Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Society & Culture
  3. Social Issues

Writing page-turners from diaries and oral histories

See also

The writer's time capsule often is about transforming oral history into a story. Oral history depends on memory and the ability to speak or write, and for some to illustrate in a variety of media or multimedia. You also may think of oral history as aural history, based on the ability to hear someone’s experiences and remember them to pass on to the next generation or the world. You transcribe and transform oral histories, and they can become adventures and parables inclusive of the various stages of life. Diaries can be adapted to storytelling or page-turning experiences.

More Photos

You also might be interested in checking out the book, How to Start, Teach, & Franchise a Creative Genealogy Writing Class or Club: The Craft of Producing Salable Living Legacies, Celebrations of Life, Events, Reunion Publications, or Gift Books, by Anne Hart (June 12, 2008). Or see, "Creating Family Newsletters & Time Capsules: How to Publish Multimedia Genealogy Periodicals or Gift Booklets by Anne Hart (Jun 5, 2006)."

To find out the effects of oral history on memory and on creative writing on memory, we'd have to ask the people who write their life story and/or genealogy in their older years what it did for them, their memory, and their ability to think and feel. Make use of introverted feeling in writing a commercial or salable life story for the new media. Think in three dimensions for older adults is a different highway. How did DNA testing influence a genealogy search for family history facts? You also may wish to see the PDF article, "Guide to Transcribing and Summarizing Oral Histories."

Did the individual create a time capsule? How was the time capsule saved—on the Web? On a CD, DVD, video, or audio tape? In a scrapbook of photos, with various memorabilia? Did anyone rescue old photos from antique stores and flea markets by searching for photographer’s prints on the front or back of the photo or names on the back of the photo and dates or locations?

1. When turning your salable life story, corporate history, or biography into an adventure action romance novel, don't set up your main characters in the first chapter to be in transit traveling on board a plane, train, or ship going somewhere. The action actually starts or hits them after they have already arrived at their destination. See, "Ordinary Lives Illuminated: Writing Oral History."

Start your first chapter when your characters already get to their destination place or point in time. A first chapter that opens when your main character is on a plane or train is the kiss of death from many editors point of view and the main reason why a good novel often is rejected. So cut out the traveling scene from your first chapter and begin where the action starts for real, at the destination point. Does anyone visit antique stores, malls, or flea markets to search for family history memorabilia? What about attic, basement, or garage sales? See, "Introduction to Oral History - Baylor University."

2. Use a lot of dialogue when turning a biography or your life story into a salable novel, especially in a romance, adventure action, or suspense novel
or in one where you combine romance with adventure and suspense. Use no more than three pages of narrative without dialogue. Let characters speak through the dialogue and tell the reader what is happening. Get characters to speak as normally as possible. If the times and place dictate they speak in proverbs, so be it. Proverbs make the best novels as you turn your proverb into a story and play it out as a novel. Otherwise, have normal speech so you can be the catalyst and bring people together who understand clearly what one another means.

3. Put your characters on the stage and have them talking to one another. If you have introspection in your book, don't use introspection for your action
line. Action adventure books keep characters on stage talking to the audience. You may wish to check out, "Oral History Guidelines - The National WWII Museum." Or see, "Oral History Interviews - Library of Congress."

4. Use magazines and clothing catalogues to make a collage of what your character might look like. This inspiration may go up on a board in front of
you or on the wall to see as you work. Get a picture in your mind of what your characters look like. If they don't exist in art history, draw them
yourself or make a mixed media collage of what they look like, speak like, and stand for. Some ideas include the models in "cigar" magazines,
catalogues, and fashion publications as well as multi-ethnic and historical illustrations and photos. See, "Immigration Oral History - PBS."

5. Research history and keep a loose-leaf notebook with tabs on the history of places you want to research. The history itself is great for ideas on
what plot to write. Look at or visit old forts and similar places. Plug in characters to your research. Look at forts of foreign settlements in the
country of your choice, U.S. or any other place. Record the dates in your files. Create a spreadsheet in Excel or any other type of spread sheet with
your dates from historical research as these will relate to your characters and help you develop a real plot.

