Kathyrn Graves

Just Tell the Stories

Reading over some writing articles the other day reminded me of something I told a friend this week as he prepared the eulogy for another friend.

Marshall was asked by Glenna’s family to write down some memories as they gathered to reminisce about her life, organize them, and read the resulting work at her funeral. After the family time, he followed my husband (the pastor) and I out onto the porch.

“I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I’ve never done this before.”

After a bit of coaching from my husband about organization, I said, “Marshall, just tell the stories.”

And he did. Those who attended the funeral got a rare insight into a quiet, private woman who worked for the Lord behind the scenes. The stories made us laugh and cry, and they left a vivid impression of Glenna with us.

Tell the Stories. Fiction writers know this principle well. It’s what they do. But non-fiction writers don’t always get it. The difference between a piece that holds our attention and one we wade through like slogging through mud is the quality of the writing. Effective story telling enhances that quality.

Provide Traction. Karen Porter, a writer, speaker, and radio personality, says that stories help your listener (or reader) remember what you say. They add color and texture to your speaking and I think they give what you say traction in people’s lives.

Be Authentic. Stories from our own lives lend authenticity to our writing. We don’t have to make anything up. Karen Porter also says it is the business of living life that provides us with all the illustrations we need. We’ve heard it said, “You can’t make this stuff up,” about real life events. It’s true. If we pay attention as we live, and keep a notebook or recorder handy at all times, we’ll have more than enough stories available for whatever subject we might write about.

Do you prefer a notebook or recorder? Do you keep one by your bed? In your purse? The car? Or do you journal at the end of the day, recording all the stories from your day at once?

Photo/FreeDigitalPhotos/Pencil on Yellow Leather Notebook by aopsan

Kathryn writes on Mondays and Thursdays at www.KathrynGraves.blogspot.com and on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.KathrynGraves.wordpress.com.

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