Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Enjoy the Bounty: Tension Makes for Good Writing

Your brother-in-law just got back from a tour in Afghanistan. Your cousin is fighting anorexia. Your grandfather drinks too much. You can't stop cleaning the house. Your mother wants to buy the pies from the grocery store this year instead of making them (what's up with that?). And, your father's bad back is making him cranky.

Yee-haw! Are you ready for all these players to arrive for Thanksgiving--not to mention all the other upcoming family get-togethers in 2010? If you're not gathering with family, you're likely gathering with friends. And, regardless of the specifics, there's probably a healthy doe of dysfunction and stress to go around when any large group of people get together to give thanks or celebrate.

What's excellent for us as writers is that we can use any tense conversations, wacky behaviors, and Black Friday adventures as material. Notice the way Aunt Becky neurotically touches her hair all evening. Burn to memory the way Cousin Crystal picks longingly around her mash potatoes while her brother shovels rolls down his gullet.

What better place and opportunity to observe and process tension than in a room full of vivid characters you know better than anyone else? You certainly don't have to divulge your family secrets or begin a memoir here: just practice your craft of noticing detail and describing conflict.

The scene is set, the characters are in place: let the story begin!

(Happy Thanksgiving!)

1 comment:

Townsend said...

Great idea.

Along the same lines: jury duty, generally seen as drugery, but the cast of characters is enormously wide ranging: the matter-of-fact lab technician who contradicts the defense attorney, the defendent's friends joking in the back of the courtroom, not to mention the jurors. Last time I got a story, plus about five useable character sketches out of it.