little boy who wants adult role model to see him outside the context of his family.

Very nice read!
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Lesson 4: The Art of Mothering - Entertaining vs Illuminating

Marcie Geffner
In reply to this post by Beth Skarupa
hi Beth,

I'm a day late, but just wanted to jump in and echo the earlier comments.

You've given us a terrific example of illuminating and entertaining on one page.

And I have to say it's also educational and inspiring, another dichotomy.

Thanks for sharing.

Marcie
Marcie Geffner
marcie@marciegeffner.com
www.marciegeffner.com
Ventura, Calif.
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: Lesson 4: The Art of Mothering - Entertaining vs Illuminating

Beth Skarupa
Thanks Marcie (and everyone else who commented too)!

This was my first WFWA workshop and I really loved it. I have learned so much from my fellow group members and the lessons and Donald Maas, our wonderful presenter. I only just became a member of WFWA about a month ago ...  which was definitely a great decision. I hope to "see" you all around more in the future and will look for your books to read too! Wishing I could afford the time and money for the retreat and hoping I can get there next year!

Beth