Tips for writing family relationships?


#1

I often find myself unsatisfied with the way relationships with family members are portrayed in media, particularly with IF. I’ve seen plenty of cases in which blood relation with the MC is the main reason why a reader should care about said character.

Part of this has to do with the fact that I really have no idea what a healthy relationship with parents or siblings is like.

The issue is, I don’t know how to write relationships like that. One of the only portrayals of family in IF that I felt satisfied with was Magikaras. But I don’t really understand why. There’s obviously a fundamental difference between family and other platonic relationships, but I struggle to understand what it is.

Is there something that’s key in portraying healthy relationships between family (as opposed to other relationships)? Is there some kind of like…obvious distinction I’m overlooking that signifies family relationships in interactions? Because, I mean, I know there is a difference, I’m just struggling to identify it😓


#2

Maybe because it wasn’t perfect parents? Parents are also people after all. And you got to chose if the MC was dissatisfied with their parents (at least the Major, not sure about the other parent. But the other parent was more…doting (?) anyway, showed support and care and stuff…and the MC often could call their parents too). Maybe it got also influenced because in Magikiras the gender of the parents was selectable??


#3

Mm, perhaps. I think one of the reasons I find this difficult is because I’m not really sure where “strained relationship” or “imperfection” ends and abuse begins. That’s a problem when it comes to actually writing these relationships.

I often rely heavily on my own experience when it comes to writing. Considering my relationships with my family, it’s very difficult to tell what would be considered average behavior from what isn’t okay for someone like a parent or a sibling to do. I mean, I’m sure a lot of the time it’s situational and depends on the context.

How can I make sure I’m writing a relationship between family members as real and flawed and not as abusive?

And what’s the difference between friendships and family relationships WRT interaction? I recognize a difference even outside my own experience but I can’t place it.


#4

Can’t just escape your family without social and partly financial ramifications, but getting rid of (ex-)friends can be terrible easy.
Also as child you are somewhat dependent on your parents/family in a way people normally are not dependent on their friends. Also because there is a basic power imbalance between parents and their children the relationship automatically is different from friendships.

Read up about abuse, and how abuse plays out. Not just the plain visible abuse but also emotional abuse, neglect etc. And keep in mind that after moving out there often is a shift in relationship between parents and children no matter if abusive or not.

Also think about sibling dynamics. How they get influenced by different parental styles and the personality of said siblings, etc.

But especially for a game think about giving the reader a choice in how the want to look at their MC’s parents. Even without outright abuse children may don’t feel a strong connection to one or both parents.


#5

Imperfect, is a solid starting point.
First things first not everyone can grasp the concept, because not everyone respects or loves their family. One universal thing is that family or anyone you’ve around for years is they can frustrate you like no one else can, that’s part of it and a very important one. Generating an emotional response is the first and most important thing.

So load up an emotional response, a bit of fear or annoyance, a parent pointing out something you’ve done wrong or chores for you to do, and follow up with a quick second punch like a hug, a proud smile, or joke. SO you’re essentially feel conflicting emotions that’s what healthy family is about you hate to love them. OR the other Love to hate because their horrible (if you want the broken home thing)


#6

One thing you might try, if you can, is either reading books about family relationships (non-fiction, I mean, books specifically meant for families who are trying to develop healthy familial relationships, and which talk about boundaries and what kinds of interactions are appropriate and helpful), or observing steady family relationships in person if that’s a possibility.

I wasn’t raised with a template for standard family interactions myself, so I had that ‘I don’t even know what this should look like’ reaction. Then I was able to spend a good amount time around a few different families with healthy working relationships—observing them in their natural habitats, so to speak—which helped. Reading about how to interact in healthy family situations was helpful too.

Learning to write family relationships does seem to take a lot of practise, time, and research, or at least it has for me. There are definitely not an excess of examples in modern media…the guideline for couples in films seems to be that at least one oughtn’t to survive to the end of the film, generally speaking. And of course YA and children’s books, and fantasies generally, are strung with an extraordinarily long line of orphans, evil step-parents, and the like. So it’s hard because the framework of ‘oh, good writing about family might look like X’ isn’t necessarily there. But maybe also consider seeking out stories with or about families, and taking apart the interactions there to see what you feel works and what doesn’t?


#7

In my own experience, there’re some “stages” of these emotion trains depending on your age.
FYI, I’m a firstborn of two brothers.

When I were very young, around 5 y.o. to 7, your parents will show strong emotion of love and caring. Even abusing myself is the part of that “loving and caring.” My parents said it was because “I were doing something totally wrong” and they want to show me that it’s something inappropriate.

When I’m grown up, around 12 y.o., my brother born. And my dad who used to lash me with that thick leather belt (ah, memories :laughing:) begins to go easy. No more belt. Well, he do pinch my thigh sometimes (and it’s hurt as hell. He has such a thick fingers)
However, despite those “abuse”, my parents and me begin to develop a more “friendly” relationship. That’s said, my parents as my friend. We talk about school a lot, about friends, about bitter reality of life, and so on.

