Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Simple Way to Deepen Your Characters

Happy Wednesday, my writing friends,

Deep, multi-layered characters hook readers, am I right? I know this, and I’ve heard and read lots about it over the years. Typical advice: don't be nice to my characters, find out what lie they believe, figure out what they want and why they can’t have it.

Yes! These are great words of wisdom, which I try to follow, but recently I’ve noticed another way to create that intensity.


Mainly from being sucked in to TV dramas (some have pretty good character development), I’m learning to see how important—maybe even critical—family relationships are for my characters. There’s a universal understanding of the heart connections here. The hurts pierce deeply; the joyful bonding resonates intensely. And if I can be purposeful about my hero's and heroine's connections to family, perhaps I can add that intensity to my story.

Shared Experiences
No one knows what we’ve been through like our family. “Remember how mom used to…” or “I’ll never forget that road trip…” Common memories signal a unique love we all long for.

Deep Pain
For most of us, those closest to us caused our deepest pain from the past. Consequently, loved ones also have the greatest propensity for future potential hurt. With family we’re at our most vulnerable.  

Let’s face it, who have we hurt more than our very own parents, siblings, or children? A longing for forgiveness, or the relief of receiving it, molds who we are, building either confidence or insecurities.
All family relationships come with certain expectations. I expect my husband to protect me both physically and emotionally. I expect him to cherish me and love me. If he falls short of these things, it hurts! Same with parents. We expect them to be supportive and loving, but how heartbreaking when father ignores a son or a mother calls a daughter fat?

Can you see the potential for our characters? What a wealth of emotion just wating for us to tap into!

Each family relationship—parent/child; sibling/sibling, grandparent/grandchild—touches on these emotional hot buttons in different ways. Next week we’ll explore how these specific relationships impact our stories.
How have you used family relationships to deepen your characters? I'd love to hear.
God bless and happy writing!