Call me crazy, but I have been thinking a lot about death recently. I put this down to reading a whole heap of books that focus a lot on death and killing. Morbid, I know, but there is just something that gets my adrenaline racing by reading this stuff. One of the books was actually a romantic comedy… but it’s the pivotal view of the family’s grief of their daughter’s death that got me thinking a lot. Another book I have just finished reading was about a fight to the death, and the incredible relationship that the character has with her mother, sister, and dead father. This is one of the driving forces that helps keep her alive.
Family relationships are complicated, no matter which way you look at it. How do we, as writers, translate these dynamics on the pages? I have no idea. I can only use my own experiences in my family to try and explain this. Each member of the family is unique, and each has their own passions and interests. I know that with me and my siblings, we have a few things in common. (These interests include surfing, environment, and making total fools of ourselves.) But we each have incredible passion for something individual to each of us. My brother is really passionate about sustainable building, and community gardening … he even has a five acre area in the middle of paradise to make this community garden work for him and his friends all year round. My sister loves art and design (much like I used to) but she is so passionate about it, that she lives, breathes, and studies it, constantly expanding her mind to take in the unknown. And this is where I fit in. My passion in life is writing, and much like my brother and sister with their passions – I live it, breathe it, study it, and produce it.
We are by no means the perfect family. We fight, argue, laugh, and act the goat. But if anyone comes against us – including our parents, by golly, look out. There is no taking sides, it is complete defending against all that threaten us. I know that I can count on those two for anything, whether it’s a shoulder to lean on in times of strife, or someone just to laugh with. I am lucky.
My characters in my books are not lucky in this respect. I have only ever built two families in my novels that were similar to mine. Why? Because I could directly relate to them. The rest of my novels and work are nothing like this. There are huge family divisions in the books, a lot of anger, hate, and god only knows what else that arises. But it’s in writing these lives that helps me engage with my characters, and to gain a clearer understanding of what it’s like to come from families like these. And, as morbid as this may sound… I have come to realise that these characters are just that little much easier to kill if I have to. I am going to explain this a little more, if you can stand it.
They are easier to kill, because there family make up is not like my own. If either of my siblings died, I seriously do not know what the hell I would do. Would I sit there and write a book like I did when my parents split up? No, probably not. But in terms of my characters dying, the detrimental rifts within my characters families allow me to be more impartial about it. Now just imagine how strong and emotional my writing could be if I killed a character with a family like my own.
One day I should try it. But right now I am still too afraid to try.