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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Family Reunion: An Opportunity to Learn

This may not be true for everyone, but travel can really get creative juices flowing. It takes you out of your routine and forces you to not only see different things and broaden your horizons, but to see things differently and broaden your horizons that way. New experiences add to the pool of things you can write about. And if you can see things from a new perspective, if only for a little while, it stirs in extra ingredients, adding richness to the recipe of your writing.

My most recent trip included a family reunion, so I got to catch up with people I haven’t seen in years. Bragging may be tactless, but I have an awesome family. Everyone is so nice. They’re all smart, funny, active, and interesting. I wrote a novel about a family reunion, but I don’t think you would find any tension at my family’s reunion like you would at the Austins’ in Six Cousins. All my cousins get along!

It was an effective opportunity for me to observe a large number of people, learning about the different ways they talk, dress, think, lead their lives, raise their kids, pursue their hobbies, deal with things that trouble them. I enjoyed watching the littlest children’s personalities play out and picturing what they’d be like in ten years. Writers can’t get too many opportunities to observe people, because people are what we write about … every story or article is about someone; it wouldn’t get off the ground otherwise.

A family sits around a table on which is a wooden box with a key lock and a hinged lid, possibly with a mirror inside the lid. (a jewelry box? a music box?) The children have a doll and a doll bed. Behind them is a frame house with double doors off the inside corner of the open porch (c. 1872). #Victorian #vintage #portraits #family

As soon as the daughter of one of my cousins senses a friendly character, she envelops them in her circle, talking to them, sitting in their lap, asking them to play. I have no doubt she’ll grow up to be the kind of warm-hearted person who initiates friendships, gets games going, and talks to the wallflowers.

Her little brother is shier, hiding his face in his hands at the overwhelming crowd of strangers. But when he can distill the crowd and focus on just a few people, he loves to play, joke, and get into mischief. He’ll be popular with his own crowd. He and his sister are close in age and share interests; I wonder how much they’ll do together as they grow up.

The daughter of another of my cousins is talkative, outgoing, and energetic, a real go-getter, someone who takes charge and gets in the center of things. And she’s only four.

I could go on, but my main point is that families are fascinating. Though I won’t use any one relative in a future story, their personalities make me consider all the possibilities for making story characters unique and interesting. I love how life inspires, don’t you?

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