“How do you develop your characters?”, is a question that I am often asked. They are essentially composites, although in some cases, a certain character may have several traits of a real individual. It is important to me for readers to be able to genuinely relate to the characters – even the minor ones. One of the themes of my latest novel, Irises to Ashes, is young Maggie Stewart’s intense desire to leave home and travel – not because of dark circumstances, but because of a yearning that she cannot explain in the early part of the novel. Her older sister is the most vocal in disapproval of Maggie’s wishes, and the rest of her family is unable to comprehend why their lives aren’t “good enough” for her. This conflict is something that many individuals who have left home have experienced. And that brings me to the subject of this post as we approach the holidays when, unfortunately, but truthfully, family strains can pop up and sometimes erupt.
Squabbles are commonplace within families – I can’t imagine a family that can’t count a number of them. Quarrels are different though – deeper and potentially hurtful with the possibility of escalating into a rift that can last for years and perhaps never be healed. I have several friends who are estranged from brothers, sisters, or parents. The cause of the rift may be clearly traceable to a specific event, but that is not always the case. At times, the telling is easy to follow and at times, it is obvious that the stated event was more likely a “straw that broke the camel’s back” scenario. In some situations, the individual telling the story appears not to know how the emotional wound occured, much less how to resolve it.
These kinds of issues can be complicated and despite what families are supposed to be about, let us honestly state that genuine ill will can be a reality. However, unless the situation is of that magnitude, the holidays can also be a time to reach out, or to accept a hand that is extended. Anger can soften over the years, words that were once spoken in haste or in younger days may be forgiven. Misunderstandings can be recognized as that rather than as intentionally inflicted pain. The special meaning of holidays can lead people to reflect, to feel the urge to reconcile. So, as this holiday season unfolds if you are in a place where there is a family rift, perhaps this could be the time to try and bridge the gap.