I'm thinking tonight of families, orphans, and strays (the in-betweens).
Family to me denotes a two-drink minimum. That is, two stiff drinks are the minimum before I can interact with any of them.
Saul Bellow mined friends, family, any close relationship for material. I guess in a way, I do the same.
Many of my characters have marital problems. I suppose that's because I know that marriage is often a limiting factor in the actions characters can take and I'm more in touch with my protagonists developing new relationships there in front of the reader or dealing with the failure of old relationships also there in front of the reader.
Well adjusted characters who call home to ask if anything is needed before they leave the office are not the sorts of fellows of interest to me right now. I'll use them later when I am rending their world to strips right there on the page.
The separated, newly divorced, unattached, and widowed are of interest to me because by the time I use them, they've hardened to a point and can cope with day-to-day life as independents.
In my current WIP, my protagonist opens the story with a wife ostensibly dead from a self-inflicted shotgun blast but he's oddly unemotional about the affair because he and his late wife resolved their issues of tactical dependence on each other some time ago. They're married in a strategic sense.
The detective who is from a horrible marriage existing on mutual distaste and betrayal cannot easily understand the reaction of the husband unless, of course, the husband was wrapped-up in the killing.
Family is a bus ride.
It's a bit of a self-esteem defeating experience. You're trapped with people not of your choosing. Someone always seems to have a pastrami and onion sandwich. Someone's most meaningful contribution seem to be their snoring. It's family.
You didn't choose them. You inherited them.
Now, you wouldn't display that horrendous lamp left you by your grandmother, would you?
Their taste is not your own even if, yes, you love them.
Characters are family we choose. They become a part of our intellectual life for a while - a terribly important part. We pick some strange company to spend the time with then, don't we?
I've a lot of strays in my stories. I've characters lost from home and family.
How about you?