[Reading Room] Your Mama’s Adventures In Parenting by Mary Robinette Kowal

Last week I talked about reading and writing stories with divided storylines that come together at the end.

The example I gave, Shakedown by Elizabeth Gonzalez, had a fairly traditional narrative structure. While it wasn’t clear how the two storylines would interact, at first, it was an easy-to-read story.

Shaking Things Up

This week’s story is a little different. It’s not a straight narrative. It’s structure is confusing and the reader is force to chisel out what’s going on. If you’re willing to put in the brainpower, though, it’s very much worth it.

Your Mama’s Adventures In Parenting by Mary Robinette Kowal, starts out firmly in the science fiction/speculative space. The opening lines leave no question of that:

Your mama adjusted her face mask and checked the chronometer on her eyepiece. Darn it.

We know, straight away, that this is either steampunk or futuristic, but it’s definitely not a contemporary heist story.

We’re immediately immersed in the sights, smells and feel of the story as ‘your mama’ continues her crime caper. It is immersive and humorous and resolutely sci-fi.

What In The World…?

Abruptly, the next section is less resolute. The short second section takes us to a very domestic scene that might be happening anywhere.

Then, we’re back to the adventurous heroine again. And so on.

The Magic of Short Fiction

It is a disorienting story…but that’s one of the things I LOVE about short fiction: it can be disoritenting. It can be challenging. It can be non-traditional. And it delivers it all in a tiny package.

Well done, a story like this presents a puzzle that it’s up to us, the readers to unlock.

And this one is very well done.

I was pleased with the treasure I unlocked. So much so that I went back and read it through again, just to see what I could see once I knew the ‘solution’.

I recommend taking some time to read Your Mama’s Adventures in Parenting by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Try It

In your next story, think about ways you can challenge your reader. What facts can you leave out? What can you hold back until the end? Can you cut off the first or last paragraph of an existing story? What does that do to the reader?

Use last week’s writing prompt to play with these ideas some more.


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