|Writing For Your Family
By Candice Lynn Buchanan
It can be overwhelming to stare down the blank screen of a word processor or the open lines of a fresh notebook leaf, especially if it is your responsibility to fill the empty space with significant words. Whether you are writing biographies to include in your family history book or you are compiling a one page tribute to remember a particular relative, it can be difficult to decide what to say and how to say it.
There are a few tips and ideas that can be very useful in this kind of writing to help you to create a powerful, personalized final product.
Don’t be intimidated.
Why are these things so much easier to talk about than to write about for most of us? My feeling is that when it comes time to put pen to paper we simply think too much. We attempt to be someone we are not; we try too hard to write like a professional journalist or author, when most of us are not. Writing for your family does not have to be that way. Formal writing can be cold and impersonal – obituaries being perfect examples of this. What you write for your family should make them feel like you are there talking to them when they read it, so if it helps, just write like you talk. Be yourself.
When it comes to our family memories it is far too important that they be saved, for us to worry so much about every i being dotted and every t being crossed. Writing well should not be completely dismissed, but neither should it be the obstacle to keep you from putting down the story that your grandchildren always ask you to tell.
Focus your audience.
Narrowing your audience in this way helps to bring the most important pieces of the life story into focus. There are obviously many facts and tales connected to every life. First include the things that you most want your family to know and then consider the audience you are focusing on and think about what they would want to know. Are their common interests such as hobbies, appearance or personality traits? All of which are things that create a personal connection and a deeper interest. Are their funny memories that might make a relative more memorable and their story more entertaining? Did your relative participate in a historic event that might help later generations to consider the time in which this person lived?
Stories do not have to be heroic or outstanding to be worthy of preservation. The real life stories that make us laugh, cry or just nod our heads in understanding are the ones that actually make us feel like these were real people who we can comprehend and relate to.
Reading a postcard my great-grandmother wrote to her mother in 1916 gives me the only hint I have of what it would have been like to have a conversation with her. I can almost hear her voice as I read her message.
What you write will have the same effect on future generations of your family.
Adding research to the
Want more ideas?
You Can Write Your Family History by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Cincinnati, Ohio: Betterway Books, 2003)
Producing A Quality Family History by Patricia Law Hatcher, CG (Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Inc., 1996)
A great and easy-to-use guide for source citation is:
Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Baltimore: GPC, 1997).
All material within this
web site has been compiled by Candice Buchanan <email@example.com>
(63 W. Franklin St.; Waynesburg, PA 15370).
Data sources documented whenever possible. Contributors credited for shared information. Questions, feedback and contributions welcome.
Copyright © 2003-2008 Candice Buchanan. All rights reserved.