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Anonymous inquired:

I'm thinking of writing a story that involves a main character that's been divorced three times, and has a kid with each ex. His current girlfriend, and potential fourth wife, has two kids of her own. What I want to know is, what is the best way to go about the whole "blended family" concept?

Speaking as someone with a pretty similar family (Dad, how many wives do you actually plan to have?) I’d say it depends on the ages of the kids and how often they see their various step- and half-siblings and parents. For example, my parents divorced when I was two and my father met my stepmother pretty soon after that, so there was never any cliche “You’re not my real mom!” stuff. Younger kids typically get used to the new family members pretty easily, although they’ll never have the same relationship as with a family that was the same from the start. They won’t be as close with their stepsiblings and stepparents because they don’t live with them full time, but there’s still a familial relationship. Similarly, if the kids are young then the stepparent is more likely to form a parental type of relationship with them. It’s a family that can be complicated to explain to other people, but it’s functional and rather emotionally uncomplicated.

With older kids, things can be a bit more difficult. The blood related members of the family would have the same familial-but-distant relationship with them, but the stepfamily could be more complicated. If they like the new wife/girlfriend, then they tend to have a more equal relationship with her, and teenagers especially will often interact with her like an adult friend. They emphatically would not see her as an authority figure on par with their father. If they don’t like her, that’s when you start to see the stereotypical “acting out.” Any kids married into the family (by way of their mother) might become new friends or simply be ignored.

Your protagonist’s relationship with each wife, and their relationships with each other, also have to be taken into account. Can he civilly talk to his exes about custody, paying for summer camp, family health insurance, house rules, etc.? If not, the kids can easily play them off each other, and they might resent both parents for arguing over their needs rather than attending to them. As for the exes and current girlfriend- do they like each other? They might never talk, or they might get together for lunch once a week to complain about how the protagonist refuses to do the dishes. They might watch each other’s kids, or form a carpool to drive them to and from school. The parents’ ability to interact peaceably can determine whether you end up with a pile of single mothers and a serial divorcee or a makeshift parenting co-op.

That was kind of a long rant, but it’s a hard thing. The important thing to remember is that a family like this never really has “normal” relationships with each other. They can still be close, but it isn’t the same kind of close. They don’t always interact like a family- but they do interact like a group of people who are stuck with each other for the foreseeable future, and that can look pretty similar. Also, if and when you do your own research, take the pop psych and self help stuff with a grain of salt, because when actual people get into weird relationships it rarely works out the way you might expect.

-Emerson

Thoughts from the ask box.

- enlee

My parents divorced when I was 8. My dad remarried and my stepmom had two kids, one a girl my age. We became very close friends with each other. But I also had a middle sister. Things were harder for her. I got in a fight with my stepsister and haven’t talked to her since, even though I still live with her some days. The bonds with step family are sometimes more easily broken, I think. I’m very close with my half siblings, but I helped raise them. I hope that helps! - anonymous

Rebloggable: Relationship Suitability

This is kind of a dumb question, but I tend to be terrible when it comes to writing relationships (reading romance books to learn and doing my best though ^^). But what I’m trying to do is illustrate that my protagonist cares about his girlfriend but is better suited to another character. How do I do that?

Well, I think it would help if you figured out why he is better suited to someone else. I personally love when there are relatively amicable or logical break ups in fiction, because I think a lot of romance focuses on the exciting sweaty heartache-y aspects of love and ignores how actual relationships work. Being in love with someone doesn’t mean that you’re suited for an endgame relationship with them.

Maybe your couple wants different things. Maybe they have different plans for the future. They might have trouble communicating with each other. Maybe they get on well when they live separately, but they can’t handle roommating it. They could be too different, or they could be too similar. Maybe they love each other, but they’re just not able to have a healthy relationship with each other. Of course, couples can make compromises and work through problems, but ask yourself: What would be more important than this relationship to my character? What would make a life with that person too hard to work through? What are the relationship breakers?

Now, to organize your thoughts:
Try writing down for each angle of your triangle a list of traits for their ideal partner. Think about their values, what they want from a relationship, and most of all, what’s important to them from a partner. 
Then, highlight for your original couple the things on each of their lists that do and don’t describe the other person. Do the same for the proposed better suited relationship. 
Right there, you have your list of reasons for why relationship 2 is a better match than relationship 1.   

Next up: Showing the audience your lists, rather than listing them. By this, I mean rather than saying ‘Jack was more suited to Catherine because she liked dogs, she knew how to make him feel better when he was sad, and he never teased her for snoring which was a plus for her because she’d always been embarrassed about it,’ let the audience observe these sorts of things happening. Maybe protag and lady 2 (I just realized that you never mentioned if character 2 was also a lady… well, please bear with me) spend some time bonding and talking because she’s very fond of his dog, whom he loves and who perhaps lady the first is a bit allergic to. Maybe their dialogue is much freer and more natural than when lady the first and he speak to each other, and they’re happiest when they’re together. 

In summary: Figure out why relationship 2 is a better fit. Show the audience that relationship 2 is a better fit, and if protag transitions from relationship 1 to 2, it will seem natural and logical. 

