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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

3 Ways to Begin a Scene in Your Family History

After you write a family history draft, hopefully, you’ll begin to discover different stories within the overall life story of your ancestor.

For Berton Lee, Andy’s grandfather, some mini-stories are childhood, meeting Jeanette, flying airplanes during WWII, working for United Airlines, fatherhood, etc.

These mini-stories will become scenes in the life story. As you revise your rough draft with these scenes in mind, how do you switch from one to the other without boring your audience?

Insert In The Middle

Place your audience in the middle of the action, creating a sense of immediacy and tension. ‘Action’ suggests movements, choices, or transitions. For example, we’ll rarely have an ancestor running through a dark alley, chased by a shadowy figure. Instead, our ancestors faced hardships, married, divorced, and buried the dead. Start your scene at that point and then fill in the story.

Summarize Between Scenes

Another way to begin a scene is to summarize what has happened leading up to the location. This approach is particularly useful when significant time jumps between events occur.

Free Tips For Writing Better Family Histories

Describe Setting to Begin a Scene

Finally, try starting a scene by describing the setting. This approach allows the reader to imagine the scene's environment, creating a sense of immersion or anchoring a story in a specific time and place. My favorite way to establish a setting is to zoom in from the world into an event's specific location.

Beginning a mini-story (or scene) with one of these approaches can significantly impact your story's effectiveness.

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