Whittier Area Genealogical Society
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August 3, 2021 By: Kristina Newcomer
Summer 2021
Six Secrets of Successful Storytelling
 
According to Sunny Morton, we all have stories to tell about “first loves, second chances, lessons learned, triumphs won, prizes lost and faith rekindled.”  However, as story tellers, we are not all created equal.  To avoid falling into the deadly trap of the boring story, Sunny has six secrets to help you create attention-grabbing tales:
  1. Story Anatomy – “A story is a meaningful narrative with a beginning, a middle and a conclusion.  In its simplest form, a story is what you wanted, how you struggled, and what you realized out of that struggle.”  Our most powerful memories can be triggered by sensory echoes such as smell, sound, fear and joy.  It is the writer’s job to ‘flesh out’ these memories to create a complete story.
  1. Single Storyline – Everyone’s life is composed of a string of stories like “pearls on a necklace,” and we need to focus on one pearl – one powerful memory or episode – at a time.  Pick a topic and run with it, don’t wander away from your storyline.
  1. Use Your Voice – Tell your stories using your natural speech rhythms and patterns.  “Simple, direct, emotional, visual language . . . creates pictures and feelings . . . “ producing your truest story.  One suggestion is to read your story out loud to see if it sounds like you.  If it doesn’t, rewrite it until it does.
  1. Right Place – “Every story has a timeline, but that doesn’t mean we have to tell events in order.”  Find a ‘scene’ or a ‘riveting moment’ to hook your reader and then fill in the details.
  1. Juicy Details – “Include the details you remember most vividly.”  But, don’t go overboard; be selective with the details you include.  You want to give glimpses into the event or individual not get buried in minutia.
  1. Your Point – Successful storytelling depends on one thing; “your story has to mean something.”  Unless your story has a ‘satisfactory conclusion’ you don’t have a complete story.
“Search your memories, clear your throat, and start stringing those pearls.”
April 22, 2021 By: Kristina Newcomer
Spring 2021
The Writer's Block
How to Overcome Your Fear of Writing
 
5 TIPS FOR WRITING YOUR FAMILY HISTORY
 
  1. KNOW YOUR PURPOSE.  What do you hope to accomplish?  A summary of all your research?  Share a family legacy?  Pass down a family story?  Celebrate an ethnic heritage?  Commemorate a family reunion?  Who will be the audience for your story?
  2. MAKE A PLAN.  Outline?  Timeline?  Framework?  Writing schedule?  Use whatever works for you.
  3. SAY IT WITH PICTURES.  Use photos, graphs, documents, maps, charts, genealogy reports, etc. to enhance your story and keep you and your reader engaged.  Find a comfortable balance between images and words.  Brief descriptions and short paragraphs will keep your audience interested.
  4. BEGIN IN THE MIDDLE.  Or, at the end.  If you don't know how to begin, just start writing where you like, you can arrange it later.  That's the joy of cut and paste!  Choose a point in your story that interests you and your story will unfold from there.
  5. TAKE YOUR TIME.  But, set a deadline as a motivational aid.  In time for the family reunion, a special birthday, anniversary, wedding or the birth of the next generation.  Allow enough time so you don't feel rushed, it'll cut down on stress and make writing a fun project, not an obligation.
January 9, 2021 By: Kristina Newcomer
Winter 2021
The Writer's Block
How to Overcome Your Fear of Writing
 
Writing Tips from Diane Haddad: 
Where to Look for Great Ancestor Stories
 
For help in writing a ‘complete’ story about your ancestor, you need to place them within the context of the time in which they lived.  Did your ancestor live through an historical event, experience economic success or failure, participate in an arduous migration, or even commit a crime?  By including these events in the telling of their history, you will end up with an unforgettable story.
 
Here are a few resources to help ‘fill out’ your stories:
 
Newspapers – obituaries, tragedies, successes, sports stories, world events
Court records – the source of wills, deeds, lawsuits, marriages
Military pension applications – correspondence about military service, documentation of    marriage and children, written testimony about wounds, photos
Family papers – diaries, letters, postcards, scrapbooks, photo albums, baby books, Bibles
Histories – secondary sources, but full of clues for your research
Censuses – location, school attendance, number of children, occupation, origin of birth, languages spoken, slaves, special schedules, immigration, health
Timelines – world, country, state
 
By pulling together all these details, you will add context to your ancestor’s life.  You will be amazed at how well you will come to know them and how important it is to ensure that their stories are preserved, because their stories will be forgotten if they are left untold.

October 31, 2020 By: Kristina Newcomer
Fall 2020
The Writer's Block
How to Overcome Your Fear of Writing
 
Fleshing Out the Story - So to Speak
 
Writing your or your ancestor’s story is about more than just names, dates and places.  This article is about filling in the spaces between the numbers and facts with something resembling a living (or once living) human person with all of their faults, foibles, fanfare and follies.  Most people would rather read about someone whom they can relate to on a personal level, not just locate them on a bare-bones pedigree chart.  Here are some ways to put some flesh on those bones:
  • Use your imagination – What do the facts say about this person?  Didn’t know them personally or don’t recall a specific time?  Use secondary sources to help fill in the blanks: history books, biographies, newspapers, journals/diaries, websites about occupations,  migration patterns, major inventions of the time or natural disasters.  All of these play a part in your or your ancestor’s life.  Be sure to include them in your writing.
  • Tell a story.  Don’t just recite the facts.  Place yourself or your ancestor inside the story.  Use anecdotes or suppositions when linking yourself or your ancestor to a time and place. But, be sure to clarify what is provable fact and what is supposition when writing your story.
  • Be sure to include family traditions or historical events in the story to show how this may have affected them or you.
  • Be honest but be fair.  Try not to judge yourself or your ancestor’s behavior by current standards.  Remember, no one is perfect.  We all have a little of the “dark side” in us.
  • One way to grab your reader’s attention is by starting with a dramatic, humorous, romantic or spine-tingling episode from your or your ancestor’s life.  Then proceed to fill in the blanks leading up the incident.  This creates ‘relatability’ in your writing.
As a final suggestion, consider using a timeline to help you organize your thoughts and to help in establishing where you want to begin writing.  Before you know it, the story will have practically written itself!