1. severine

    severine Member

    Sep 11, 2018
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    'Missing mom' trope avoidance?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by severine, Sep 10, 2019.

    Hi all. My novel features a young teenaged protagonist who is, for varying reasons, sans parents. She lives with a man who is essentially her landlord. Their relationship is fraught and the subject of much scrutiny as the novel progresses. For many reasons, I want the protagonist's parents absent, scarcely even mentioned. However, I am acutely aware of the https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MissingMom trope and its propensity to fridge female characters in an attempt to provide depth or a tragic background. I really want to avoid this. So my question is: what do? How can I effectively avoid this trope without actually including the protag's mom as a character?
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
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  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Aug 1, 2016
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    East devon/somerset border
    tbh i wouldn't worry about avoiding tropes - if its well written no one cares

    If you want the mom (and dad) to be missing you don't have a lot of choice
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  3. Rancid_Old_Git

    Rancid_Old_Git New Member

    Jun 29, 2019
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    You could put her mum in an unusual situation, for example, she could be in the military serving abroad or in a role which does not imply tragic or tropish (is that even a word?) tendencies.
    Could she have some kind of long distance relationship with her mother? her mother could be unavoidably unable to get to kid, perhaps it could be that kid could sort out the relationship with her mother but chooses not to as a matter of principle or honour, that would avoid the fridging issue.
    Also if you don't want the mother as a character, she could be doing anything anywhere, she could even be training to be one of the first colonists to go to mars. or something.
    Serving on a submarine?
    I just read the article referenced, 'Missing Mom' I wasn't that impressed to be honest, I found it rather shallow and dated in prejudice and viewpoint. Modern families are diverse and complicated, whatever you choose to do, if it's well written should be fine.
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  4. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
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    Ralph's side of the island.
    Missing mom gives you an option for a story element. It shouldn't be just a background thing. Why are they scarcely mentioned? You can choose to simply not say anything at all if that is the story element you want. I doubt the reader will care.

    Maybe the landlord is her adopted guardian. Lots of possible elements there.

    What is the effect or issue the protag has with the missing mom: abandoned, angry, jealous other kids have moms? It can be a story element. Or you can simply leave any mention of it out.

    Think about how you might use the missing parent(s).

    In my story the MC's father died when she was 7. She misses him. The other kids bully her, they have fathers she doesn't. A certain person in the village tries to take advantage of the MC's mother, not for sex but for an extra hand in their household. That would have meant the MC was forced into being a chore girl and her mom said no.

    Her mom was the first person in the village to go on strike [lots of story elements]. It all ties together and takes advantage of the missing father.

    You need to look at everything in the story as playing a part, or just leave it out altogether. You don't have to explain the missing parents if they have no story purpose.

    Tropes are mostly an issue if poorly handled, not because your story includes a trope.
    Cdn Writer and Rancid_Old_Git like this.
  5. GrJs

    GrJs Active Member

    Apr 26, 2018
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    People only ever care if the fridging is done badly. If it's both parents then it doesn't count unless it's the mother dead or missing that is the main character motivation.
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  6. AlbertAnims

    AlbertAnims Member

    Nov 21, 2019
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    My suggestion is doing something different, is instead of your parent's death, put one or both of them in a mental institution, and make one or both of them insane, due to something, like, ay, torture, or you can use a sort of supernatural event.
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  7. Storysmith

    Storysmith Active Member

    Jan 5, 2014
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    So you want the mother to be absent but not missing? That - that's going to be hard to pull off. If you don't want her dead, put her in hospital, or prison, or make her abandon the child, or literally make her missing but not explicitly dead, or a workaholic, or have some similar reason for a living mother to not be around.

    But even death in this case doesn't sound like an example of fridging, which is where a female character is killed, injured or threatened in order to provide a motivation for a male character. In your case, it's for a female character and doesn't sound like motivation.

    Also, to quote the TV Tropes page that you linked, "Missing Moms are considered more unusual than missing fathers, and they are more likely to have their absence explicitly explained". So it stands to reason that you should be more worried about explaining the father's absence, or avoiding him being killed off. You might be in danger of falling into the https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MenAreTheExpendableGender trope. But realistically, you're going to hit some tropes on the nose, so whoever you kill off, make sure that you write well.
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