Writing coaches can help us with everything from developing a story arc to using better grammar. But, as storytellers, that’s not always what we crave. Great writing is, well, great. But family storytellers don’t just want to write better; we want to form connections through stories of the past. We want to connect with our readers, our family, and our family history.
How to Form Connections through Stories of the Past
This isn’t just another writing hoop to jump through. It’s not hard to form connections through stories of the past. It’s more of a question of writing with passion—and letting a little more of yourself shine through your writing.
Put yourself on the page
We’ve all heard about story hooks, but we often overlook the fact that we, family member-cum-writer, can be the hook. Why does the story matter to you? Were you a bystander who was forever changed by what you observed? Were you always inspired by the life that went before you? Do you feel that you and your ancestor walked parallel paths? Is this the story that kept you awake at night? Do you wish there were some herbicide that could heal this blight from the family tree?
As you describe why the stories matter to you, you’ll form connections with your readers.
Of course, that’s easier if you write stories that matter. Matter to you.
Bring ancestors stories to life
Don’t just focus on the facts. Focus on the life. Create your own version of Who Do You Think You Are? In other words, create fodder for your readers’ imaginations. If you watch the show, you it’s not just the presentation of facts that makes the stories moving. It’s the conversation that results as a result of the facts. “I wonder what it was like for ….”
Go ahead, wonder. Speculate. Enlighten.
You’re like a photographer. Frame the picture. Find an illuminating light. Connect through the stories of the past as you determine the focus.
Focus on the present—not just the past.
No panic. You can do both. The story comes from the past, but you’re writing—or telling—the story for loved ones in the present and future. The easiest way to write in a voice that will connect with readers is to write with those readers in mind.
That means not just thinking of your readers by name, although that’s good too. Think of the questions they’ll have about your past or your family’s past. Address the tiny questions.
Forget about superlatives.
You don’t have to have the best story, the most incredible trailblazing ancestors, or even the most sordid past to form connections through stories of the past. Sure, we’ll glue our eyes on a train wreck of a memoir.
But we’ll also connect with the un-extraordinary. That’s because we’ve all been up close and personal with the un-extraordinary. We’ve experienced the loss of a loved one. The death of a dream. The anxiety of a child leaving home. The excitement of a new beginning. The mercilessness of time’s march forward.
As you play the major chords of the lives that have gone before you, touch your bow on the heart strings of the everyday momentous. Love. Fear. Anxiety. Hope. Perseverance.
What do you think? Have you focused on connecting as you wrote? How’s it working for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.