Writing Tips

" Many times someone has told me a truly great story prompting me to ask them to add the story to History Chip. 9 times out of 10 the response is, 'But I don’t know how to write!' "

Each of us, yes this includes you, masters storytelling nearly as soon as we can talk. Humans tell stories all the time. Language is primarily how we communicate. We tell each other about our day, about experiences we have had in our lives. We tell our doctors about our health, we explain what the weather is like, what music we enjoy. Many times someone has told me a truly great story prompting me to ask them to add the story to History Chip. 9 times out of 10 the response is, “But I don’t know how to write!” And, of course I always encourage them to simply write the story they just told me. Writing a story is no different from telling one. It is that simple. You don’t have to write like Shakespeare. For the purposes of History Chip, all you need to do is write a clear true story.

Stories on History Chip come in all sorts of sizes and styles, but they all have one thing in common: they all are true to the best of the writer’s memory and ability. Some are longer form stories that may be elaborate by spanning some time, by incorporating a number of people, a number of locations. They may include humor or some sort of wisdom, or some sort of punch line or climax. Then there are other stories that are simpler, perhaps explaining a small feature of life at a certain place and point in time - like describing your classroom, or what would have been a typical breakfast where you lived when you were 10 years old, or what voting is like where you live. These short bits of informative storytelling are truly important in their own right and no less important than longer form stories that might be more literary. At History Chip we celebrate equally the more literary true stories as well as these factual bits of storytelling because they all help to fill in important details of life in a certain time, the sort of small details that would not be included in historical narratives without the help of our citizen journalists, our citizen historians.

All non-fiction stories, all stories that set out to tell us about a true experience - short snippets or longer narratives - need to include certain pieces of information. We suggest writers follow the practice of journalists by including the following 5 key questions in any true story:

Who is the story about?

What is the story about?

When did this story happen?

Where did this story happen?

Why did this story happen?

All non-fiction stories, all stories that set out to tell us about a true experience - short snippets or longer narratives - need to include certain pieces of information. We suggest writers follow the practice of journalists by including the following 5 key questions in any true story:

Who is the story about?

What is the story about?

When did this story happen?

Where did this story happen?

Why did this story happen?

Beyond those basic questions, while you are preparing to write your story, close your eyes, take a breath and imagine yourself in the location of your chosen story. Try to remember the smells, the sounds, the look of the location, and how you were feeling about your experience.

" close your eyes, take a breath and imagine yourself in the location of your chosen story. Try to remember the smells, the sounds, the look of the location, and how you were feeling about your experience. "

Was it frightening or inspiring or comforting? Were there sirens or birds singing or music? Did you smell smoke or flowers or the ocean? Was it sunny or dark? Were you alone, in a crowd, with friends or family? Were you inside or out? What were you wearing? What was the weather like? Was it windy or still? It is possible you may not remember much of these details and that is all right. Remember that no one else has your memories. You alone can offer your own particular memories to help complete the history of that time and place. Other people, who might have been present for the same experience you describe, will have their own memories and observations. Together, your memories and theirs will help to offer readers a fuller understanding of that moment in time. So, when you include what memories you can recall in your writing, you will have done a great job of telling your story and of helping to complete history.