View Full Version : Family Conflict

30-12-10, 02:11

This is quite a random thread, but I'm writing a one-act play for a playwriting competition being held in January, and it revolves around a dysfunctional family (an alcoholic mother, two teenage sisters (one of which is psychotic, the other bright but lonely) and a teenage brother, who is selfish and nasty). It's a drama/tragedy which takes place on the night of new year's eve, 2010.

I want the writing to be as real as possible, and so I thought I'd create a topic about family conflict. How does it happen? When you think about it, it usually occurs over something very simple. What's it like? What feelings come across? What's the speech like? That kind of stuff.

If you have any stories or research into it that you'd like to contribute, I'd be very grateful. Maybe tell a story about a family argument which started over something small and grew horrendously large? Or just little conflicts which go away after a while, or the kind of atmosphere in a family home after a conflict. I don't mean to pry though, and don't feel like you have to delve into your personal family life if you really don't want to. I just thought it would be good research for the writing. I live with my mother and that's it, so I don't really have much experience in slightly bigger families and their feuds.

All the stories will be collected and used as stimulus for the writing. It's mainly focusing on speech, relationships and the tension between family members (particularly siblings or parent-child relationships).

30-12-10, 02:34
im sorta ad-libbing here, its nto really anything specific to me:

you dont mention the father, so lets just pretend he died. and they are sorting through his personal effects and other property that he left behind. to make it more dysfunctional, the parents should have been divorced for a few to many years, and each person is trying to claim something.

eventually, they get to one item. they all want it. one wants it so that they can spite another family member (who actually wants it for sentimental reasons), anotehr relative wants it to sell on ebay, another wants to destroy it as it represents the poor relationship they experience with their father.

it could escalate to personal insults or even delve into other problems that one of them has had (like mentioning their faults, liek teh alcoholism, or the pshychoticness of a certain memeber)

Lara's Nemesis
30-12-10, 07:59
You could try just basing it on the British Royal family.

30-12-10, 12:21
Sorry, I didn't really make myself clear. I already have a vague storyline sorted out for it.

The family consists of a mother, Jane, two sisters, Daniella (19) and Marie (15), and a brother, Kenneth (17). The children's father died when they were very young, and Jane married another man who became their stepfather. Recently, that man died, and Jane has turned to alcohol to tune out her grief. Marie is mentally psychotic and hears voices in her head in the dead of night, and is convinced there is a monster living in the airing cupboard. Kenneth is a brash but confused character who is selfish and cruel. Daniella is an outgoing person but secretly harbours a loneliness. The play is based around what Daniella and Kenneth are going to be doing for New Year's Eve: it's something so simple, but causes so much conflict. Daniella also wants to apply for University, but can't until her mother signs her application forms, which she refuses to do out of her drunkeness. Near the end of the play, Kenneth manages to make Daniella realise that the few of the friends she actually has really dislike her and that she has, and always will have, no one. Kenneth will always manage to upstage her no matter what she does, and he heads off to a party with all of her friends. At the end, Jane collapses due to too much consumption of alcohol, and Marie takes a violent fit. Daniella is left onstage with practically a corpse for a mother who will prevent her from moving forward academically and a convulsive sister whom needs constant care who will prevent her from moving forward socially. Daniella is left broken as the new year comes in, realising that she will forever be stuck and there is no escape for her.

That's the general gist of it, but I want to establish the tension between the contrasting characters in the family by exploring arguments and general family conflict. I'm a little stuck for ideas of how the conflict would play out and who it would be between (the most obvious choice would be Daniella and Kenneth, but I'd like to explore the other characters as well). I want to do a bit of research into how family conflict arises - it can usually be over something quite small like not doing the dishes. Real things like that. Basically, I'd just like to hear some stories about your own family conflict - be it small, large or something small that became large - to have some influence on the writing and story.

Dennis's Mom
30-12-10, 13:56
The most important thing to remember is that it's a play; it will not be read. It will be performed. So don't get too bogged down in thinking about *how* and *why*. Tell what happens and tell the truth.

This sounds similar to a play we did in college called "Winterplay," (http://sdcc3.ucsd.edu/~ashank/)a hyper-realistic one act about a family on Christmas. Another play you might check out is "'Night, Mother."

30-12-10, 14:06
The most important thing to remember is that it's a play; it will not be read. It will be performed. So don't get too bogged down in thinking about *how* and *why*. Tell what happens and tell the truth.

I know, don't worry. :p I've had experience in devising and performing original plays before. I'm using most of the skills that I found in A-Level Drama to do it, because jeezo... that teacher was harsh, but helpful. She was one of those, "This scene isn't going anywhere. That's too cliche. Why would that character say that? I'm bored now. I'm getting nothing out of this. That isn't realistic." teachers. It was rough, but she made the play work, and it's helped me a lot in the devising process.

30-12-10, 16:14
You obviously have a very clear picture in your mind of what you want to write about, so write it -- or maybe even block it and the conversation will just flow. Its hard for any of us to suggest things. If you want any critique on what you have already written though, I could help -- since I took Performing Arts for 4 years :)

30-12-10, 22:38
I'm not asking for suggestions, what I'm asking is for you to tell stories about your own experiences with family conflict and how they panned out - they don't need to be related to the story. It's so I can analyse them and look at how they started, particularly meaningless ones which started over nothing. I want to show the chaos of their family life by looking at small arguments that grow big because I want to feature those kind of arguments in the play, and I want to see how they happen in real life to use it as inspiration and stimulus for the writing.

Thank you for the offer. :)