Through the years this blog has been in existence, I have urged readers to write their family stories. We tell them around the table when families gather as many will do in only a couple of days as we celebrate Thanksgiving. That's wonderful but as time goes on and the elders in the family are no longer present at the table, the stories will get lost.
Someone needs to write them so that future generations will have some family history. Write one story at a time and keep it in notebook, perhaps a loose leaf binder so that you can continue to add to it easily. Many people begin the project and feel it is too overwhelming to write ALL those stories so they write a few and quit. The key to overcoming that is to write only one story and wait awhile before starting on another. If writing that first story motivates you to keep going, all the better, but the stories do not have to be written all at once.
When you're reminded of something that happened in the family, jot down some notes. Keep a small notebook handy for these little reminders.
Don't back out of the project with the excuse that I'm not a writer. I can't do this. Yes, you can. To make a Family Stories Book, you do not have to be a professional writer. Your family is not going to judge the writing; they will appreciate that you made the effort to preserve these tales.
A few things to keep in mind when you write:
- write one story at a time
- include first and last names
- use dates, exact or approximate, if you know them
- include sensory details (taste, sight, sound, touch and smell) to make your story come alive
- include why the story is memorable for you--good or bad
- write the sad or difficult stories as well as the happy or funny ones--they are a part of the family history, too
- get in the habit of using action verbs instead of lots of is, are, were verbs--your stories will sing
- length is not an issue, no story too short or too long if it is your story
- include the place where the story happened
With this being Thanksgiving week, why not start with a Thanksgiving memory? Here are a few triggers to inspire you and perhaps jog your memory. Too busy to do it today or tomorrow? Next week is fine.
- What was the weather like at Thanksgiving?
- Where did you live? Urban or rural? House or apartment?
- Who did your family celebrate with?
- What special dishes did your family have?
- Who did the cooking?
- What things did the family do before and after dinner?
- What funny things happened?
- What unhappy things occurred?
- All about cousins
- All about aunts and uncles
- All about grandparents
- Were there any cooking disasters on Thanksgiving?
- What did you do in school the days prior to the holiday?
I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping your family history alive. Some of those family happenings can also be made into publishable stories. Chicken Soup for the Soul books and other anthologies are filled with them. Whether you want to publish them or only keep them for your family, start writing!