Getting It Right: Writing Sisters - Shawna Seed

Getting It Right: Writing Sisters

The author and her big sister, back in the day.

The manuscript I’m wrangling right now, BOYS I HAVE DATED, features a relationship between two sisters as a major component. When I started this book, I didn’t want to write sisters who bicker and undercut each other. I wanted to render a warmer portrait of sisterhood, to show women who support each other even when they don’t always agree.

I’ve got decades of experience to draw on: I have an excellent sister! I suppose I thought that would make my task easier.

But even when you’re “writing what you know,” it’s hard to get relationships right. What did my characters fight about when they were kids? How does that color the way they get along now? How does my main character see her role in her family? How does that shape her approach to life? Those are just a few of the things I need to sort out.

Another, less-serious problem: the song “Sisters” from the movie White Christmas keeps getting stuck in my head. (You can find it on youtube. Google at your own risk.)

Fortunately, if I need even more models, literature has no shortage of sisters – loving and not-so-much – to inspire me.

I’ll always be partial to the Dashwood girls in Sense & Sensibility. Jane Austen’s combination of devotion and exasperation between Elinor and Marianne is perfect.

Let’s take a vote: Which literary sisters are your faves?

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