Wednesday, June 11, 2014

“Some of the Best Stories Are Yours”

Some of the best stories are yours
A few posts ago, we covered how to mine family history for stories. Using similar techniques, you can mine your life for stories, too.

Reviewing your personal life for story ideas can be an emotional experience, but those very emotions can signal a story worth telling. In considering your options, ask yourself:
  • What aspect of this event in my life would others find most interesting and instructive, and why?
  • What turning point occurred as a result of this that forever changed my life?
  • What pivotal incident led to the event — the one without which the turning point wouldn't have occurred?
  • What was the main outcome?
  • What were the secondary and tertiary outcomes?
  • What were the most important consequences for me and those closest to me?
To fictionalize your story, ask yourself:
  • What if the main person in the story was of a different race, ethnic background and/or gender?
  • What if the turning point occurred at an earlier or a later stage of life?
  • What if the pivotal incident occurred in a different setting?
  • What if it was a different incident altogether?
  • What if the event’s main outcome was the opposite or vastly different from what happened?
Taking these considerations into account and changing the story accordingly should alter the plot, characters and ending, maintaining the story’s integrity while taking it into the realm of fiction.

The key to this approach is having an affinity for and/or experience in how you make the changes. For example, if you alter the setting, do you know the new locale? After all, truth is still stranger than fiction.

Tip: To spice up your story, consider this adage from John Updike. There's the story you're afraid to tell others and the story you're afraid to tell yourself. That's the one to write.

What aspect of your story are you afraid to tell?

Happy writing!

Adele Annesi is an award-winning writer, editor and teacher. Her book is Now What? The Creative Writer's Guide to Success After the MFA.

For one of the most instructive workshop-based writers conferences, visit Ridgefield Writers Conference 2014.

For queries, contact Word for Words, or visit Word for Words. For in-depth tips, visit the Online Workshop.