Take a gander at this list of 10 free character writing prompts on the subject of family. Of course, there are plenty of other subjects to touch on in our twisted (or normal) families. Some of the best characters I've ever read or seen have been brothers, sisters, uncles, grandparents and cousins of the protagonist. A few of the most successfully profitable movies of all time, Home Alone and My Big Fat Greek Wedding focus heavily on introducing this wild mix of people to the screen. Hopefully, with this list at hand, even if you don't have a large or eccentric family, you can still write one into your stories.
Free Character Writing Prompts #7: Family
1. It's a wonderful occasion in your family, just as it would be in any other. Your uncle has made parole and he is coming over to celebrate. Your uncle is a strange guy: extremely nice, loves playing ball with the kids during the holidays and he possesses the inability to earn an honest buck doing anything at all. As far as you can remember, your tough, burly uncle has never had a legitimate job during your lifetime. That being said, he seems to be an attentive brother to your mom and he's one of the favorites of the younger kids in the family. You hope he'll still be out of jail by Christmas. What are some of the crimes this uncle has committed and what keeps him from an honest job?
2. Whenever you introduce yourself, it almost always comes up automatically. "You mean like..." with the response "Yes, he's my cousin." When your cousin is one of the most famous celebrities in the world, it can be a lot to live up to. When you were younger, he babysat you and you often noticed a flare for the dramatic. Nobody expected at the time that a big-nosed, curly-haired Midwestern kid would end up at the top. Serendipitously, he shot to fame on a reality show before scoring his own sitcom and television deal. The sitcom, of course, was based on your wacky family. What is it like when he comes back to visit for Thanksgiving and how has he changed?
3. There's nothing quite like having your sister visit. First of all, her visits tend to last at least a month at a time and secondly, she has shown up for this visit completely pregnant. Unsurprisingly, she begins to suck up all the attention in the house. She is fun to be around but quick to criticize you about your living habits and your parenting. You hope that the father of her baby will come to sweep her off her feet and take her off your hands. Though you do find it nice to have an extra person around the house to help with your standard family duties. How much longer will she stay and what is her true opinion of you and your immediate family?
4. You've always been surprised by how "with it" your grandmother has been your entire life. She is now pushing about 100 years old and yet she still lives in the house she raised your mother in, continuing to remember everything life has thrown at her. She lights up when telling embarrassing family stories and is the opposite of politically correct. Somehow, she has even figured out the computer and the Internet and has begun to post 80 year old pictures to Facebook. She has kept the family together with her wisdom and love through incredibly rough times and it's to imagine a holiday season without her. What is her favorite story to tell and why?
5. Whenever you introduce people to your older brother, they tend to laugh and say they don't see the family resemblance. You two are actually half-brothers with fathers of different races. It was tough for your brother growing up as the only non-white in a large white family, but it taught him tolerance and gave him a thick skin. In addition, he had a killer sense of humor that he used to diffuse any difficult situations. You've always looked up to your brother and you are glad that he, his wife and his kids live so close to yours. What is your brother's favorite memory of your childhood together and why?
6. You always make the joke that you "married into numbers" when talking about your spouse's family, because your father-in-law is one of the top accountants in town. He has always been an accountant through and through, speaking in terms of deductions and investments. The first time you met him, he was wearing big, black glasses and he actually had a pocket protector on. He has always been kind to you and he has worked long hours to provide for his family. While he didn't often open up to you, you two went out for a drink once and he told you that you were a welcome addition to the family. Why did he decide to go into a life of numbers and what will he do in his retirement.
7. When you divorced your wife, it was completely amicable as you two simply realized that it wouldn't work out between you. You assumed that you wouldn't see much of her for the rest of your life. A few years later she was married to your brother and pregnant with their first child! It was a situation straight out of a soap opera and you harbored a lot of anger toward her and your brother for a long while. She was so laid back when it came to cleaning, personal hygiene and tending to your relationship when you were together and when you see those habits in her new relationship, it drives you crazy. It's odd calling your brother's house and having her pick up the phone, but you're starting to get used to it. What was it like for her to re-enter into the family and what will the next few years be like in this interesting situation?
8. Your family is what you'd call accepting but conservative. When your aunt came out to everyone during the holiday season, it caused a major shockwave. After all, your parents started a church that tended to exclude homosexuals from joining, but they also felt that it would be a sin to exclude family from their lives. Whenever she brings her partner to family functions, explaining the situation to the kids is always a tenuous and hilarious situation. Your aunt has always been the one to turn to in a situation that your right-wing parents just wouldn't understand. While she tends to talk more often than she listens, it seems like most of the things she says have major value. When did she decide to come out and what is her day-to-day life like with her partner?
9. When you were young, you avoided hanging out with your grandfather because you were somewhat afraid of him. After all, he was the oldest person you'd ever seen in your life and you didn't know what to make out of the wrinkly skin and the liver spots. Now that you are old enough to appreciate him, he has fallen under the thick fog of Alzheimer's disease. You try to piece together your early memories of his personality and recall a strong, proud, military man who wanted the best for his family. Now he mostly stares off vacantly, straining to remember who he is. What happens when he has a lucid day or two on a trip with you and your family?
10. She is your distant cousin and she always gets exactly what she wants. When she wanted to skip a year between high school and college to tour the world, she stomped her feet until she got it. When she wanted to marry her serviceman boyfriend during her sophomore year of college and her parents aid no, they simply eloped and had a small ceremony on their own. When she spent the rest of her college savings account on a business idea that quickly went south, her parents began to put their feet down, showing authority they had never before exhibited. At family functions, when her and her parents fight it's like a bomb going off. How did your cousin become so entitled and how will she mature as she grows up?
Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on Google+ and Facebook.