Now I’m 19. I went to faraway college at 18. The only moments I have to contact with them is either via video-call or when I occasionally return home (which is twice per year). There’s a lot of… well… I call it “heartwarming” moments lately, especially since I’ve some problems with my college :v

Anyway, they told me that they begin to miss me sometimes. Once, my mum called. She said if my dad, who is known for his discipline and stern-ness, often weep when staring to my empty bedroom back at home. And she can’t help it but to feel sad too. And everyone begin to sobbing. Fortunately, being pretty good at breaking the ice, I always told them, “Dad’s crying? Aw, come on. I’ll be home this June/December. I’m waiting for the tempe penyet.” (It’s soy chips grind-ed with traditional chili sauce)

This year, my 'lil bro (he has chubby cheek that one. Love pinching him :grin:) will be having national-exams. I know he’ll need all support he can get and I always offer him help whenever he found some difficulties at answering some questions.

Well, that being said, if you need a living example of healthy family, here I am. :ok_hand:

P.S.: Sorry, I know this isn’t the thread to vent my feelings, but I can’t help it since it’s my story…
my family…

Uh, I know where the door is.


#8

While still on the topic, I’m going to be blunt about this one.
Blood relation will never be the only reason why an MC should care about their family.

As @Snoe mentioned, it’s the emotional response.
See? the emotional response. Just like your other normal NPC.

The only privileges the MC owns if they have a blood relation with someone, is that they might meet with their family more often, or they will tolerate their sibling’s act more, and so on.

Even a foster-child having a healthy relationship with their current family will still have the benefits of the blood-related one.


#9

@Szaal has a really good point, family isn’t only contained to blood relations either (though that’s the norm) consider that my closest friend is part of my family as much as my pets are.

TO put things in a general perspective maybe I shall tell a tale!

A few of you know already that I am hormonally challenged to the point where I’m somewhere between male and female. I like to be called an Androgyne. I say this because it plays a big part in my less than normal childhood

I’m constantly at odds with my father (no tact and is generally offensive and insensitive) but he has some good points too, he’s protective, funny and a skilled mr. fixit despite his brutish personality.

I’m not exactly his dream child and insists on my MANHOOD! And I get a kick of flaunting my collections of skirts when I can.

My mother is a busybody and obsessively concerned with my health just can’t help but asking thousands of questions. Though she cares deeply and has been very supportive of my choices throughout my life even the ones she didn’t entirely agree with let me embrace my femininity, taught me how to use makeup and was a buffer between my father’s insistence that I should be his son and not his daughter.

Long story short my childhood was a bit of a mixed bag I was loved though it was tremendously frustrating. Its those kinds of things that bind people together, you like someone for their qualities but love them for their flaws.


#10

I’ll tell about my experience as someone with a huge family.

When the child is small, the parents’ most important job is to provide a safe environment where the child can grow and play. The child should be able to feel loved, cared for, and not be burdened with adults’ worries. A small child thinks the parents are infallible. I remember many happy, carefree moments from my childhood when I was just having fun with my family. I think this nostalgia makes me want to visit my family to relive the moments.

I think good parents realize that children are unique individuals and smarter than a lot of people think. Children who are treated with respect grow to respect their parents in return. The parents shouldn’t dismiss the child just because she/he is “a clueless brat”/“a moody teenager”. Communication is important just like in any other relationship. If the parents just say “no” without explaining, the child will think: “why not?” Many things that are “obvious” to the parents aren’t so clear to the younger generation, and must be explained logically.

Good parents provide intellectual stimulation: encourage (but not force) the child to have hobbies and to try new tasks by him/herself, even if he/she might fail. They want to cultivate the child’s own interests and talents, not turn him/her into a mini-me (copy of the parents). If the child fails at something, they say it’s not a big deal and he/she can try again.

When teenagers start to rebel against their parents, the parents should be understanding but not doormats. It’s normal for teenagers to think that the parents are embarrassing and old-fashioned. This doesn’t mean the relationship is bad or that the teen hates the parents. I would have been glad if my parents had been interested or pretended to be interested in the phases I went through as a teenager. The amount of rebellion also depends on how the child has been treated by the parents. You reap what you sow.

The relationship between a child and a parent is inequal. The parent gives everything to the child just to see the child grow up to be a happy adult. Raising the child is rewarding for the parent. But of course there are moments when the parents get tired or burnt out. However, I think the parents should never reveal them to the child, because being called a burden is traumatizing. Just come up with an excuse to be alone and recover for some time.

Siblings are more like friends.

Siblings with a moderate age gap often fight with each other, and the older sibling might bully or avoid playing with the younger sibling. The older sibling might think the younger one is annoying. Normally this ends when the older sibling has matured enough. Older siblings can easily overshadow the younger ones. This is bad for the younger one’s self-esteem, but it’s difficult to avoid.

If there are many children, they can form pairs or small groups that interact with each other more than with some other siblings. This can make some sibling relationships much stronger than others.

Grown-up siblings might feel protective of the underaged siblings and behave more like extra parents. I’m very protective of my younger siblings. When I visit them, I try to make the meeting fun for them without thinking about myself.

I have to stop typing now, but you can ask me anything if you want more advice from me.