How To Write Family And Local History

Writing your family memoirs or recording the history of a town or village can be immensely rewarding.
However, when tackling your chosen subject it’s essential not to attempt to cover too much ground in one narrative. Instead, try to focus on an individual event or episode in time. In some cases, writers have told the story of a special house or building, or chosen to chronicle a specific era, when something significant occurred.
If you are writing about a long period of time, it’s important not to confuse the reader by jumping back and forth too much; following chronological order is usually the safest option. If you do have a large volume of detailed information to impart, list your references and research at the end of your work so interested readers know where to find further facts.
To give your story a wider appeal, you should research the broader social scene of the time. Describe the transport, food, fashion, art and sport of that age. This places your personal story firmly in the context of the time in which it’s set.
When you recount your family history, add character to the piece by sharing funny anecdotes or unusual sayings used by family members. Even quaint household tips or favourite recipes can provide the reader with a unique insight in to an earlier time.
Add additional flavour and atmosphere by describing the noises and smells that would have been around at that time – the harsh clanking of steam engines, the billowing smoke and fumes from burning coal.
If you don’t know where to start, a simple but effective way to begin your tale is to set the first scene in the present day. Show the family or village as it is today, before drawing back and contrasting it to a scene from earlier times.
An excellent, but trickier, way to spice up a historical account is to turn it in to fiction. A lively imagination is required to pull this off successfully, but it can work really well. Fictional histories are especially popular with children as it helps them to engage with an otherwise difficult subject. They are a terrific way of communicating history to a younger generation.
The simplest means of conveying historical events this way is to show them through the viewpoint of a single fictional character, such as the history of a house seen through the eyes of the chamber maid or the butler.
Another technique is it to recreate a historical account with a few fictional characters. However, it’s best not to bring in too many personalities unless you want to turn your personal account into a full-blown historical saga.
Putting yourself in the shoes of your fictional creations will help you to conjure up images from times gone by – and it’s also great fun to write!

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