Monday, April 9, 2012
Family Story Writing Tips
Ready to write your own family stories or complete memoir? Think about using some of these writing tips as you go. As always, if you have any questions, please let me know. In addition, comments are always welcome!
Basic Writing Guidelines
Every writer uses roughly the same steps. Sometimes you may be able to combine steps. But stories will make more sense if you generally follow these basic writing guidelines.
1. Brainstorming – write down a bunch of ideas.
2. Rough Draft – get your ideas down on paper.
3. Revisions – make the story flow.
4. Editing – fine-tune the story.
5. Publishing – print a copy of your story.
Repeat any or all of the above steps until you are satisfied with the story.
The paragraph structure you use can also make a difference in the readability of your stories. Consider following these suggestions.
1. Beginning Paragraph – introduction to the story.
• Grab your reader’s attention & make the reader want to read more.
2. Middle Paragraph(s) – details of the story.
• Describe the person or event and what you or they experienced.
3. Ending Paragraph – wrapping up the story.
• Sum up why the person or event in the story is important to you.
What’s in a story?
Writing down your family history is an excellent way to turn memories into an engaging story. To fill out your story, consider using the questions that newspapers answer in their articles:
• Who was involved in the story you are telling?
• Include details: When you describe who is in the story, your words come alive so your reader can imagine being right there, too.
• What is the main event you’re describing?
• Describe what happened in a sequence that gives shape to the story: what were you (or the main characters) doing when the story began? Go through the events to paint a complete picture of what happened.
• Where did the event happen? Give enough details so the reader can picture the setting.
• What was the importance of the location to your story?
• When did the story happen? Include details like what kind of cars people were driving and what clothes they wore.
• Don’t assume your readers will know what the Midwest looked like in the 1950’s (or even last Christmas). Describe it in detail. When something happened may be as important as the event itself.
• Why was this story important to you or the person you interviewed?
• What did you/they learn from it?
• Explain what the experience meant to you or to your subject. Did it change the way you/they looked at things?
Spice Up Your Writing
• The power of words
Think about how many memories are triggered by the five senses. You may have been on vacation and have some fond memories of the trip. But start remembering the taste of foods you ate, or the smells and sounds of the farmer’s market in the early morning, and you’ll be transported back so that every detail springs to life. Using the right words, you can make stories sound “good enough to eat.”
• Juicy words
Use juicy(!) words to make the story come alive! There is absolutely nothing wrong with using everyday adjectives like big or little. But sometimes you’ll want to stretch your imagination and come up with more stimulating words like humongous or teensy. Choose descriptive details to make them more interesting. Make each story pop for your readers. Think about the difference between a dull sentence and a juicy sentence in a book or story you like. Which would you rather read?
• Using the five senses
What do you think about when you smell the aroma of apple pie baking? Does it remind you of Grandma’s house? There are many words related to the five senses that will help you describe those memories and help your reader experience them, too. One easy way to describe things in more detail is to use the five senses for a kick-start.
Sensory words relate to your five senses (smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing) and they can be used throughout your writing. They can be very powerful when you want to describe an event in detail. Remember that you want your readers to “see” (and hear, touch, etc.) what you are telling in words.
Smells can take your readers to the heart of your story like a bloodhound to a rabbit hole. So, remember to consider your juicy words to describe what you smell. Something can smell spicy, yummy, delicious or even disgusting. Use your imagination to come up with your own words.
Taste words are used every day to entice us. When you see an ad on TV or in a magazine, they often use words that make you think something will taste good, like “ice cold watermelon.” Have you ever walked along the ocean where you can taste the salty air on your tongue? If not, can you imagine how it would taste?
Sight words are powerful tools to write a descriptive story. Use the sense of sight so people can envision or “see” what you are talking about. Use your imagination to help your reader envision being part of your story. Stories may be filled with bright colors, exotic images, minute details, and heart-stopping sunsets. Whatever the case, use sensory words to describe what you want others to see.
Touch is unique for each person. Touch words are very powerful for recalling memories and conveying them in your writing. Sense of touch words may be soothing, comforting, scratchy, welcoming or even slimy.
Hearing words allow you to use sounds and descriptions in your stories; they help your readers hear exactly what is going on. Think of the staccato slam of a door, the piercing wail of a siren and the sharp bark of a dog. Each of them describes a specific sound. Use descriptive words to sound the alarm for your readers.