On Writing Nuanced Relationships

Photo credit: alhussainy on Flickr
I've been thinking a lot lately about how people are complicated. How we can still love people who have hurt us—even repeatedly, even without apology. How one person can do wonderful and terrible things, how they can hurt someone without intending to and intentions don't matter when they do; how apologies don't have to be accepted and even when they are it doesn't always mean things will go on as they were.

I've been thinking about all of that and how that affects relationships, particularly when those relationships are between family members.

While I'd never claim complicated family relationships don't exist in kidlit (YA included), I do think depictions tend to happen along a good/bad binary. Either families are lovely and wholesome (the Weasleys) or they're downright awful and abusive (the Dursleys). But when writing about families, I've increasingly wanted to depict something more complicated, more nuanced. Families who love each other, but also sometimes lash out, or make damaging mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes can't be undone with an apology.

It's a hard thing to write. Hitting the balance between bad and good in a way where the bad doesn't outweigh the good (at least, unintentionally) can be a challenge—and like most things in writing, it takes a lot of feedback to figure out if you've hit the mark. But it's a challenge I'll continue to tackle with different characters in different ways.

Have you written complicated character relationships? What was it like? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae blogs about the challenge of writing complicated character relationships. (Click to tweet)

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