Taking that first step and actually putting pen onto paper can possibly be the most challenging part of writing family stories. Oh, there’s bound to be some sticky situations and some tough topics for sure! But for genealogists, it’s often just the act of switching gears that stops us in our tracks. Making the jump from chaser of the stories to storyteller can be a little disorienting. In the September, 2014 issue of Columns the online quarterly newsletter for the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors (ISFHWE for short) I addressed this very quandary in my column “A Storied Past.” Here is a little adapted excerpt from the article:
How to Pick a “Somebody”
*Set a timer to give yourself only 5 minutes.
*Make a list of as many persons you can think of in that 5 minutes, Don’t worry about who you know a million stories about or have a bunch of newspaper clippings of, Just write a list, quickly, and as long as you can make it, of people you have on ANY of the family trees you work on
*Now look over the list you made. Does anyone sort of jump out at you? Use this person first.
*Reset the timer, this round, give yourself 10 minutes, and write down things that you know about this person, They could be rudimentary as “female” or “only son” or ” “one of 7-10 children.” Do not waste time looking through notes to find specifics. Try to answer the journalistic standard Q&A’s of Who, What, When, Why and How. Keep jotting down notes until the time is up.
*Now go back and revisit the list of what you know about the “one who jumped out at you.” Why do you think you chose him/her? Make a note. What else would you like to know about them? Add these questions to your list of phrases and thoughts about what you already know. These may be brief too: Related to Daniel Boone, kept and showed horses, died in infancy, Union Soldier
*Now is the time to bring together fact with feeling for this person. Gather any photos, clippings, references, dates and stats, to fill in all of the Who/What/When/Why/How with accurate dates, names and aliases etc. as you have them on file.
*Celebrate! You’re on your way!
If you’re interested in joining the ISFHWE contact them at http://www.isfhwe.org
Let’s get working on your “Who to Start With” now!