The Family History Writing Studio

When Another Necktie Just Won’t Do! (Gift Idea)

This Father’s Day the best gift you could offer your father is the commitment to write his story.

Ok, before I hear a big collective sigh out there because you thought you were going to get way with a golf shirt again this year, let me explain. It doesn’t have to be big and take you the next five years. You don’t have to have it completed for Father’s Day. In fact, I’ve done a lot of the work for you. I designed a beautiful gift certificate, Father’s Day Gift Certificate, you can download and give to him, and I’ve prepared 11 questions that will help you to get the information you need to start writing. These questions are built around the necessary elements you need to create a great story.

These 11 questions will help you to interview your father while at the same time focusing in on the key elements needed to tell an entertaining, compelling story.

Set up some interviews, maybe a couple of hours each week and ask the questions. You could do it in one sitting but don’t wear the poor man out. Each of these questions will help you to set up a story, with a setting, a goal, conflict, obstacles, motivation, and theme, all key to writing a compelling and engaging story. I’ve noted beside each question what story element they may contribute to.

Story Questions 

1. Start with the basics – if you don’t already know them, where he was born, lived, went to school, married. Your genealogists you know the stuff I’m talking about. You most likely have all this information, but it never hurts to confirm it again.  Setting

2. Get some accurate descriptions of the principal places in his life. What did his house look like? His bedroom, his place of work, etc.? Get very detailed. What was on the walls, the furniture? Use your five senses, how did sound, smell, touch, see and taste? Setting

3. What was life like growing up for him? Was it carefree? Stressful? What kinds of things influenced his growing up years? Money, War, Depression, Friends. Social History

4. Who were the key people in his life besides his parents? Individuals who supported him and influenced him along the way. Main Characters

5. His thoughts on his parents. How were they as parents, what did they teach him? What didn’t they teach him? What kind of parents were they, strict, lenient, fair? What did he learn from them? Does he emulate them? How did he hope not to be like them? What skills, morals, and values did they stress on him?  Backstory/conflict/motivation

6. What were your father’s dreams and aspirations? What did he want to achieve in his life? Did he or didn’t he achieve those goals and why? Goals

7. What obstacles did he have to overcome to meet his goals? At any point did he change his path on his way to his goal or change his target completely somewhere along the way. Obstacles

8. Did anyone in his life object or hold him back from his goals? Antagonist/Conflict

9. What motivated him in his life and goals? Did he fear not meeting these goals? Why? Motivation

10. What life lesson would your father like to pass on to his descendants? Theme

11. How have his choices changed him and his outlook on life and what he wants for his children and grandchildren?                Inner Journey

With these 11 questions in hand, you now have the key ingredients of a great story. Not a chronological tale of a life but a story with depth, meaning and purpose.  A story shaped around goals and aspirations that were met with conflicts and obstacles.

Use Workbook #3 Finding the Story, Plotting Your Ancestor’s Journey to structure your answers into a compelling story format. Add some pictures and you will have a nice little book in honour of your father. You’ll likely move up to favourite child status very quickly.

Take advantage of our June Special. Get Workbooks, 1, 2, and 3 in downloadable PDF format for $17.00.

Consider interviewing your father using the above questions and then joining us this fall for our online course, Plotting a Family History Story.  Now open for registration. Limited spaces.

August 12, 2016
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