Valentine’s Day brings to mind sweethearts, chocolates, flowers, loving or romantic gestures, and sweet nothings–even when “sweet nothing” is literally all we have. In addition to providing a huge sales opportunity to the greeting card industry, Valentine’s Day causes us to pause and reflect on our stories of the heart. We reflect on what we have, what we have lost, and everything in between.
Since, if you buy into my theory, you’re already thinking about it, take a little time around Valentine’s Day to describe the great loves of your life or share the stories of the heart. Likewise, this time of year also lends itself to extracting some of those stories from family members.
Unspoken History to Oral History to Written Stories of the Heart
You’d be surprised how little prompting some folks need when it comes to a subject near and dear to them—the people they love.
Stories of the heart start at the very beginning.
I’m a great believer in prompts, as you might have noticed. They are especially effective when it comes to teasing out the lesser known aspects of familiar stories. Perhaps the facts of the story are known, but the nuances are missing. For instance, others often know how we met our spouses. What they perhaps don’t know is how we initially felt about our spouse-to-be or significant other.
For instance, I recently read at the Henry Ford Museum that Coretta Scott King had misgivings about the prospect of marrying a preacher. She wasn’t sure she was cut out to be a pastor’s wife. Looking back over her life, that’s such a cool plum of information to understand. Such tidbits add great dimension and texture to stories, especially when others think they already know the whole story.
How we feel now
It’s especially fun to ask older folks how they feel about their long-time partner. If they’ve been married a quarter of a century or more, their stories of the heart are seldom told. A lot of things have become unsaid. It’s a nice chance for them to put their sentiments into words. Of course, the same applies if it’s our own story.
Ask for or Give Advice:
What advice would you give young couples starting out? Over what did you worry too much? What did you take for granted? What would you do differently? These make great interview questions as well as do-it-yourself writing prompts.
As much as I love metaphors, the metaphor of blossoming love, doesn’t work for the memory writer. Seldom does love move smoothly from bud to full bloom. It can explode into being. It can fade and re-bloom.
What metaphor works for the relationship you’re writing about? Fireworks that go forever? Fireworks over deep water? A trick birthday candle that can’t be blown out? A climbing vine that rises above adversity –or one that occasionally hangs on by its fingertips.
You get the idea. Tell a story you’ve never told before or tell it in a new way.