A to Z 2016 · Fiction

R is for “Relative Anger”

R’s prompt is all about backstory. The prompt, courtesy of Poets & Writers:

Write a scene in which two characters who are close (friends, relatives, a couple) are secretly angry at each other about something that has happened in the past. Decide what they are angry about before writing the scene, but don’t write about it directly. Instead, reveal the tension between them in the dialogue and in the actions involved in accomplishing a mundane task they are doing together, such as moving a couch, setting up a tent, making dinner, or painting a house.


This was fun. One of my favorite parts of writing is creating this whole backstory that may never actually make it into the story, but instead feeds into what characters say and how they say it. Your reader may not get the whole thing, but they get the feelings, the animosity, the frustration, all those underlying feelings that feed our own interactions with others. The way you talk to other people is always affected by the history you share, whether you’re aware of it or not. And the longer you know someone, the more complicated those feelings can get.

Which is why family gatherings are gobs of fun.


Relative Anger

“Rachel, what are you doing?”

“I’m moving the couch, what does it look like?”

Sarah huffed. “That’s of course the way you have to do things. No thinking, just doing, right?”

“No.” Rachel let go of the end of the couch, letting it thump loudly on the wood floor.

“What is wrong with you? I have neighbors!”

“Fine, Miss Perfect, what would you prefer we do instead?”

Sarah laid several sheets of paper on the coffee table. “See, unlike you, I plan what I do first. I made a few sketches, to scale, of a couple configurations. Here, take a look.”

Her sister flopped on the still-unmoved couch. “Always Mommy’s little princess, aren’t you?” Rachel sneered. “What are you, her clone?”

“Just responsible. And thoughtful of others.” She could feel Rachel’s eyes roll at the back of her head. “At least one of us took after her that way.”

You asked for my help. I thought maybe you wanted to, you know, not be an ass anymore, but that was too good to hope for, wasn’t it?” Rachel snatched her coat from the back of the armchair. “You know what, do your configurations on your own. You’re good at that too.”

Sarah flinched as the door slammed shut and turned to the grey tabby who had been lounging on his cat tree through the whole exchange. “Well, Teddy – that went better than expected.”


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