Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Purpose of Siblings

Do heroes and heroines of romantic suspense have to be only children?

I've been musing on this one since I realised that all mine are. The published ones and the ones lurking in the filing cabinets. A few of them saw the light of day yesterday when I had to remove all the drawers in order to wheel a desk past them. The handles were sticking out. But I digress ...

I can't think of one book where the protagonists had siblings. Except for the Work In Very Slow Progress. Tess, the heroine, starts off with two brothers ... Not going to say any more, as that would be a spoiler before I've even got the book out from where ever it is inside my head that books wait to be written.

Of course it might be that I write about only children because I'm one. Write what you know, and all that. But I think there might be something deeper going on too. One of the key features of romantic suspense is that the protagonists should feel under threat. Isolation ups the stakes. So having no brothers and sisters - possibly no close family at all, to provide support and refuge - helps to increase a sense of menace.

Us writers tend to be a heartless lot when it comes to characters. They are expected to serve a purpose and pull their weight in driving the book along, or they have no business being there. The most obvious roles for a brother or sister are close confidant or arch rival. Or they could be under some sort of threat - the older sister who has to seek unsuitable employment or undertake some distasteful task in order to provide for her younger siblings is one of the staples of historical romance. She usually meets the hero as a result, so everything turns out right in the end.

A hero or heroine from a close family who is obliged to keep some sort of secret from them might be interesting to write, but on the whole a protagonist who has no-one is on a winner from the start if you want to write creepy and menacing. Which I do. Most of the time. Interestingly (well, I find it interesting) the H&H from the romantic comedy crime novella which I keep harping on about and which I really do hope gets published sometime this year (!!!!) are also onlies. In both their cases there is a reason for that which is not creepy or menacing. That's how they arrived, but I don't think the plot would hang together if either was part of a large family. Coincidence? Or is that the 'write what you know' surfacing again?  


  1. Interesting! You made me realise a lot of my characters are only children as well - as am I - and I don't write romantic suspense so don't have some of your excuses :) Angela Britnell

    1. Hi Angela
      I think write what you know surfaces in strange ways.