Family Relationships

It might have been the introduction of The Speaker for the Dead where Orson Scott Card talked about how each character fits into a family and their relationships within.

One of the characters had six children, and he said each fit into the family in a unique way. It was hard for him because every time two people get together, whether it be in a story or in real life, their character is a little different.

It’s these unique relationships that stretch writers as we try to show the stories that are in our heads. As he explained it, each of those six children and the mother had different facets depending on which other characters s/he interacted with. It comes up to a lot of facets, then slightly more shadings as you combine more than just two characters in a scene.

As I write, I try to listen to the character as I’ve imagined him/her. It helps, but sometimes it isn’t enough to preserve those slight differences with each character. As with everything else, practice makes perfect.

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Recently I read a book (an adult novel) where the main character lived near his parents. Next door, in fact. An injury prevented him from doing many things on his own, and as a consequence his mother often cooked or one of his parents would drive him around. While he hated being dependent, he didn’t have many other options.

Young Adult (or even Children’s) novels often differ from adult novels. Adult novels often lack the parents and siblings found in the younger genres. Part of this might be due to setting: at those ages people must interact with parents and siblings (if any) because they live together. Even orphans have foster families or extended families to fill the gaps.

And as any young adult knows, those family relationships are ripe for conflict. Something always provides conflict at home – usually someone. Who do you pick for the bad guy – Dad? Mom? Siblings? All of the above? To make a good novel, the conflict must be strong; the worse the bad guy can be, the better for the story. Often the mundane details from ‘real life’ are too dull to hold the reader’s attention for an entire novel.

Is that a comment about how our adult lives change? We’re no longer with our family from our childhood; we grow and change and build new families. It made me think, anyway.