My intention is to write a novel that falls into the "contemporary fiction" genre. Also, maybe, the "family drama" subgenre, if such a thing exists. I have a plot point that puts one of my characters in legal trouble, in turn, this affects the protagonist and requires a large portion of her attention. She does not need to find the solution for the problem, but she needs to be pushing for it.

My problem is that I find myself thinking and writing about the legal aspects of the case, the proceedings, the laws, legal arguments, and so on. I know I don't want to write a legal drama. That's not what the story is about. The story is really about the dynamic between the mother and the family. How can I present the obstacle without delving into details about it?

  • 1
    The golden rule of first drafts: Write it now, scrap it later.
    – NofP
    Apr 8, 2019 at 22:50
  • Yes, but it’s a rabbit hole. It is changing my story into something else.
    – iamtowrite
    Apr 9, 2019 at 2:22

4 Answers 4


Without reading your story, it's tough to give specific advice. But that said:

(a) As @motosubatsu says, don't worry too much about the definitions of a genre. If you set out to write a family drama but it turns out that the legal case is way more interesting than the family interactions, then so what if your story turns into a courtroom drama with a side plot about family relationships rather than the other way around? Unless you have a contract to write a certain type of story, so what?

(b) To directly answer your question, I think the straight answer is: If you don't want to get into details about the legal case, then ... don't. If you find yourself writing 20 pages about a hearing before the judge and the motions and counter-motions made by the lawyers on each side and the judge's rulings and appealing that ruling and ... and you feel that this is all getting tedious and distracting from the story you want to write, then throw it out and replace the whole thing with a couple of sentences. "She went to a hearing before the judge, and after hours of legal maneuvering the judge finally ruled that ..."


Firstly don't get too hung up on the genre - it's a very fluid concept that doesn't have to be anywhere near as strict as you are imagining.

Write the story and let it be what it is - if after writing it you want to reduce the legal elements then you can do that then. Even if it ends up being more of a "legal drama with family drama" than a "family drama with legal aspects" you might be pleasantly surprised by the end result.

Something that stuck out for me in your question:

requires a large portion of her attention

find myself thinking and writing about the legal aspects of the case, the proceedings, the laws, legal arguments

If it's sucking you in to a substantial extent - why wouldn't it do the same to the protagonist? Use that if she's getting absorbed in the case she's going to be less "present for family.

This is precisely the sort of event that places family dynamics under strain, which is pretty much the bread and butter of what "family drama" stories are all about - how does the rest of the family feel about the amount of attention and time that the legal situation is taking up? What are the consequences (Jail, fine etc) if the character in trouble loses their case? How will that possible future impact the family?


Some thoughts come to mind:

Trust your instincts. Your unconscious might be trying to tell you something about where the story should go or is trying to get to some place where there be dramatic goodies. Don't be afraid to follow it there. There are no guarantees writing a good story is a straight line from beginning to end!

Kill your darlings. However, what you're writing can turn out to be crap once you do the edit. Then don't be afraid to cut it out. (You can copy it to a separate document too if you're unsure if it's good or not...)

The first draft of anything is shit. To quote Hemingway. You fix it in the edit!

Trust your writing ability. You just wrote all that. And sure, you had to remove a lot of it, but you wrote it. Do you have any logical reason to doubt your ability to just sit down and write as much again? You shouldn't, given that writing is mostly learned by doing.


The information you are gathering can simply be used to color how you write the scene where she hires a lawyer for her kid.

There was a movie a few years back about a family torn apart by an accusation of murder. The teenage son of the family was suspected in the death of a girl he liked. The father, without even asking his son, began converting possible evidence into art.

You will have some police in your story, a lawyer or two and maybe even a judge. The defense attorney she hires could be the only one you really create, referring to conversations he had with the prosecutor and the likelihood of getting a decent plea bargain.

Use the details your story requires. Your protagonist can leave the lawyer's office almost as confused as she is hopeful. You might only use a fraction of the information you gathered and its main purpose could be in preventing those this writer didn't even try researching procedure from any members of law enforcement who might read it. Avoiding the 'that is not what would have happened' can be reason enough for your research and the knowledge will give it verisimilitude.

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