thanksgiving-table-1w1888643_1920Since I am attempting my own version of NaNoWriMo, which means I am focusing on my latest novel but not driving myself to write 50,000 in 30 days, I will host guest bloggers this month and reuse some older posts. This post has ideas I’ve used in previous years with some new ideas sprinkled in.

Food has the ability to unite people. Or push them apart. If I need tension, drama, or farce for a story, setting it around Thanksgiving dinner allows me to take advantage of all those elements even within the same story.

I’ve learned this from experience. Like when I was a teen, my sisters, a cousin, and I were playing football in my grandparents’ backyard, waiting for the call to dinner. One of my aunts stormed out of the house, trying to cool off from an argument with another aunt. My mom said the quarrel only occurred because my grandmother was in the hospital. She was a natural peacemaker.

Or when my sisters and I added four husbands to the annual feast. All of them are good cooks with very definite ideas about what to serve at Thanksgiving. I’ve had to act as a diplomat between those who want bland dressing and those who like exotic variations.

A story about a clash over recipes holds a lot of potential. A Yankee with Irish roots marries a Southerner with African roots. The new couple invites both sides of their families to their new home for the holiday. The battle over the correct way to make cornbread should lead to all kinds of conflict.

When my mom hosted, she made name cards to sit at each place setting. My sisters and I practically developed a science about where to seat our relatives so as to preserve harmony. A key was to place strategically the biggest talkers. One year, we hit on the idea of seating the two most talkative relatives beside each other. They got along beautifully.

In a story, I could seat my main character beside a relative she has never liked, only to come to a better understanding of that person. That understanding could be that the relative is more likable or has more depth than she thought. Or he’s even worse than the main characters ever realized.

How can you use your real-world Thanksgiving dinners as writing inspiration? Or, for my international readers, what holiday meal with family can inspire your writing?