This week: The Importance of Family as SubjectEdited by: Joy
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“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
“Families are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we can do is to remind each other that we're related for better or for worse...and try to keep the maiming and killing to a minimum.”
Rick Riordan, The Sea of Monsters
“Parents are like God because you wanna know they're out there, and you want them to think well of you, but you really only call when you need something.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
“My dear young cousin, if there's one thing I've learned over the eons, it's that you can't give up on your family, no matter how tempting they make it.”
Hello, I am Joy , this week's drama editor. This issue is about the subject of family in our writing.
Thank you for reading our newsletters and for supplying the editors with feedback and encouragement.
Please, note that there are no rules in writing, but there are methods that work for most of us most of the time.
The ideas and suggestions in my articles and editorials have to do with those methods. You are always free to find your own way and alter the methods to your liking.
}Note: In the editorial, I refer to the third person singular as he, to also mean the female gender because I don't like to use "they" or "he/she".
Welcome to the Drama newsletter
When I was eight, going into nine, I wrote a small book called The Book of Our Family. Nothing original, really, as it was a compilation composed of rhyming poetry as replies to queries resembling today’s Playbuzz quiz questions and in words I thought the members of my family would answer, without me asking them anything. The result was my mother warning me to be careful with other people’s feelings, my grandmother loving every line and laughing heartily, and several other people showing different reactions. My mother’s granduncle who was a high school lit teacher, however, thought the book was brilliant. He thought I penetrated into everyone’s quirkiness. I think his approval must have been the first encouragement of my writing.
My story is nothing new. We all experience drama in our families first, and most beginning writers, regardless of age, mostly consult the dramatic conflict and comedic tension within their families, no matter what the genre they want to write in. Even in countries where stronger drama exists outside the home as wars, political conflicts, and similar issues, the reality of the family experience has the priority in a writer's psyche.
Although the stories of authors that tackle political or societal drama may be considered the more serious work, stories of domestic fiction can be just as important. When I look at the works with broad subjects such as The Tale of Two Cities, The Grapes of Wrath, or Dr. Zhivago, I also see the concept of the family within them. In the modern fiction, even when strangers are pushed together to live as a family, like in Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto or Patron Saint of Liars, the problematic family relationships of people take precedence.
Family literature is not a genre or type, but I think it should be. As of the moment, it is treated as a subject matter of an average writer. Whether this assessment may be correct or not, if we are writing about a family or a larger subject involving family, we may begin with the following considerations to tackle the job:
The family as a unit, how it grows, how it becomes important, how it develops a momentum that not any member can control or understand, etc., and how the sources of alienation in society affect the familial bond.
The specific members, how and when they become more important by virtue of intelligence, self-conscious reflection, flair for drama, feelings like loneliness or belonging, the difficulty of achieving independence, etc. and then, how and why a specific member rises above the others deservedly or at the expense of others.
If writing a broader work such as one involving a war, politics, and other high ideals or complicated subjects, inserting the idea of family as a component or in the flashbacks of the characters will make the story warmer and more relatable for the readers.
If writing a memoir or something memoir-like, making sure of one’s purposes and motivations. Being gentle yet truthful is a high-wire act.
A warning here, again. A writer who creates a memoir or a fiction piece based on his real family events should better be very careful because he or she is entering a potential minefield. To prevent a likely explosion, most writers change the names of the characters and the setting as to the time and place and even the country. This is because not everyone can appreciate the writer's gift to them, a gift of excavated family history, emotional or as events, that has been kept buried or under covers.
At any point, whether the writer is writing about his own or other people’s family, he may find comfort and validation through language and actions that may be warped and twisted until the truth becomes an exhilarated blending of fact and fiction. This is because the writing process is almost magical when it creates splendor out of snags. To reach such a result, I think the pick-and-choose method of family events and people would work better than trying to tell every event and every kind of truth.
Then, since I opened this newsletter with a personal story, I might as well close it with a personal admission. Any NaNo novel I have written has to do with the family idea because the subject comes much easier to me, especially when I have to write that story within a month.
Wishing you all a Happy 2019!
"We were rich once. We owned a handsome home in the heart of downtown. Father had the honorable distinction of being the most successful banker in the city, but with success comes responsibility, and father was a very responsible man."
"It was a tradition that went back generations. Amanda had been anointed by Grandma Sherry to do the honors this Christmas Eve. The fireplace was lit..."
"My name is Nikki Morgan. Figuring out why people do what they do is my thing. I want to figure out how Margo, my mother, ended up shot in her artist’s studio?"
"Jared slouched down on the bench seat and frowned silently. He spent the rest of time listening to his parents speak excitedly."
When they arrived at the location where the house stood, Jennifer and John smiled with gaping mouths."
"It had still been dark when we were called. It wasn't a pajama run; I was dressed, but still slept a few miles in the car. There were no cousins for me to play with this time. We lived closest, most available for urgency, first on the scene."
"Jesse leaned over the tall back of the dilapidated old-family-couch trying to see through the frozen window. His little shoes ground ruthlessly into the rust-colored cushions as he stretched to looked outside."
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Concerning today's subject, here's a question:
Did you write stories about your own family that you are proud of? You may answer the question or if you have an item on the subject, please send your links to this newsletter.
This Issue's Tip: to add drama and suspense to your story, think about creating apprehension not much by easing a difficult situation but using the chances of doing that.
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