Last week, I wrote about why sharing stories about people we love matters — even when they’re gone. I also told you I’d be writing about people I love in honor of National Novel/Book Writing month. I’m not writing a novel, but I am committing to write 500 words per day about the people I love. I want to help you do the same (write about loved ones, that is).
Here are some ideas for writing about somebody you love, whether they’re here or not.
The best stories show the reader what you want to tell them. These stories involve both narrative writing (the details) and reflection (why the story matters to you, its impact on you, the lessons you learned or how it makes you feel).
One key to writing that shows is to use the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Sensory details can help you really capture the moment and let your reader experience what you experienced.
Often we rely on the sense of sight, but smell and hearing can stay with a reader long after they finish reading. Try to explore all of the senses.
Close your eyes and think of a person you love.
What does this person look like? Think about their size and shape, hair color and style, what they wear, how they stand, how they smell, what their skin feels like. Do they fiddle with their rings or purse their lips, jiggle their leg when they sit or shuffle when they walk? Do they wear a particular perfume you love? Is their skin soft or calloused?
Does this person have particular things they say —words, phrases, anecdotes or even silly jokes or particular stories—anything you associate with your loved one. Think about their inflection and tone when they say it. What’s their voice like?
Make a list of specific moments you remember with this person.
Pick one moment. Tell me about this person doing something they love (running, quilting, watching baseball, making pie …). Get specific. Tap into all your senses and paint a picture of the person doing this activity.
Write the story of that moment without worrying about your spelling or grammar or if you are “doing it right”. JUST WRITE.
Now go back. Can you add descriptive and sensory details about the person or dialogue to bring color and texture to your story?
After you write your story, reflect on it. Why does this story stick with you? What does it tell you about your loved one or teach you? Can you add that reflection into your story?
Sometimes we get stuck in reflection or telling what we learned about the person when the actions, description, and mood tell us so much. That’s why working through this practice to make the person come alive is so powerful—plus you get the warm feeling of “visiting” with your loved one as you write.
Write all your stories down. Save them. You’ll be surprised how much it means — to you, the writer, and to those who read it. Often the first step in saving family stories is learning them, which means asking questions. Here are 5 to get you started.