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Family is...COMPLICATED.

But writing it, shouldn't be


I think between the blog post title and the first line, I can call this post complete.

Thanks for coming!

Just kidding. But, c’mon, you guys totally get where I’m going with that.

Family is one of the most complicated relationships we will ever have in our lifetime. It’s the one type of relationship you can’t really get rid of. Blood is thicker than water, as the saying goes.

This month I’m doing a relationship series. How to write authentic ones but pulling from real life. This is the first post in the series (well, besides the introductory one I did on Tuesday. Find that, here.

There are many familial relationships outside the norm, but today I’m going to talk about “the average family unit”. I’ll be pulling from personal experience (because I’ve been blessed with a diverse and amazing set of family on both sides), but there will also be a lot of info that won’t be from personal experience. And I’m not going to let you know which is which. Because that wouldn’t be fair. ;)

So let’s jump right in and start with what makes each unique so you can pull some of that into your writing. This will be a two part post, so check back next Tuesday for the rest!


Oh, parents. Now that I am one, the relationship complicates itself even further. Let’s start with our relationships with our parents, as their children. Parents are set up in our lives not to be our friends, but to be our parents. To give us the guidelines to live by. To teach us to (hopefully) be contributing, responsible members of society. They are supposed to govern us with love, patience, discipline, and fun. Now, that doesn’t always happen. There is abuse. There is neglect. There are the parents that are friends rather than parents (and sometimes that works).

As a child, we often think our parents are there to ruin our lives. They don’t understand us! They don’t get the fact that we need to have fun and experience life on our own without boundaries or rules. They are put on this earth to rain on our parade and embarrass us 24/7. But as we get older, we look to them to answer our questions, help us with life’s bigger problems, share their life experiences with us, and eventually, we see them as a new creature: The Friend. It’s all a natural cycle.

Now, as a parent, looking at your kids: When your child enters your life, you are filled with an instant, never-ending love. It was the strangest sensation for me to experience. This little, tiny human—that I helped create and I grew inside of me—I loved. With no bounds and no requirements. I didn’t even know them. I expected nothing back. I knew (and still know) that I would die for each of my children with no second thought to myself. Then there are days when I just want to walk out the door because of the level of sass and frustration I’m getting (hello, mirror!). It’s so surreal to experience the flux of emotions when you are a parent. But at the end of the day, I still love them unconditionally. I want the best for them and the pressure to “raise them right” and keep them safe at all times is such a heavy press on my heart and lungs. Now I finally know and appreciate why my mom was the way she was.

In your writing, you also need to bear in mind if it’s a nuclear family (two-parent household) or a single-parent household. Please, don’t fall into the Disney trap of killing off the parents or making them disappear. They can honestly add so much to your story and character if your plot will let you.

I grew up in a single-parent household so I have no idea how a “regular” family unit is supposed to function (the adjustment to marriage was actually a struggle for me because I didn’t know what that two-person structure was supposed to look like). As a child of a single parent, I grew up knowing that no one else was going to do what needed to be done. I was the only one. So I learned to do what needed to be done, because it wasn’t going to happen otherwise. There is no one to share the task with you. I also grew up with no extracurricular activities or regular eating out or yearbooks. There was no money. My mom was working two and sometimes three jobs at a time just to provide for us. BUT, again, I knew nothing else, so this was all normal.

What does your character’s home life look like? What is their parental structure?


There is a special bond between siblings. It’s okay for them to hate each other or be fighting, but the moment someone from the outside starts something, look out. You’ll have an entire family pack on your hands—sibling fighting set aside. I think of them as their own mini mob. It’s okay for internal strife, but you don’t mess with any of them, because at the end of the day, they’re blood and you protect your own.

You also need to take into consideration the special connections that siblings have. Twins, for example, are often very close and can chare feelings or experiences or sensations, even when they’re apart. Most twins are very close (although my sister and I were anything but, growing up, but now that we’re older, we are. But that didn’t change the fact that if anyone tried to start something with her, I was quick to help put a stop to it). Then you have siblings that can’t stand each other. To dive deeper in, you have the birth order issue and gender interaction factor and how many years apart they are from each other. It’s a good idea to look into the psychology of birth order and also love languages, to give your relationships and characters more depth. Research. After all, next to editing, it’s the best part of writing.

That’s all we have time for, today, but check back on Thursday for the last part of this post where we dive into significant others, in-laws, and dysfunction in family, and…..A List.

Until then,

See you at The Writer Community!


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