Fear in Writing: Family in Writing

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Family in Writing

Cousins at reunion '06
Family.  We all have one.  We may not like them all, we may not be close to them all, but we all have them in some form or another.

Over the past weekend, I have had the unique opportunity to observe the personalities and interactions between members of my extended family.  As I mentioned Tuesday, everyone from the newest to the oldest members of the Hindman clan converged on Nashville, Tennessee for my grandfather's 93rd birthday/family reunion.  It was a mixed bag of craziness, fun, and emotions.

My cousin Jeanne, courtesy
my aunt's Facebook page
I spoke with my cousin Jeanne (pronounced Zhahn, as it should be) about researching my Great-Grandma Jeanne's story.  (Dez so kindly recommended I write about her after this post, and a complete outline popped onto paper out of no where.)  Her work will be more of a factual, memoir-type piece, whereas mine will be (I hope) more based-on-fact fiction.  A fast-paced, historically accurate glimpse into the life of a young girl with dreams of the stage, who meets murder and betrayal along the way.  With dark twists and...Alright, so I'm getting ahead of myself.

Regardless of how you feel about your own family, how do you include family in your writing?  Do your characters have children or spouses?  Do they interact with their family in your works?  Or are they loners, grabbing onto strangers for comfort and pushing away those who want to get close to them?  Do you intentionally not write about family, or the opposite?

Family.  We all have one, of some kind.


  1. Michele - Family really is a critical part of our lives. As you say, regardless of how we feel about family as a concept, or our own families in particular, we can't help but be affected by our family connections.

    Some of my characters have families and some don't. I write wives and sometimes children into a story because I think it makes characters deeper and more believable if readers get to see them as spouses, parents, children and so on as well as sleuths, victims, etc.. Family is also effective in writing because it allows for all sorts of useful settings (reunions, birthdays, holidays and so on) for big events and dramatic interactions.

  2. Not only do families play a role in my writing, but I use characteristics from my family members for my characters. Each family member offers a wealth of quirks and habits to add to my writing. Actually, they can point themselves out sometimes too, which can require finesse to explain to them when the character isn't so nice. It's all about writing what we know or rather who we know. Great post! :D

  3. I tend to stay away from family...but friends are fair game! :)

  4. I must admit, this first work in progress has characters who are, without a doubt, based on my family. I've checked with each of them and they're okay with it. They haven't read the manuscript however so, we'll see.

  5. The novel that I'm currently revising is all about family. The love, the guilt, the betrayal, the secrets--how those you're closest to can hurt you the most, etc. It's been pretty tough, but worth it, I think.

  6. I've always written books about family - the dynamics are bountiful.

  7. What a wonderful experience! Makes me want to plan something for my family, near and far.

    My family shows up in my writing in a number of ways, like a snippet of a personality trait for a character or an idea stemming from my Mom's advice.

    Happy Wednesday,
    Karen :)

  8. I've used the personality traits of family members in much of my writing. I especially like to provide conflict and contrast when writing about families. I try to take all the most unique or weird stuff my family has to offer and incorporate in the personalities of my characters.

    Caution: Some of them actually figured out who I was using in my work.

  9. I try to keep my family out of it but I think it's impossible to do that because our ideas and beliefs are shaped by our upbringing and situations we went through as a family.


  10. My characters have limited or no families, so it's the friendship of strangers that matters more.

  11. Sometimes my characters have families--although they may not have spouses. Spouses have a way of interfering with crime investigation. :)

    Love these pictures! Sounds like such a fun trip.

  12. Margot- And a lot of characterization through interaction as well...Great points!

    Brenda- You are brave! I won't bear the the wrath of the family-turned-fictional murderer!

    DL- But surely your characters have family?

    Lisa- Good luck! Brave, brave, brave...

    Summer- I'd imagine something like that would be quite an exercise in introspection.

    Ann- No emotion unapproachable with family interaction.

    Karen- Yes, sometimes they creep in when you least expect it, don't they?

    J.L.- I won't be using anyone knowingly! Too much danger!

    Clarissa- But your characters need some sort of interaction with other people--do you give THEM family?

    Alex- Strangers in a strange land, eh?

    Elizabeth- And sometimes those families make for extra trouble in your books! More pictures coming tomorrow. :)

  13. In my mysteries, I have a close-knit caring family of two 60-something siblings and the fun-loving, energetic 80-something mom and dad. My two wips, however, feature more dysfunctional types. I think the screwed up characters (and families) are more interesting and fun to work with.


  14. My current novel doesn't have any family stuff in it. My MC has a hard time committing to anyone (he was orphaned at a young age).

    My short stories, though? Definitely family issues in those. Though not the murder and mayhem kind. I'm sure I'll get to those soon enough. :)

    Also, it's been a while since I stopped by. So, um, hi. Hope you're well, good lady! :)