Looping back to the beginning is a good way to end.
Since I began this series of blog posts on turning letters into stories with How to Transform a Father’s WWII Letters into a Fascinating Story – Begin Writing Family History with these 5 Tips, I’ll end with another query regarding a father’s letters.
After my talk on writing stories from family history at the National Genealogical Society’s conference, I had a longer chat with audience member Gloria about how she might begin “doing something” with her father’s letters.
She told me:
My father wrote so many letters. I have decades and decades of them. I loved him dearly, and his personality shines through in this writing, so I would really like to put them together in a story. But it’s just too much material! Where and how do I begin?
We talked for a while. Eventually she told me that, through her father’s letters, she had found out that he had been an bigtime basketball player in school. He seriously considered going pro, but then WWII interfered. Even her mom hadn’t known about her dad’s thwarted basketball career.
Gloria proceeded to tell me that discovering her dad’s dreams of a basketball career in his letters had finally explained why he had loved basketball so much.
“How did you, as a kid, know that he liked basketball?” I asked.
“He loved taking me to games and always explained everything to me,” she said. “I have such warm memories of going to basketball games with him.”
“That’s your entry point right there,” I said. “Write a story about your dad’s love for basketball and your memories of going to games with him.
That will give you the opportunity to bring him to life. Show what it was like to be in the stadium with him, and how he explained what was going on.
Then fold in quotes from your dad’s letters in which he shares his basketball career hopes and disappointments.
Once we, the readers, have experienced him through your child’s point-of-view, your interaction with him, we have gotten to know him as a character. Adding in some material from his letters will deepen the story.”
Quoting from letters can be a great way to bring our ancestors to life.
It gives us their thoughts, point-of-view, worries, hopes and dreams. But you need to introduce the letter writer to us first.
in addition, organizing the story around a topic like the love of basketball will give your story the necessary focus.
Interested in writing family history based on letters? Check out my upcoming online course:
Begins July 10, 2022.
You might also be interested in:
What to Do When You Don’t Have Enough Information about a Fascinating Letter But Still Want to Use it in a Story
Want to Use a Letter as the Basis for a Story? Here’s an Easy But Really Important Tip for Getting Started
How to Solve One of the Biggest Challenges When Writing Family History Based on Letters: Context