I’m sure if you haven’t watched ABC’s Modern Family, you’ve at least heard of it. Over the past few years, it has been racking up Emmy Awards for best comedy along with best actors and actresses in a comedy series. If for some reason you’ve not watched or heard of it, here’s a brief run-down:
A father (Jay) married to a Colombian hottie (Gloria)juggles a company while dealing with his interesting children and their families. His daughter Claire is married to the awesomely funny and nerdy Phil and they have three children. His son Mitchell has a charasmatic life partner (Cameron) and they have an adopted Asian daughter. Basically, the show revolves around the all-too-familar bumps and pitfals of being a different kind of families in a modern world.
Now, I’ve just started watching the series this year and found it so funny, so fresh and orginal, that my husband and I immediately went out and bought the second season on DVD (they were out of the first :() and over the last few weeks, we’ve spent time catching up on what we missed. And although some of the topics are awkward around kids (like the one where the kids walked in on Phil and Claire having sex) my boys seem to enjoy the series, too. So, yeah, we’re hooked.
How does this relate to something more that my being a fan girl of the writers and actors in this sitcom?
Well, it got me to thinking about the way families are portrayed in books…and about how refreshing it is (and often funny) to have characters that deal with real world problems. There are no Italian mistresses or undercover nannies (yes, that’s in my next book) and there are no wounded war vets with PTSS or leather-clad demon slayers. Merely every day monotonous stuff that should be snooze-worthy…but in this sitcom, it’s soooo not.
And I think that’s because there is a fine balance between comedy and being real. The problems hit upon on the show are big ones – teaching kids values – getting them into college, teaching them respect, and showing them parents are people too. And the relationships between the characters are complex, humorous and tender – all good things I like to see in the books I read. So, I’ve been thinking hard about the way I present my characters. In romance we glean that our characters need to be larger than life, but what if our characters were just…. life?
Okay, may not work for some genres, but rooting our characters in the reality of life makes them relatable, and I kind of like the idea that a heroine is like me. She forgets her keys, yells at her kids in the grocery and wears pants too tight. So I’ve been thinking hard about writing relatable characters as I write. Yes, real characters with warts, late bank notices and runs in their pantyhose (btw, does anyone wear pantyhose anymore?)
What do you think? Could I totally fall flat by making my characters too real? Or might it strike a cord in readers? Have any favorite “real” characters out their? I’d love to hear about them.