Many authors write about a dysfunctional family, maybe because there are so many. Tolstoy wrote: “Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Of course there are truly happy families, but they don’t make such good fiction as mother-daughter conflicts; sibling rivalry; broken mother-child bonds; feelings of abandonment; marital strife … the list is unending.
Those thorny issues are explored very successfully in fiction. And you can mine your own experiences – everything we know, feel, think or believe is colored by how we were brought up. Sibling rivalry that began in early childhood continues undiminished into adulthood. Unrequited love looms large in the imagination. And somewhere amid this labyrinth of memories, experiences and conflicts lies the mother lode: the unique blend of fact and fiction, the alchemy that makes a story come to life.
This doesn’t mean it’s easy to translate it into your story. But don’t think “My .life is boring. No-one would be interested in what happened to me.” Everyone’s story is potentially interesting. You don’t have to be a mountain climber, a lion tamer or a doctor to tell a fascinating story. Sometimes harrowing conflicts arise from extraordinary events in the lives of ordinary people. When you imagine everyone else has a more exciting life, it’s often the case of the grass looking greener on the other side of the fence.
The death of a loved one can be the catalyst bringing submerged half-truths and unspoken resentments exploding to the surface. How do you know which experiences and emotions to tap? Start putting it down on paper – if you can write it dry-eyed, without a lump in your throat, maybe it’s not powerful enough.
I admit that what we write does have an effect on those around us, but we can’t keep thinking “What will he/she think” . People don’t recognise themselves in your story as a rule, especially if the portrait is unflattering. “To thine own pen be true” to paraphrase a cliche. To create memorable characters and stories, you must be willing to travel deep into the mineshaft of your own memories. You will be rewarded by the knowledge that redemption, in fiction as in life, is always possible and the human spirit is indeed indomitable.
I look forward to your comments, and am happy to help you with your writing problems. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” and an earlier one “In A Good Pasture” can be obtained direct from me at discount prices.