So you want to write a book. And you have an idea for the plot, protagonist and even the antagonist. But, how well do you know those characters?
Why not shake your family tree? As a writer, you have the unique ability to reach into your bag of tricks, be they family close by, or ancestors.
I’ll offer an example: My grandfather, now deceased, was a first generation American. His parents came from Austria, and were industrious. Survivors, choosing to chase opportunities. Firmly planted in the northeast U.S., they had a son, and named him after the Archangel Michael, because he was their shining light.
At nineteen, Michael captured the heart of his teen Lenape neighbor. The two became one, and children dotted their hand-built home front. The family thrived under Michael’s boisterous spirit, while his work ethic steered them into upper middle class.
I skim Michael’s life’s surface to set a quick background reference point. He had many facets. One in particular that always struck me as odd: he would leave the room, whistling, during certain TV commercials or conversation topics. Can you say feminine hygiene?
Michael was modest, and as I observed his patterns, this towering, bear hugging man, would whistle up a tune when he was embarrassed. Mild and quiet. As I grew older, I never saw him loose his temper. But he did. My uncle and father saw explosive episodes, and if the middle son had survived, he would have witnessed it as well. More to him than meets the eye, particularly a granddaughter’s eye.
Here’s my advice: Find the complexity. Dig deep to uncover oppositional traits. It’s definitely necessary for character building, and absolutely spot-on in real life. If you need inspiration, shake, shake, shake; shake that family tree!
Look at those branches, ask family and friends questions, and take copious notes. When you are ready to write your memoir, you’ll be ahead of the game, totally organized! But in the meantime, I hope you discover character aspects to drive you forward in your fiction writing.
Till next time,