Oh families. The source of so many off the stories we whisper to friends, but are afraid to commit to paper for fear of offending anyone. Today’s prompt encourages you to dig into that vast repository of family stories for a ‘cheap’ way to find a plot.
Write a story about a stranger at a family gathering.
Think about a family gathering you’ve been to (yours or someone else’s) – preferably one where one of your most colorful relatives was on great form.
What would that look like to a stranger? (Uncle Bob’s new girlfriend or the lonely new neighbor someone invited as a nice gesture)
Take that real-life story as a jumping-off point.
Decide on a protagonist: is it your stranger or the person who invited them? Think about the protagonist’s history. What’s in their past that’s going to make this situation especially hilarious or poignant or tragic? (You don’t have to explain this in the story, but if you know about it, you’ll be able to make this character richer as you write.)
Pick one tiny incident — someone storms out, someone smashes a plate in frustration, someone swears inappropriately. Illustrate the moment and/or the ripples around the room after it happens. (Remember, this is a short story. You can’t tell too much.)
Concentrate on making the reader feel something: make me cringe with embarrassment, make me love the old grandpa, make me feel your protagonist’s regret when he misses a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to say what he really feels…