The key elements of good storytelling apply to writing the story of your family. I teach a five-week course or one-day workshop that focuses on the keys to storytelling, which I think are:
- concentrate on the place where the action is greatest
- be very clear about the catalyst for change– the pogrom, the famine, the opportunity
- begin on page one with as much of a punch as you possibly can
- evoke many if not all the senses
- make sure that all characters are nuanced. Even villains must have redeeming qualities or flaws that can be understood.
The Personal Advantages of Writing Your Family Story
Anyone who writes, and anyone contemplating writing knows that it can be a daunting task. The New York Public Library article also reminds us of the personal advantages of writing this story: a better understanding of your family and therefore of yourself; the ability to see a common thread that has driven your ancestors and yourself. There’s the therapeutic nature of writing about your family and the sense of resolution it can provide. It is also an investment in yourself because of its reflective nature.
The 2014 Global Study of Users by Ancestry.com found that in 2014, one third of adults online used the Internet to learn more about their family history. (Wow! That’s a lot!) Among Ancestry.com users, 72% said it helped them to be closer to older relatives; 67% said that knowing their family history has made them feel wiser as a person.
The New York Times has suggested that writing the story of your family can actually make you happier. “Studies show that writing about one’s self and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help relieve symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory… Writing – and then rewriting – your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.”
Regardless of the genre or era that you decide to tackle, whether you consider yourself a writer or just interested in this one project, you may be able to find assistance through The Writing Salon and my own courses: “Writing the Story of Your Family”, “Fundamentals of the Short Story,” “Creating Credible Worlds: Settings That Work Hard for Your Story,” and “Theme Is Where the Art Is.” I am also speaking and giving workshops at literary conferences and genealogy groups.
Other posts in this series:
#1: "How and Why You Should Write the Story of Your Family and When to Veer into Fiction"
#2: "The Advantages of Fictionalizing Your Family Story"
#JessWells, #writingworkshops #TheWritingSalon