Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Committee Chair

Majozo, Estella Conwill

Author's Keywords

Novel excerpt; Original writing




The role of mothers, the constitution of families, and the power of their stories are the bedrock of my thesis, which is the first 90 pages of a novel entitled Playing House . In it, I hope to investigate the denotation and connotation of the words mother and family , in order to investigate the tension between the two. I hope to complicate society's assumption that a womb makes a woman a mother, and the lack of one prohibits it. Many times, we are mothered by someone other than our biological mother--sometimes for the better and sometimes not. Sometimes to our liking and sometimes not. And all too often, women are considered "abnormal" or "inferior" because they are not a member of the elitist motherhood club. In Jeff Skinner's creative writing seminar, he instructed fiction writers to ask themselves two questions: (1) Why this day? and (2) How can I raise the stakes?. Recently, my best friend has joined the ranks of "infertile" women who will stop at no cost or inconvenience to conceive a child. And I thought, perfect ! That would complicate Beth, the main character, wonderfully. She is surrounded by mothers in the novel who never let her forget that she is not one. How would she feel, how would she cope with the reality the scandalous evidence of her husband's affair and subsequent child when she must face the loneliness of her infertility? It was not until I wrote the last words on the page that I knew the answer. For the scope of my thesis, I expect to work through the initial 95 pages. My first goal is to clarify the desires of my main characters: Beth and Michael. Generally, what do they want from each other? What do they want in each scene? What things do they desire, both tangible and intangible? Answering these questions will result in a better, fuller portrait of each character. Also, I plan on spending time visualizing the characters in order to make them more alive in my mind and therefore, more realistic on the page. Secondly, I expect to condense or even eliminate the long, irrelevant sections of the main characters' backstory and the secondary characters' subplots. For example, the focus of the narrative should be Beth and Michael's attempt to hold their marriage together while adopting an unexpected child. Much to the dismay of an engaged reader, the narrative often strays faultily to Beth and Michael's college days or the extraneous marriages of John and Rachel, Trevor and Lauren, or Beth's mother and father. I also intend to add physical and environmental details to the novel. I hope to flesh out my characters and their dialogue by providing more description of their physical actions and appearance. In addition, I hope to gain credibility as an author/observer by more vividly describing the environment. I tell my students "setting should be connected to is not haphazard." Yet again, I am tasting my own medicine. Lastly, a change that I expect to make is Beth's profession--from college professor to high school teacher. The fact that she is an educator and that she shares a campus with her husband is important to the themes and the conflict of the novel; however, the unlikelihood that a woman not yet 30 is already a college professor undermines the novel's credibility. Making Beth a high school teacher keeps the subtle theme of the tension between education and athletics in tact. However, the conflict of the novel requires Beth and Michael to share a work environment, so the high school where Beth teaches will remain on the same campus as the college where Michael works. Based on the discussion from my thesis defense, I have also made the following revisions: First, I softened the exchange with the mother and revealed more back story based on my explanation as to why the mother was so bitter, in that the grandparents "wrote her off" essentially. That information comes into play as Beth now sympathizes with her mother, although she still swears to never become like her, and her mother gives her valuable advice about the need to move on from mistakes. Also, I narrated some of the dialogue that resembled dialogue in a drama, in that hopefully most of the dialogue included now is necessary to the advancement of plot and/or characterization and not the general, "Hello, how are you?" exchange. Next, I added some literary allusions to Beth's character that hopefully add to her realism as an English teacher. Lastly, I cleaned up a great deal of the wordiness and punctuation.