Finally! After working your way through the lists of previous lessons and compiling a collection of stories from your life journey, it’s time to put them into a readable narrative to share with your target audience.
Pay particular attention to your first few paragraphs. This is where you’ll want to hook your reader. Once you’ve got your readers’ attention, they’ll be drawn into the rest of your story. The very best personal history projects are those that are found interesting by readers outside your target audience. It's quite an accomplishment when someone unfamiliar with your stories takes an interest in them.
Here are some tips to guide you through the writing process as you cut and paste the stories from your timeline into the proper order in the proper chapter of your outline:
• Write your story in the first person. Take ownership of your experience. It you’ve received help from others, attribute those passages to those people, but keep writing in first person. The exception would be if you are telling someone else’s story. Use third person in those cases.
• Your work will be a collection of separate stories. You can either create a smooth narrative by using transition, or let them stand alone, separating them with a typographical device, such as a centered row of five asterisks.
• Your stories should be rich in detail, complete and concise. Use all five senses as you show your story, rather than telling it.
• Use active voice rather than passive.
• Don’t worry about grammar. Your target audience is familiar with your stories told a certain way. Don’t mess with that natural rhythm. Do spell check, however.
• Avoid clichés and stereotypes. They only rob your story of its uniqueness.
Follow the links in the tips for more information.
Tomorrow: Checking your work
This is Lesson No. 21 of a mini-course on how to write a personal history. The course will continue throughout May, which is Personal History Month. To get future lessons delivered to you, you may subscribe to our RSS feed or get e-mail delivery to your inbox. It’s easy. Details can be found in the column to the left of this post.