It’s my mother’s birthday today.
I went home this weekend to celebrate with my family.
Whenever I go home, I am always reminded of how similar I am to my parents and sisters and how much my home life has shaped me.
Like it or not, everyone is shaped by their family. Your parents are the first people you meet. As a child, you probably spend more time with your siblings than anyone else. These are the people that teach you how to be a human and live in a human society. Even the absence of your family can shape the person you become.
And because characters are supposed to be as realistic as possible, they are also shaped by their home lives. When building characters, it’s important to think about how they were raised.
There’s a huge, huge potential for drama in a character’s upbringing. Daddy issues, Oedipal complexes, sibling rivalries- all massive sources of conflict in fiction going straight back to the Greeks. Even if it’s not pertinent to the story, even if you’re not going to include any of the details in the text or plot, you should think about how a character came to be who they are.
Family is a major theme in my own writing. Many of my characters are motivated by ties to their family. Some are devoted to the point of giving up their own lives. Others are unhappily bound, constantly feeling inadequate in the eyes of their parents and siblings.
Regardless of the role that familial bonds play in your plot, it’s important to consider your character’s upbringing. Think about when you meet a friend’s parents. Quirks that you’ve noticed make a lot more sense, as you’re seeing where this person came from and how they learned how to interact with the world.
As creators of fictional people, it’s important for writers to think about family life, as it will allow them to build three-dimensional characters that audiences can understand and relate to.