Writing your family history

To many people history is boring.

I can understand that. Some history turns me off, while other aspects of history fascinate me. I guess it sometimes depends on the mood I’m in, or the particular aspect of history being discussed, read or shown on television. To many people family history is deadly boring – with and emphasis on the “dead” part.

I disagree.

Some writers complain that they have trouble coming up with ideas for stories and novels. My suggestion is to get hold of a family history book. If your family hasn’t had a family history book published, borrow someone else’s history. I have two family books; one based on my father’s side, the other on my mother’s family. Both are filled with family genealogical diagrams illustrating relationships in the broader family. They also include many interesting but rather stiff upper lip type photos which can be a little amusing today.

But I digress.

Both books contain hundreds of short accounts of the lives of people in my family. Many of these people are now dead. The accounts range from the familiar, mundane and ordinary, through to the unbelievable, adventurous and plain tragic. Take for example the account of my ancestors on my father’s side as they escaped religious persecution in their home land and migrated half way around the world to settle here in South Australia. Several members died on the boat journey out here. The story of the survivors shows great courage and drama. It’s ready made for retelling, possibly best written as fiction.

Any family history book, if it contains accounts of the lives of ordinary people, will be a fertile field ready for harvesting by a creative and imaginative writer. Troll through the book looking for that one story that captures your imagination. Then let that imagination have full rein. Let the story run its course. Don’t necessarily worry about sticking to the facts; you are writing fiction. Writers of historical fiction do this all the time; their stories are fiction based on a true story or actual event.

I hope you find a little gem of a story.

Good writing.

 

One Response to “Writing your family history”

  1. john malone says:

    one of my writing friends has a mother I deliver meals to on wedsnesday. She was one of the few survivors of that beach massacre in 194 . shew is writing it up as a fictional piece after a workshop by Arnold Zable

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