What if My Mother Didn’t Love Me? – Writing the Opposite of What You Know by Debra H. Goldstein
My mother loved me, but what if she hadn’t?
Writers write what they know, but sometimes what a writer “knows” isn’t particularly interesting and definitely couldn’t sustain an engaging novel. That’s when writers do what they do best – creative thinking.
For example, I was my mother’s miracle baby – her first successful pregnancy, her brilliant beautiful bubbly daughter (she saw what she wanted to see). She taught me to read, was my Girl Scout leader, cheered me on in whatever activity I chose to try, and beamed with pride when I graduated from college and law school. Even if something didn’t quite go the way I hoped, I always knew my mother was there for me.
In just a few sentences, I’ve summarized enough of our relationship for you, a reader, to know our story and realize it lacks the conflict necessary to build a plot around. But, what if our interaction had been different? Would you find it more interesting if she hadn’t been loving and supportive? If she’d walked out of my life when I was a child without telling me why? What would be the impact of such a family dynamic on the woman I became?
Once these questions crossed my mind, the endless story possibilities intrigued me. Consequently, when I began writing the mother/daughter subplot in my new book, Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery, I chose to reverse what I know and give Carrie a mother who appears out of the blue, twenty-six years after abandoning her family. Within hours of returning and leaving Carrie with a sealed envelope and the knowledge that she once considered killing Carrie’s father, Carrie’s mother is murdered. Compelled to find out why her mother is dead and unravel why she abandoned her, Carrie soon learns that what she was taught to believe and the truth may very well be two different things.
I’m glad my mother loved me. I’m also happy to be a writer who deliberately creates characters and situations opposite to “what I know.” This method may require me to use my imagination and do a bit more research that is never actually seen in the story, but it certainly makes for a far more entertaining read. Don’t you agree?
Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery (Five Star Publishing, a division of Cengage – April 20, 2016) and the 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus. Her short stories and essays have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including Mardi Gras Murder and The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fourth Meal of Mayhem. Debra serves on the national Sisters in Crime, Guppy Chapter and Alabama Writers Conclave boards and is a MWA member. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.
Should Have Played Poker introduces Carrie Martin and her fellow sleuths, the Sunshine Village retirement home Mah Jongg players, as they work to uncover the mystery behind her mother’s murder.
Carrie’s life as a young corporate lawyer who is balancing her job and visiting her father at the retirement home is upset when her mother unexpectedly returns 26 years after abandoning her family. Her mother leaves her with a sealed envelope and the confession that she once considered killing Carrie’s father. Before Carrie opens the envelope, she finds her mother murdered and the woman who helped raise her seriously injured.
Instructed to leave the detective work to the police, Carrie and the ladies in the retirement home’s Mah Jongg circle attempt to unravel Wahoo, Alabama’s past secrets, putting Carrie in danger and at odds with a former lover – the detective assigned to her mother’s case.
http://www.amazon.com/Should-Played-Carrie-Players-Mystery/dp/1432831593/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1455807465&sr=8-1&keywords=should+have+played+poker (available for pre-order)
e-book 9781432831530 also available - April 20, 2016)