The Three Boys is a collection of short stories about my children's father, Bryan, and his two brothers. Because my children had lost a number of loved ones, I was afraid the oral stories, told over holiday dinners, with embellishment and banter, would be forgotten treasures.
The stories begin in Kansas with threatening dust rollers, slimy stock tanks, and an elusive pony. It continues with humorous accounts that honor Bryan, his mother, and his father. They all knew that life was uncertain and they needed to eat dessert first, in this case, pie.
The Three Boys offers an example of personal story-telling that is easy to follow. Notice how it is organized:
- The Story-Behind-the-Story
- The Setting
- The Characters
- The Stories
- The Donkey and the Bucket
- Dust Storms and Sticker Patches
- Blackie or Puddin'
- Adventures with Schnitzel
- Thanksgiving Follies
- No Pain, No Gain
- Special Olympics
- The Referee
- Penners and Pies
The book doesn't include every life event, but small incidences combined into themed mini-stories: farm life, Thanksgiving, cars, dogs, and sports. Photos and images add interest. Conversations bring to life the characters.
You can use the prototype for your own personal story-writing. Contact me to lead a workshop or follow the format for your story:
- Introduce the main characters with photos, nick-names, and descriptions.
- Introduce the setting with photos and descriptions.
- Use themes to collect anecdotes into mini-stories, i.e. Thanksgiving, cars, music, sports.
- Add art, images, and items of interest: family recipes
If you're not a writer, try these mediums for collecting and saving memories:
- travel albums
- Christmas letters
- history of cars you've owned
- timeline of major life experiences
- digitized photos with dates and captions
- video or powerpoint presentation or DVD
- recipe book with comments about when the recipes were usually made and with whom they were enjoyed
If you want to write, try these memory-primers for writing snap shots:
- My favorite school teacher/pet/grandparent...
- My parents expected me to (behavior, chores, work, school, church)...
- The roughest/best time for me growing up was...
- Our family was alike/different from other families in that...
- My favorite holiday was. . .because...
- I lived in a town that was . . .in a house that was...
- As a teenager, I was...
- An event that rewrote my life was (relocation/adventure/illness/disaster)...
- My first job was . . .and a typical day at work was...
- Something I'll never forget is...
If you do decide to write, make it simple. Don't attempt your entire life. Try writing down just 4 or 5 stories; perhaps themed, such as the most interesting places you've traveled, five or six experiences from kindergarten through high school, your favorite pets, major transitions in your life and how you coped, or a year you'd like to relive and why.
Where to find information:
- Read personal stories: what holds your interest? What bores you?
- Go through saved letters, news clippings, and photos.
- Interview family members for facts and feelings.
- Search websites for history, setting, maps related to your past.
- Re-visit the setting of your personal story.
- Talk into a recorder while looking at photos and transcribe later.
Nuts and Bolts of Personal Story-writing:
- 5 Senses
- Specific over General ("Golden Retrievers" rather than "dogs")
- Facts AND Feelings
- Visuals (sketches, photos, maps, certificates)
- Setting (rural/city, winter/spring, car/airplane, current world events)
If you choose to write, make it manageable, attainable — and fun!
We buy toys, games, clothes, and sports gear — and present these as gifts to one another. But how much more treasured are the gifts of written down impressions, word pictures, smells, sounds, conversations, and details; in other words, saved memories.