Monday Musings #16 – Writing About Relationship Problems and Families

I love my family. Really, I do. I’m lucky enough that my grandparents and aunt’s family on my mom’s side have lived nearby since I was a year old. But at the same time, I don’t have a lot of patience for family drama. Add that to one of my favorite people in the world while I was growing up kind of being a drama faucet at just about every available opportunity and, well…

In lieu of actually ranting, though, I’d like to turn this into a writing exercise. Might as well turn it into something potentially productive, right?

Everyone who has been in a romantic relationship has had some amount of relationship hurdles. Even if it’s just small but frustrating stuff like “for the love of god if you finish a roll of toilet paper and don’t put a new one on one more time…”

Anyone who hasn’t is lying.

But here’s something I didn’t fully appreciate until recently: those hurdles can affect the people around the couple, and when they do it can be a significant effect.

Say you have two couples. Couple A has their issues, even serious ones, but they keep it behind closed doors. Their friends and families aren’t particularly aware that they’re having a rough time, and therefore no one ends up dogpiling in with their two cents. That’s not going to have much of an effect on anyone around them, except eventually they might break up and it will come as a surprise to everyone.

For better or for worse, couple B is not as discrete. There’s a lot of different ways that could manifest. Maybe one of them is the kind of person who wants the people around them to pick sides. Are their friends and family the kind of people who would…

  • Take one’s side and be nasty to the other just on principle
  • Take one’s side and offer support, while remaining non-confrontational
  • Take no one’s side, at least not officially, but stay out of it and on okay terms with both
  • Take no one’s side, at least not officially, but privately think they’re both in the wrong and gets more and more pissed at whichever one is more responsible for dragging everyone into their drama but will never say so because ugh, confrontation
  • Just really try to ignore it and not take sides, with minor exceptions when one of them is being totally insufferable
  • Not say anything to their faces but casually try and defend the underdog when the meaner one is really laying into them about something

Other factors to ponder:

  • Does the couple have kids together?
  • Are the in-laws drawn into the fray?
  • Does it become a factor at family gatherings like birthdays and Christmas?
  • Who’s sad, who’s angry, who’s both?
  • Who accepts it as just something that’s happening, like whatever?
  • Who’s frustrated and wants everyone to just shut up?
  • Who has a lot of feelings but has no one in the family they feel like they can discuss it with, rather than just telling/venting/dumping and getting no response back?

Families are complicated organisms. We all know this, and we’re frequently counseled to write what we know.

What family dynamics would you add to these lists of possibilities?

A to Z Challenge #21 — Underwater

As any full-time glasses wearer knows, seeing underwater is only a thing if you can keep prescription swim goggles from fogging up.

This is not my strong suit, so I have a long history of being that dork in the swimming pool still wearing her glasses.

day 7, 048
Seahorse farm in Hawaii, 2010

… There was more to this post, and some people have commented on it, but for some reason the internet has decided to eat it. I can’t remember exactly what I wrote before, but the upshot is that I’ve been driving along the Great Highway in San Francisco a lot lately and it has crept into my WIP novel.

I’m a nervous driver. On long, stressful drives through the city I’ve gotten in the habit of visualizing it underwater. Tall clumps of kelp forrest instead of the tall trees between the road and the ocean along some sections of the coast, like in that several-story viewing window at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Slow, syrupy currents instead of brisk winds. And maybe part of all this is that I’ve always wished I could see clearly underwater, but between either chlorine or salt and my poor vision that’s difficult to achieve.

So in my novel, where the sea level has risen quite a bit, the characters are going to visit a submerged San Francisco.