Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Write Your Family Story - You Can Do It!

Summer time is almost here, and that’s when lots of us get together for family reunions. It’s also the perfect time to listen to family stories and document them.

So, you may think you are not a gifted writer, but so what? It’s your story and no one can write it better than you.

Go buy yourself a spiral notebook, a pencil and a hi-lighter then start listening to family members. Write fast, then go back to make corrections later. If you have a voice recorder on your phone, ask permission to tape some family member telling a story. This helps with direct quotes or when several people are talking at once.

Now, you come home with a spiral notebook filled with snippets of stories, jokes, facts, etc… Here’s where highlighters and color coding comes in handy to organize topics, names and dates.

Sometimes the biggest obstacle to writing family story can simply be getting past the first line. How do you begin? The first sentence is a struggle and it is easy to get stuck in the first paragraph and stop. Don’t stop – there is help!
Here are some prompts to jump-start your opening paragraph to make it sound less like you are reciting your family tree.

A genealogist recently reminded me of this: A person’s life isn’t a single story from birth to death. It is many stories.

Here are some first lines that may help you get that first line going:
1. __________ was a fascinating man by all accounts, because he …
2. __________’s favorite saying was …
3. My grandfather was a ___________man because he ...
4. ______________met his future wife ______________ when he …. (retrieved her hat for her on a windy day, saw her cutting a rug at the local dance, or whatever).
5. Nothing could have prepared __________ for…
6. My ancestor lived through a time when …
7. A great (love story, tragedy, mystery, surprise) in my family history is how ...

Look through this list and see if anything comes to mind or inspires you to create your own first line. Start writing something. Use a computer or paper and pencil, but start writing. Forget about grammar or factual details like dates and places. You can verify that later. Just get the words down. Make a folder of the stories so you can organize them into groups later – like chronologically, geographically, by event, or by another type subject matter.

You are on a roll so do it before the memories get fuzzy. Write your family story!

Delene Allen, Director
Quitman Public Library
May 24, 2017

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