Characters

How to Craft Sibling Relationships That Feel Real (In Just 6 Ways)

Have you ever read a book where the siblings’ relationship in it felt…kind of fake? A little…odd? Or maybe you’ve even written one like that before.

Today, I’m going to be proving 6 different type of general facts that happen between siblings.

Let’s get started!

*Note: I’m only experienced in the ways of sister-sibling relationships, as I have no brothers. I’m sure a lot of this stuff probably is accurate to having brothers, but just know that this post is ever so slightly titled towards sisters more than brothers. Also, after awesome discussion in the comments, I realized that this post is more directed towards younger siblings, not young-adult siblings or full adult siblings as a shift happens between siblings when we mature.Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 2.39.03 PM

1. Fighting and Protecting

Fighting

Big news guys: siblings fight with siblings. 

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It doesn’t have to be a full-blown war between us, but, yeah it happens. And that’s normal! We’ll sass and snipe and I’m sure brothers rough-house, and that’s just what having siblings brings. So having it being all rainbows and sunshine all the time between sibling characters is…really not realistic between siblings. 

  • Tip When Writing: Having the siblings sass or snipe or banter…basically fight. They don’t need to every time – siblings can work together really well when they want to – but it adds for some realistic conflict. 

Protecting

On the flip-side, only siblings can fight with siblings. If some random person comes over and tries to do something to our sibling, we’re going to marching right up and protecting or defending them, whatever the case may be. 

  • Tip When Writing: In any fight scenes you might have – whether it’s a bully or a war – have the older or younger sibling stand up for and protect the sibling in trouble. They could talk the bully away or jump in and save their sibling from a an attack they didn’t see coming in a battle.

2. Association

Here’s the big difference in accuracy between writers who have no siblings vs. writers who do:

  • Writers with no siblings: “Hey bro, can I borrow your bike?” Gwen asked, leaning against the doorframe of her brother’s bedroom. She had no bike of her own, and Dom’s bike was the one closest that fit her. “Hey sis,” Dom said, looking up from his video game. “Sure thing, just give it back by the end of the day.” “Alright big brother, see you later.”
  • Writers with siblings: “I’m going out for a ride!” Gwen yelled, slamming the door and making a bolt for her brother’s bike. One second she was plowing towards it, and the next she was slammed to the ground, all breath taken out of her. “Not on my bike, you aren’t.” Dom snarled on top of her.

The difference between these two? The association they have with each other. In the first one, a very common non-sibling writer’s mistake is present: The terms ‘bro’ and ‘sis’. Let me make one thing clear for when you’re writing: No normal sibling characters will ever say those words in an every-day conversation together.

**EDIT**: Hey guys, I’ve been getting some comments out of the blog and on the blog about this part. Just wanted to mention: It’s very real that people in life do call their own siblings ‘sis’ and ‘bro’. When used in writing, though, it can seem kind of odd. Usually because it’s used at the weirdest moments. If you’d like to still write sibling characters who say ‘bro’ or ‘sis’ simply just put it in a scene where, for example, they’re calling for each other, which is much preferable for readers to read over, say, an action packed fight scene that’s going on.

Most of the time, we just say ‘Yo,’ or ‘Hey’. Occasionally we’ll use our sibling’s name but not too much.

To go along with this section, I just want to mention physical touch.

I just finished reading a book where there’s an adorable relationship between the older brother and younger sister. They’re really great kids, and the two of them hug multiple times. In that book, in the situations the two siblings are – it works.

But normal siblings? Rarely hug. Like, at all. (Unless they’ve just been raised to hug their siblings specifically, but I don’t think that happens often.) There will be some rare cases where you hold their hands or something, but not much of that happens. and don’t worry it’s not ’cause we’re evil or something

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  • Tip When Writing: Don’t use formal terms between the two siblings and be very aware of how much physical touch is going on between the siblings.

3. Personal Possessions

Sharing. Now that is a hard problem. From sharing clothes to stepping into each other’s rooms, siblings have a hard time sharing with other siblings. 

