Keeping Family History Stories Alive through Fiction
"Dr. Bill" Smith
I began this series of posts in October 2014 suggesting we each consider preserving the family stories we find as we do our family history and genealogy research, whether for ourselves, or for others, by using fiction as a tool (See Part A).
In November, in Part B, I shared my love of family saga literature and hopefully I got you to thinking about how your own stories could possibly add to this fiction literature genre, using some of my own fiction stories as examples, and recommending some to you, for your review.
Today, in December, I want to be a little more specific and recommend some types of stories you might watch for in your research that would make the basis for good fiction stories. Since this is December, let me start with the “coming home for Christmas” theme. Do you have a member of the armed services you hope will make it home to be with family to celebrate Christmas? That was one of the stories at the heart of my “Christmas at the Homeplace” novel last year. It was 1996, and Travis Inman had left, as a National Guardsman, to serve a tour in Bosnia. He had to leave the winter before prior to his youngest daughter’s birth. Her getting to meet her daddie for the first time at Christmas would be an even greater reunion. Do you have a story like this that you could incorporate into your own story?
Sometimes, I have found, story ideas come from very different sources to create a new storyline for a novel. In the years surrounding when the ideas for my first novel was created, I was doing accounting work, among many clients, for a number of artists who happened to be what today we call gay. They were not family, but I was personally very close to them because I appreciated their devotion to their craft, and wanted to help them on the business side of their lives. This group, of nearly a dozen young men, was hard-hit by the arrival of AIDS to the community. I was particularly close to one, one of my earliest clients. He flew into Washington, D.C., so many times, to get the best treatments then available. He, and most of the others, eventually died. As a tribute to them, I suppose, I included a character in my fictional family in my ongoing family saga who faced these particular challenges. He first appeared in the first novel, “Back to the Homeplace,” and has continued to be a key character. His development, based on the ravages of the HIV infection, through the years, has been a very gratifying part of my continuing stories, as a survivor.
Finally, sometimes it is just a particular “trait” that you can bring into one of your characters. How about the middle-aged aunt that is very active in your small church, but… wants to sing in the choir, but sings far too loud, and cannot carry a tune in a breadbasket? How about the uncle that always wears the same “awful” sweater to every family gathering? How about the young “romeo” who only seems to be interested in “hitting on” his young cousins? These “traits” won’t carry a story, but they can make your stories/characters more interesting, more real. Watch for them as you do your research. What useful “traits” for stories have you come across lately?
See you next month! I love to read comments, so please leave one or more, including questions.
"Dr. Bill" (Wm. L.) Smith can be found regularly at his genealogy blog, "Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories" <http://drbilltellsancestorstories.blogspot.com/> or his family saga blog, "The Homeplace Saga," <http://thehomeplaceseries.blogspot.com/>. He is an original contributor, as The Heritage Tourist, to the "In-Depth Genealogy" blog with a monthly column in the "Going In-Depth" digi-mag. He also writes a monthly post for the Worldwide Genealogy Blog.