© 2011 Marilyn H. Collins
Family stories provide a wealth of original plot ideas. Settings are familiar, characters come complete with emotions or conflicts, and protagonists/antagonists are ready made. Our memory overflows with priceless stories requiring minimal cost for research or site visits.
Writing stories about your family may seem daunting at first—all those people, places they’ve lived, stories you’ve heard told and retold. But if you don’t write the stories, who will?
Try the following no-stress tips to save your family’s legacy—in a book or collection of short stories. Add fun to family gatherings for years to come.
1. Start with “remember-when” events that always bring a laugh or a sigh at family gatherings. You don’t need to write stories chronologically. A pattern will soon emerge from random stories.
2. Write from your point of view. My sisters and I sometimes think we grew up in different families. We don’t always remember events in the same way. What you recall from an experience as a five-year-old may be very different in a sibling’s memory as a sixteen-year-old.
3. Let family members “speak” for themselves. Dialogue makes most stories better. Use a turn of phrase or colloquial saying that others will readily identify with Uncle Kenneth or Grandpa Mike. Add a familiar joke, favorite food, special talent—whatever brings a person to life for your reader. You might include stories about an opinionated dog, aristocratic cat, or the horse who was your best friend.
4. Remember holiday traditions. Food is a holiday topic in most families and a good story source. My family discusses lunch while still eating breakfast. The same friendly argument takes place most years: Who makes the best pecan pie? What about the sweet potato/marshmallow balls everyone hates? How many different turkey dressing recipes exist?
5. Involve everyone. Ask each person to bring a story (written or to tell) to the next gathering. Storytelling after a relaxing dinner is a great tradition. Include family members in faraway places. Ask for their written story or video. In turn, send those absent the stories they missed. Children might draw pictures and talk about them.
Keep these treasures from year to year adding to the laughter and tears that are a part of all families. Everyone will enjoy them for years to come.
Marilyn H. Collins encourages people to capture cherished stories of family and place through her books, eBooks, online newsletter, and conference speaking. She is editor of an online newsletter, Proficient Writer NEWS at www.proficientwriter.com. Her eBooks can be found at www.WriteFamilyHistory.com andwww.LocalRegionalHistory.com. You can contact Marilyn at: www.stepbystepwriting.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.