so everyone’s going to be sleeping with everyone else, a round robin of cheating. i thought of this twist after seeing a movie called 8 women, with catherine deneuve and isabelle huppert and other great french actors (fanny ardant!). it’s a french flick, and everyone is everyone else’s mistress. great craic. when i had three brothers and three sisters it was actually easier, but once i blended in the extra boy and girl, ir became more complicated. i couldn’t leave any of them single, the way i wanted to. and i didn’t really want couples cheating on each other with the same other couple. that made the dynamic too easy. this way is more of a daisy chain.
the eldest daughter and her husband
the second daughter and her husband
the third son and his wife
the fourth son and his wife
mom and her fiance
- the eldest daughter slept with the second daughter’s husband many years ago, and has been living it down ever since.
- the second daughter is sleeping with the third son’s wife. the third sone feels very betrayed when he finds out.
- the third son is sleeping with the fourth son’s wife. if there’s a child it’s unsure who the dad is.
- the fourth son is sleeping with mom’s fiance out of compassion. mom was never going to give him any, anyway.
- mom is sleeping with the eldest daughter’s husband. the eldest daughter wonders if she’s just like her mom.
twisted enough for you?
this gives loads of side motives, but when the siblings start deciding to kill each other off, it’s not always because of the infidelity of their spouse or themself. they’re still holding grudges from childhood, and there’ll be all sorts of motives for everyone to off everyone else. and there’s the accident of things going wrong.
a bit more character development
the eldest daughter (based on this crazy woman i know) is an aging hippie with a passion for esoteric christianity. her house is lived in, old and comfortable, others say dirty and cluttered. she was the rebel growing up, but a straight-a student, and always got punished for things the others did. she feels endless responsibility for her younger brothers and sisters but nobody takes her seriously. she tries to be the peacemaker but can’t help saying what she thinks; she’s a long term pot smoker and gets too drunk whenever the family gets together. she’s married to a guy 20 years her senior who adores her. she’s got a grown daughter who is a worse rebel than she was.
the second daughter (based on several people you would not expect) is a brittle overachiever who worships money. her house is expensive and full of antiques. she was the good daughter in her mom’s eyes and got away with murder; she snitched on her siblings and took things for herself. she was captain of the chearleading team and homecoming queen. she blames her mom for her emotional problems and remains withdrawn and critical in family dealings; her substance of choice is prescription pills. she’s married to the captain of her high school football team who made a mint selling cars; they’re indifferent to each other. there are no kids but she raises expensive dogs.
the third son (based on my ex the ax murderer) is an overbearing bully who always gets his way. his house is immaculate and modern; the tv is always on the financial channel and the environment is carefully controlled. he was the man of the house when dad was away, and lorded it over his siblings. he makes money in stocks and feels that he should be able to dictate the details of the lives of everyone around him, and resents it when they go their own way; he doesn’t smoke or drink and has no vices, and is contemptuous of those who do. he’s married to the prettiest girl in the room, and has three children who will respond typically to his attempts to make them come out the way he wants.
the fourth son (based on some of jim’s friends) is the family black sheep, an easy-going con-man with multiple substance problems and very precarious health. he was the baby, and the others tormented him, but he was always mom’s favorite. he never finished high school and drifts around in tech jobs but dreams of innovations that will make him famous. he feels that nobody understands him and insists on doing everything his way in secret. he’s married to a former hooker who has alcohol problems and they’ve got a baby who’s probably not his, but hey wtf.
and mom (she’s based on me and wilma flintstone and lucille ball with the wicked witch of the west and auntie mame thrown in), is a hypercritical, demanding victim who speaks openly of how fucked up her birth family was but won’t entertain any ideas that her marriage or children are less than perfect, carping about how far they lag behind the perfection she expects and manipulating them all to keep them following her wishes. she lives in the family manse which is falling down around her, and she’s begun to hoard stuff. she married right out of high school to a guy her parents didn’t approve of except that he had money, and still mourns his death 30 years later. she’s a born again xian who believes her prayers are strong enough to sway god. she’s finally found an upstanding xian man and plans to remarry because she likes being taken care of and she’s got him twisted around her little finger so he’s safe.
that’s not a bad beginning. i’ve been jotting down notes for about a year, and thinking about the characters off and on. now that i’ve got the numbers set, the traits have been fluctuating for several days – now this one’s got the prescription drug habit, now that one. but i’m beginning to see what each sibling’s family looks like, what the tone of their family is, what elephants hang in the living room, what they feel passionately about (guess which one is the football fanatic).
i notice that what i’ve done is to take basic descriptions of the worst parts of my siblings’ characters and certain events in their lives, and insert different people to act out these events. so it’s some of my brother’s life, but i’m making my ex the ax murderer take over, and his personality has already changed the events. if i do enough of this, my own family won’t recognize it. that would be an accomplishment. but it’s so easy to make fun of the people closest to you. that’s why jane austen pulled so many punches.