Essentially, siblings aren’t going to share anything that’s personal to them. They might share if they could care less about what they’re sharing. Or maybe they’re really nice and believe that what they’re sharing will help or make happy their sibling.

Also: strings attached. Mostly in my house, for my siblings they’re always like: You can borrow my LEGO’S if you clean them all up once you’re done. And don’t loose a single piece or I will find you-

Yes. Strings attached, and erm, threats too.

  • Tip When Writing: Basically, having siblings who are super sharing and caring is not realistic. 

4. Groups

This just sort of…happens. Let’s say there are four siblings, total. Two of them are going to be considered the oldest, and two the youngest. Or, maybe they’re all mature and can be all in one awesome group together. Or, depending on the age gap and personality difference from the two last ones, it could be that the three oldest are a group and the youngest is just considered the ‘younger’ sibling.

Groups aren’t necessary, as I’ve witnessed lots of families who are totally ‘equal’ if you will, from the oldest to the youngest, but adding groups can create some awesome conflict or even create a whole character arc!

  • Tip When Writing: Consider splitting up the siblings into different groups according to their ages or order of birth. If a group is irrelevant to your story, don’t use it.

5. Types

Types. Usually, there’s going to be: the leader (usually the oldest, but sometimes the oldest can turn out to be not mature, so you can also result to the second-oldest). Quirky kid: There’s almost always just that one kid who’s real funny in the family (*winks obviously at you ’cause I am totally not that person*) And lots of other almost stock types.

Consider labelling your sibling characters with a ‘type’. Doing this will actually help you keep all the sibling’s personalities on track.

Something cool about to add to this is that, no matter what the type, once you live long enough with these same people you just kind of start finishing each other’s-

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Okay yeah sandwiches too. But also sentences! We’ll either: 

  • Finish their sentence before them
  • Speak with them in the same tone of voice at the same time
  • Wave around our hand and just yell that you remember
  • Or just nod and say “Oooh, yeah!” before the other sibling has even finished or begun telling what they remembered or something.

This can make for some awesome dialogue parts to show relationships between the sibling characters in your writing. It can create tension (the two twins are withholding important information from the protagonist and keep going like: “Shouldn’t we-” “No.” “Okay, but, what if we-” “No, it’s not possible.” etc.) and/or also cause humor (Example: “Oh hey, you remember that one time when you-” “Yup.” “So are you gunna blow up the-” “No.” Protagonist: “Wait-did you just say ‘blow. up.‘?”)

  • Tip When Writing: Consider whether giving your sibling character’s a ‘type’ to help define them and make them more memorable. Also, when writing dialogue pop in a few moments where the siblings just get each other before anyone else does.

6. Both Sides of the Spectrum

Siblings can be either perfectly amazing and helpful and super awesome or just…really annoying. And so you’ve gotta show both those sides in your writing!

You can show the pro’s of siblings by:

  • having them help reach stuff for you
  • being someone to talk to or turn to for advice
  • help you out with hair or homework or sports

This is just a quick list, but think of some ways you can show the sibling characters being nice sibling characters.

And now, ’cause we’re all human, I’m going to show the con’s.

You can show the con’s of siblings by:

  • having a lot of screaming go on
  • having them annoy each other
  • having them refuse to help you out
  • Tip When Writing: Make sure you’ve got a good balance of the pros and cons of siblings. Too much pros and they feel fake. Too many cons and they feel like a horrible people.

So, yup, that sums up siblings! Gotta love them.

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As a disclaimer: I can’t speak for every single sibling relationship out there. There are so many it’d be impossible to cover them all. But, I was hoping to cover a few general tips to amp up any sibling relationship characters you might have so that they can be more realistic!

Sibling writers! How’d I do? Any of these ideas you can relate to?

Non-sibling writers! Feeling better about writing sibling relationships? Got any further questions?

And don’t worry guys, my family’s awesome.

Like these posts? Wanna have more? Subscribe to my email list to receive inside info and lots of fun! 

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment down below.

Thanks for reading!