Hope that answers your question.
-Evvy 

Finally, have some links:

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Article: Writing Gay Characters

Since I identify as bi myself, I thought this was a very interesting article. Might help someone out. :)

- Pen

Forging Friendships

krisnoel-lionhead:

Creating believable relationships between two characters is not just important for romance. If you want people to believe that your characters are best friends, you have to work just as hard at it. There must be good reasons why they’re so close and why they’re working together toward a common goal. In real life, there’s usually some sort of event that bonds two people together and makes them closer than they were before. I met my best friend when we were forced to play kick ball during middle school gym and we were both TERRIBLE AT IT. It might seem like a simple event, but considering our ages, it was the most pressing issue during that time. The point is, there should be some sort of bonding event or a reason why two people are friends. Make a point to explain some of it and not just say, “they’ve been friends forever”

Here are some more general tips when describing friendships:

-If your characters have been thrust into some terrible situation together, be sure to explain why they’ve bonded more than other characters. Maybe they both fight well together or understand each other in a way no one else does. There has to be that moment when they both realize they can benefit or enjoy each other company more than any one else.

-The two best friends share some common ground. Is there an event from their pasts that allows them to bond easier than others? Maybe they both share a traumatic childhood OR it could be just as simple as them both sucking at Math. This is something you can play with.

-When the friendship has already been established, make sure you explain what they normally do with their time together. Do they have rituals that only they do together? What are their favorite activities? How do they interact with their other friends? These actions dictate why they’re still friends and how they’ve been friends for so long, so they’re just as important.

Obviously, there’s a lot of depth to friendship and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Building these relationships are important, not only for understanding the characters you’ve created, but exposing the personality and motivations of the protagonist. Make each character and relationship count.

-Kris Noel

My book: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15764908-lionhead

My page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6447379.Kris_Noel

I was asked to have an opinion on soulmates (as a supernatural thing) in writing, so here goes!

Soulmates. Soulmates, soulmates, soulmates.

It sounds super romantic, right? Two people were destined to be together. They’re perfect. They complete each other.

Um.

Mum.

Ugh….

Once I drew a graphite picture of a friend of mine trying to chew apart a Red Thread with her teeth. I picked this friend because she would be a good model, because the idea of an inescapable soulmate scared the living fasdflj out of her. 

I have another friend (yes, I have more than one, close your mouth-holes), who finds the idea of soulmates lovely, and even wrote a story in which they factor in. 

I’m… not sure. What if you, like Friend #1, don’t want to fall in love, don’t want to get married, don’t want to have kids, and the idea of having a life partner makes you afraid?  What if who you are as a person changes? Is it possible that you could have several different ‘soulmates,’ each at a different point in your life? Does being ‘soulmates’ mean that you have a ‘perfect’ relationship, and that you’ll see glitter and butterflies when you first meet? Or are you stuck with this person, even if you hate them? Do you have to be with them? Can you permanently screw up ‘soulmates’? It’s just… A perfect love sounds like bullshit, a fated love sounds terrifying. 

I’m not a fan of flashy, sparks, and Romeo and Juliet stories of teenagers making messes love. I think I would feel sick if that was what I had everyday. Think about it. Your soulmate, your lover that you feel electricity for, that is Fated and Your Other Half- it sounds fun, but what happens when you want to sit down, and eat some eggs for breakfast, and just look at somebody’s face? I for one don’t want to mix butterflies with eggs. It would exhaust me. No, the people that I would die for I almost never have complicated feelings or sparks or whatever for. I’m just calmed by their stupid face and I know that I would do anything for them, not because of magic. It’s really simple. 

Can magic love and soulmates and all that be good writing? Yup. It totally can, whether I find it squicky on principle or not. 
But I highly, highly advise you not to try and write Perfect Anything. ‘Perfect’ relationships are usually really annoying. Perfect couples most readers want to slap. 
Make two complete characters, that work because they have personalities, and their personalities mesh. They don’t have to at first. Maybe your soulmates don’t match right until they’ve reached the end of the novel and they got hit with the character development stick real hard. 
And, of course, think about the different parts involved. What are the downsides to being bound to another person this way? Think about it, and then write something true, something good, and I’ll put aside my own opinions and read it happily.

-Evvy

Relationships as characters

Disclaimer time!  I’m an aromantic asexual.  All I know about those types of relationships is what I’ve read/heard.  I recently made a post based on the dissonance between what I’ve read/heard about real life relationships and what I’ve read in fiction about relationships.

With that in mind, I would suggest treating each relationship as you would a character.  A perfect relationship can be like a Mary Sue.  Each relationship needs flaws and quirks.  It needs to be likeable without being extremely ideal.  Bland is never good when making a character or making a relationship, but neither is completely crazy and disjointed (well, maybe once, for either a relationship or a character, but they shouldn’t all be crazy and disjointed).  Relationships can go through their own development arcs as well, just like characters.

-Shannah

HERE you can find a good summary on relationship types.
It’s really worth reading, especially if your characters relationships are big part of the story.

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