The classic mother-in-law. Mother Mona, from my novel, To Kill An Armchair Husband, a dark comedy is such a character. Mother Mona is annoying, judgmental, and has overindulged her son from day one.
It’s a lot of fun and surprisingly easy to write an over-the-top character like the classic mother-in-law. This is how I did it.
1. I created her personality. Mona is overdramatic, narcasstic, and a martyr. She’s obsessed with her only child, cooking and cleaning, and she waits on her husband, hand and foot. Oh, and no woman could ever be good enough for her baby boy (adult son).
2. When I wrote Mona’s dialogue and actions, I grossly exaggerated her speech, thoughts, movements, actions, reactions…everything.
3. Major characters and major secondary characters should all experience some type of transformation as the story progresses. In keeping with Mona’s dramatic personality, her transformation was extreme as well.
For a taste of Mother Mona, read this excerpt from Chapter 14: Mamma’s Not Happy.
Five years ago, minutes before Charlene walked down the aisle to wed her only child, Mona presented her future daughter-in-law with a laminated copy of her baby boy’s favorite dinners. The comprehensive seven-day meal plan included entrées, corresponding side dishes, and the perfect desserts. On the flip side of document, she included every recipe and the brand name of all the ingredients so that Charlene could duplicate each meal without fail.
What better gift to give a new bride? The ultimate time-saver, one guaranteed to save Charlene hours of trial and error in the kitchen. A gift to please a husband in the most important area — his stomach.
Mona picked up the bucket and carried it to the laundry room. As she dumped out the muddy water, she sighed at the memory of her own generosity. Charlene had never appreciated the gift. To make matters worse, she had resisted every attempt Mona made to guide her in the fine art of homemaking and husband attending. Consequently, Mona felt the need to check on her son’s well-being on a regular basis.
Starting the day Billy and Charlene returned from their honeymoon, Mona called every night at seven o’clock sharp. Her objective was two-fold; to find out if Charlene bothered to make the correct side dish and to discover whether she went the extra, but necessary mile, to produce a dessert.
“No meal is complete without dessert.” It was her favorite line. In her mind, she addressed an audience composed of look-a-like Charlene’s, slender of waist and disdainful of traditional ways.
Much to Mona’s chagrin, in the last few years Charlene stopped making dessert all together. She claimed Billy was overweight. Mona disagreed. Her son was simply big-boned, like his father.
As she rinsed and squeezed the water from the mop, Mona fretted about her son’s deprived stomach. She felt his pain and nightly disappointment. “Oh my poor Billy,” she moaned, imagining her son’s sweet tooth throbbing in agony.
Creating an over-the-top character is a blast. It’s a great writing exercise too, as it will help you to flesh out your character.
I highly recommend it!
October 13, 2010 No Comments
The most accesible and most common humor in the world is family humor.
Think family sitcoms. All in the Family, Leave it to Beaver, Brady Bunch, Everybody Loves Raymond . . . Heck, it’s hard to come up with sitcoms that aren’t centered on a family. Even Friends was about a close-knit group of friends who considered themselves a family.
Check out this great excerpt from Everybody Loves Raymond
Marie: These breadsticks are old.
Frank: You are what you eat.
Marie: Bobby, give your father his helping of Miserable Bastard.
People in close contact will eventually compete with and irritate each other. Husbands compete with wives, in-laws compete with married children, children compete with parents, and entire families compete with relatives and neighbors. The mother-in-law visit is still one of the hundred most common plots on TV. Laughter is created when characters interreact with love, illness, jealousy, prejudice, death, and cream pies. Comedy Writing Secrets by Mel Helitzer
If you write comedy or even if you’re just interested in how it works, I highly recommend Comedy Writing Secrets by Mel Helitzer. Mr. Helitzer’s book breaks down comedy to its core elements. Plus he includes lots of funny excerpts.
Coming next . . . Part II–Mother Mona. The grossly exaggerated mother-in-law sterotype from my novel, To Kill An Armchair Husband, a dark comedy. Read a Mona excerpt and learn how I created this “Monster-in-law.”
October 8, 2010 No Comments