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Now is the time to be honest with yourself about the type of family history that meetings your needs and your schedule.Otherwise, you'll have a half-finished product nagging you for years to come.
When I was writing the biographies of Jay Roscoe Rhoads and his wife Grace (soon to be published by Newbury Street Press, Boston), I didn't want to kill off Roscoe and Grace at the end of the story.
I had grown fond of this couple, and I didn't want to see their demise, even though in reality they've been dead for about fifteen years. Instead, I put family stories of their last days in an Epilogue, followed by something more haunting and enduring.
By borrowing techniques from fiction writers, you can turn your dry facts into a compelling family history narrative.
Remember, all good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it's these three parts that are the secret to writing a readable family history. Why do we think we have to begin our family history with the day someone was born?
But remember: You are writing nonfiction, so you have to write your family history within the confines of fact.
Here's an opening example: See how I plunged us right into the middle of the story?
Fortunately, Roscoe had written a fabulous two-page reminiscences on his eighty-fifth birthday, about two and a half years before he died.
It contained his life's philosophies and ended with a great closing sentence: "Well, so much for the ruminations of a tin horn philosopher, just turned 85." End of story.
Or who thought the story had to have a happy ending? You certainly don't have to kill off your ancestors if you don't want to, nor does everyone have to live happily ever after.
You can end the story with your great-grandparents in their old age. After all, tragedies, throughout literary history, stick with us longer and have more of an impact on us.