Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Simple Way to Deepen Your Characters: Part Two


Happy Wednesday my writing friends,

Last week we talked about how family relationships add depth and intensity to our characters because of shared experiences, deep pain, forgiveness, and expectations. This week, let’s dig into the dynamics of the sister relationship.

More than a Friend
I tend to think of my female protagonists as needing friends, or at least one friend to share secrets with. But how much more intense if the sidekick isn’t just a friend, but a sister?

At first glance, I imagine a sister relationship filled with fun—shopping, giggling, makeovers. And I think these sisterly activities are great ways to clue readers in, but I know, with sisters there’s a deeper intensity. It’s important to remember three characteristics:

First, sisters tend to view each other in a certain social order. I’m the youngest. No matter how old I get, my sisters will still see me as that naïve, immature, obnoxious little sister—at least to some degree. On the flip side of this, no matter how independent or confident I am in my normal world, as soon as I enter sister land, I accept the naïve little sister role—or I have to intentionally try not to. Why is that? I don’t know, but I’m using it the next time I write sisters!

Sister Tip: Create a scene in which your strong, independent protagonist is brought down a notch by a sister.

Second, sisters fight. Unless we’re really close, I don’t think most of us bicker and argue with our girlfriends. But with sisters, there’s a safety about fighting. Sisters feel a freedom to express opinions, nag, bicker, complain—always knowing the sister bond won’t be broken. It takes a lot to break that bond.

Sister Tip: Think about how the sisters in your story fight? Do they yell, use passive-aggressive barbs, nag constantly? Show in a scene, but don’t forget to include that moment when the frustration settles and the sister-bond remains. Be sure to use your emotion-evoking skills.

Third, sisters are loyal. This one strikes a chord, doesn’t it? When I had my cardiac arrest a couple years ago, even though we’d lost touch for a while, when I woke up, my sisters were there, smiling, laughing, and making me feel loved. No matter what drags our heroines down, a sister will come alongside to support, help, love. Or…not. Loyalty between sisters rings so true, breaking it would be an incredible premise for a character.

Sister Tip: How can you show loyalty between sisters in such a way it resonates to your readers?

What observations have you made about sisters? Can they be integrated into our stories? I’d love to hear.

God bless and happy writing,


photo credit: <a href="">adwriter</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>



  1. Oh, I love this. I have only recently developed a deeper relationship with my sister and we are in our 50s/60s. The sister dynamic is so complex - great food for fiction. Thanks for posting this - it gives me some ideas.

    1. You're welcome, Jan. I agree about that complexity. I'm glad this sparked some ideas!


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