Being that family is the main focus of my novel, I thought now was the right time to discuss how important it is to have a realistic family in a fictional novel. The easiest part is picking the perfect family.
You want your story to have it all—the nuclear family, maybe some pets, except the perfect family does not exist. What we have in our minds of what a family should be is not what people should be in the pages of a book. People want to relate to your story and there is no better way to relate than to provide an honest picture of family. It can be difficult to pinpoint the aspects of family that everyone can relate to, but there is one fact that remains true. Family can bend and break because it’s not a perfect, fragile piece of glass. Instead, I needed to think of it as a flexible, powerful rope that even when cut can be knotted back together. My fictional family is less than perfect, struggling to survive in a new place, but always working to stay as one.
One of the hardest tricks to master when building your fictional family is the flaws in the relationships between the members. Flaws in characters are difficult, but flaws in relationships are complicated times two or four. My task in constructing the Brooks family was making each family member was then showing how they interact. Looking in on my own family, I realize that your personal relationships are the best way to learn–the good, bad, and unusual. Every day I can be grateful knowing that every moment I spend with my family allows me to give more in my writing.
If a perfect family is unrealistic, then the writer of any story must consider what kind of family would suit the story. In my case, the nuclear family was both familiar and useful to the story. What more does an American family need to be than a Mom, Dad, brother, and sister? It gives me the room I need to develop strong women, vulnerable men, and a family ready to overcome each other’s differences. In the long haul, this idea saves you from the expectation that every family is the same or better than your own. Rather, what they are expected to do is pick you up when you have reached the bottom and show you what family truly means. It means caring for each other for the flaws that bond you, not just in blood, but in love too.
I hope this post inspires you to bring some of the hope and maybe a little dysfunction of your family into your writing.
Happy reading and writing!!!