Sunday, November 20, 2011

How to Write Conflict: Using the Holidays for Inspiration

Great scenes grow from conflict. My home during the holidays could serve as the inspiration for a NYT bestseller:
  • My mother is a rabid Alabama fan. My brother-in-law is a fervent Auburn fan. (This is why we keep a fire extinguisher in each room). That scene writes itself. 
  • Everyone (except me) fights for control of the kitchen (the arguments that have erupted at the stove over the proper temperature to cook green beans have inspired Greek epic poems). This year is the battle for dressing supremacy. My mother-in-law and grandmother are fighting for hegemony when it comes to this Thanksgiving staple. Vegas odds favor my grandmother. She fights dirty.
  • The "You Don't Have to Go Home, But You Can't Stay Here"battle rages for hours. I swear, there is tick DNA running in my family's blood because these people can't be burned out of my den. My Saturday School training won't permit me to flat-out ask them to leave, so creativity is my only option. I've tried everything - Christmas music on the stereo, horror movies on the television (yes, I've really done this), husband sleeping on the couch, etc. Nothing works. Nothing. 

If Thanksgiving Day isn't rich enough to provide me with inspiration to write conflict, there is always Black Friday. Between shopping carnage and trimming the tree (each year my husband and I debate whether Yukon Cornelius or an angel should top the tree - I don't know how that bearded lumberjack keeps winning), my insurance company may up my premiums. Then, there is the Iron Bowl. I don't think I need to comment on that. 

I can’t be alone. Where in your day-to-day life have you seen conflict that can help improve your scenes?


JoAnn said...

awesome, Heather! LOL!

Lexi said...

Family dynamics are rich ore to plunder for inspiration, Heather! I try to avoid conflict and my husband goes through life swinging a punch and tilting at windmills, so there you go. Opposites attract, huh? Instant inspiration!

Louisa Cornell said...

Too funny, Heather, and way too real! We used to visit my Dad's family in Pennsylvania every summer when I was growing up. The visit was always supposed to last two weeks. We NEVER made it that long. Either my Dad would fight with his brothers, my Mom would fight with my Nana or we kids would fight with our cousins. And it was always over silly stuff and we never knew when it would happen. If we made it to the 4th of July Barbecue where the entire extended family gathered we KNEW there was going to be a name calling, door slamming, car screeching, Yankee cussing party before the day was done.

Heather said...

Thanks JoAnn!

Lexi - what a great combination! No wonder you two are a living romance story!

Louisa - happy to know I'm not alone in the family drama. Sometimes I wonder if I should start a pool as to when the first tiff will occur :)

Cari Hislop said...

Ah yes, family holiday conflict. Growing up I hated Christmas
in my immediate family. It was like someone had specially designed a day that would ensure we'd all be miserable by noon. One particularly year my dad decided we'd go up to Seattle (to visit his extended family) for Christmas (and didn't mention this was our present). One of my cousins I'd never met before threatened to kill me if I didn't leave his sight and that was one of the more pleasant memories. The worst was being with this large group of people I mostly didn't know, all gathered around a large tree engulfed by a mountain of presents. It turned out only one of the presents had my name on it; a curling iron which was a joint gift to me and my sister. I had hair I could wrap around my finger and turn into a ringlet. It was a long week!

Carla Swafford said...

Heather! This is so funny and so true. Everyone knows how my mom (bless her heart) loves to push my buttons. Thankfully, I've learned to ignore her and keep moving. (Harder to hit a moving target.)

Though I do on occasion have to call her attention to her behavior before she gets too carried away. I just try to keep it to a minimum and usually over the phone so she can hang up on me. That makes her feel better. :-)

Gwen Hernandez said...

Hilarious, Heather! I love the "tick blood" comment. Maybe the reason I struggle to write conflict is because my family was so boring. Or maybe the tension went over my head. We did spend a lot of major holidays traveling instead of with family... ;-)