First off, no, I am not talking about Cait.
It’s come to me literary siblings are often very cliche. Snobby older sister. Irritating little brother. Sister who always gets her own way. Brother who teases like his life depends on it.
What’s with that?
It’s easy, I guess. Realistic, too, I suppose. But I’m not really sure it is realistic. I mean, Cait and I are probably non-normal, since we’ve always been quite close. But even then, I’m sure in normal families, siblings are surely more than an annoying but necessary part of the furniture.
I just finished reading Wildlife by Fiona Wood (An Australian author… just in time for Book Week.) Sibylla had a little sister Charlotte, who was a pain and absolutely not useful to the plot at all. She wasn’t in the majority of the book, and when she was, I wished she wasn’t.
I mean, surely not all little siblings are that inconsiderate (Right, Cait? Cait…?)
Then there’s another take: Me, Just Different by Stephanie Morrill. Skylar’s little sister Abby was annoying, yes, but the book actually took the time to make her a bit less than an ugly painting on the wall. Abby was actually pregnant, which was a huge part of the story line, but I felt it was more than that. The sisters fought, but there was a mutual regard for each other as, “My sister. Love her, but don’t let it show.”
Then there’s the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, where sisters were everything. Katniss adored Prim, and virtually died for her. (The book is in first person, so I think we can see why that her attempt didn’t work.)
My guess as to the interesting phenomenon of sibling relationship is this: There was a huge amount of books featuring only children. Gallagher Girls, Splintered, Preloved, Girl Saves Boy, Life in Outer Space, Cinder and Scarlett, Percy Jackson, Ranger’s Apprentice… It goes on and on and on. I reckon this is because it’s a lot easier to scrap the dynamic of how the relationships affect the MC. And after people realized it was cliche to have the MC be an only child, they started to add siblings, but mastering the results isn’t easy.
I think authors sometimes forget that the sibling is a person with a personality and an agenda, too. I’ve worked on that in our co-written book, Canonic. Jo (My MC) has a little brother. They aren’t typically “good” siblings. Jo can never remember what his soccer day is, and he lies for attention. But he’s actually an important part of the book.
I love siblings that advance the plot, and don’t run down the Sibling Cause. Family is important. Parents, yes. I see that issue tons in books and movies. But siblings are, too. They’re a hugely under utilized resource.