Mary

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17 thoughts on “How to Craft Sibling Relationships That Feel Real (In Just 6 Ways)”

  1. I can relate to every single one of those! My 7-year-old brother is the annoying sibling and I’m [definitely] the really kind and mature one. 😛 But the fifth one really got me. 🤣 Here’s a short conversation between my brother and me 😏:

    My brother: “Can I borrow your-”
    Me: “No.”
    My brother: “But I didn’t even-”
    Me: “I said ‘no.'”
    My brother: “But you didn’t even listen to what I said!”
    Me: *thinks about what will make him be quiet* “I can read minds 😏”
    My brother: “Whoa! Can you-”
    Me: “No.”

    As you can see, this is the very *coughs* heart-touching *coughs* conversation between my brother and me. 🤣

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Woo! So glad!! Oh my gosh I so get that 😂
      YESS THAT IS PERFECT. Totally love it 😆 😂
      *wipes away tear* it was such a heart-touching sibling moment right there

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Leader: My younger sister, who also happens to be the third-oldest, because I am much too weird to be the leader XD That’s what happens when you decide to become a band kid on top of being a writer and a theater kid XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aha! So true though 😆 My youngest sister thinks she’s the total leader, but, uh…she’s really not 😂 lol! That’s fair (but that also sounds really cool 😆)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Mary! I have five siblings, three brothers and two sisters. 😉 You’ve got a lot of great tips on writing relatable siblings. 😀 I do have a few thoughts though, if you don’t mind? I read your disclaimer and I know you know all siblings are different, but I just thought I’d share about me and my siblings. 🙂

    The fighting and protecting is spot on! 😉 My siblings and I can be so sarcastic to each other. XD But only us! Don’t you dare (metaphorical stranger, not you 😉 ) mess with my siblings! From personal experience, my siblings and I don’t mind being associated with each other. We also don’t mind sharing things, but we do give the threats and strings attached most times, lol. XD But my sibs and I are, maybe not SUPER sharing and caring, but pretty sharing and caring. *whispers* sometimes we call each other “Bro” and “Sis” :O XD We definitely have groups… I’m in the younger one… XD but those groups merge sometimes, we also have sisters and brothers groups. And we definitely finish each other’s sentences (and sometimes sandwiches, XD) and all the other things you said, it’s freaky how often we speak at the same time… That last tip is once again spot on!

    You have a REALLY great post here!!! ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jen! Wow, lots of siblings! Ooh thank you! Haha, of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

      I know righttt, that’s exactly like my siblings and me! Haha, true. I honestly don’t mind it. That’s also true 😆 Mostly I only threaten if I’m sharing my books, in which case they have to be taken special care of lol. Ooh that’s awesome!! Haha honestly that’s neat. Oh, that’s cool!! Yess same (and true with the sandwiches part, too, for some weird reason 😆) I know rightttt, super freaky. And for me and my siblings we do it in public while like talking with friends and they just give us these weird looks…😂 Thank you, Jen!! Loved hearing your thoughts and about your siblings!!

      Like

  4. Based on my experience, there’s also a major shift as time goes. In younger ages, rivalry is trong, but in late teens and early 20s, my sister felt like my best friend. Maybe because having someone of similar age in reach to talk about joys and problems is a good point. There were things we wouldn’t tell anyone but each other.
    If there’s something to show how much I got to trust my sister in our mid-20s, it’s the fact she was the first relative to know I started with writing. I started in 2015, told my sister in 2017, and the only other relative who knows so far, my mother, was told in 2020…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think this whole comment is such an important point, Tomas. I suppose this post is aimed at the younger sibling characters, rather than how young-adults or adult siblings might act. There’s definitely a strong shift as time goes by when we all mature. I didn’t mention that in the post unfortunately, so thank you so much for bringing this up!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Okay, like I RELATE TO ALL OF THIS SOOO MUCH!!!!! And *cough* I may be the jokster type in the family. And the part with the siblings rarely hugging and the fighting and sharing with threats like ALL of that is just SOOOO TRUE. 😂 Anyway LOOOVED THIS POST!!!!! It was giving me some serious ideas for some sibling relationships coming up in a few of my latest writings!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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