6. Keep a notebook for each novel or biography you write. Put everything related to each book in a notebook. Have one notebook for historical
research and one for the novel you're writing or true storybook. Check out, "Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History - DoHistory."

7. When sending out your book manuscript make a media kit for yourself with your resume, photo, list of works in development if you are not yet
published, and any other material about your own experience in any other field. Your own biography and photo presented to the press also can be used
to let an editor know when you send out your manuscript of what's in development and what you've done.

8. Write down the point of view before your book is begun. Whose point of view is it anyway? Who tells the story? If you're writing a romance novel
from your life story or a military romantic suspense novel, true story, radio script, or other genre, agree on the point of view before you start.

9. Who's telling the story and how does she or he know how the other characters know what to say?

10. It's not necessary to continue ethnic stereotypes in your book. If one of your characters is a music agent, for example, and a lot of music agents are of one ethnicity or speak with a certain accent, it's not necessary to continue the stereotyping roles. Pick something new for a change. Otherwise it becomes cliché. Research diverse ways of telling the same story.

11. The readers needs to learn facts or experiences, anecdotes, oral histories transcribed, and stories that have not been generalized. Use a series of incidents, action and relationship tension to balance your plot with your dialogue.

12. If you're turning a biography into a romance novel, you need to balance the relationship tension with the mystery, action, or other plot. You must
have some event occur on both sides, on the sexual tension side and on the mystery or action side to balance out the book.

For every action in a life story, there's an equal and opposite reaction that’s primarily character-driven and secondarily plot-driven. And in an autobiography or anyone’s life story, relationship tension occurs. Then the plot moves on. If it's a romantic suspense or mystery within a life story, such as true confession, true crime, or biography, usually twenty-four short chapters makes a book-length story.

A diary is written in first person as a journal or log, but a biography can be of you or your client. Even in a memoirs book or diary, you have to balance action with interaction between the heroine and the hero

You can be the only person in your diary, but the action and interaction needs to be balanced with something out there in the external world—either forces of nature or another person—or the competition. If you keep the competition out of your diary, put in the memories, actions, and warmth of the friends, including pets. If there are no other people, put in some force of spirit, some other push and pull, or tension, for balance with something outside yourself. This can be a job, school, a hobby, or what you choose as the force that pulls in an opposite direction existing with the force or person that pulls in your direction.

Try putting the relationship tension between the hero and heroine in the even-numbered chapters, and the mystery, historical events, or action plot
events in the odd-numbered chapters. In a 24-chapter- historical romance, this alternating action chapter, romantic tension chapter balances the plot smoothly. Most historical romance novels have 22-24 chapters. If you analyze the best-selling ones, you'll see that chapter one has an opening scene on the action side so you see what's happening.

You can turn a diary or journal into an action-oriented novel in various genres from romance to adventure

The first action-oriented introductory chapter that shows us what's happening is followed by the second chapter on the romantic tension side showing us when and how the heroine meets the hero or has a re-union with the hero. In the second chapter, the writer takes the heroine somewhere in place or time. The heroine in the second chapter is defined. Either she's a 90's woman, or she's in her place in history or rebelling against it. You tell the story. If you’re male, you’d use a hero.

An oral history highlights a life experience within a time frame set in one or more locations with all the nuances of that place. It’s basically a life story, but it can be transcribed with that certain something, including—charisma, liveliness, action, forward movement, drama, tension, and unique experiences, problems solved, and goals.

Romantic life stories featuring genealogy combined with biography usually are 10-12 chapters long

Historical romances are twice that size at 22-24 chapters. The writer decides whether it's best to turn a biography into a historical romance or a life story into a mystery, suspense, action adventure, young adult novel, romance, or other genre.

If you are not fictionalizing genealogy or biography into a story, keep your time capsule book, database, or other media true to facts and historical records only. You might want to add your DNA testing records of relatives along with a family tree or other database or time capsule.

For those who want to turn factual biography into a novel, in turning a biography into a romance, the romantic tension side is about girl meeting hero in the first chapter. In the second chapter, the hero takes her somewhere in place, space, time, or state of mind. An oral history may be written as true life story in the form of a novel or play, skit, or anecdote of experience.

Advertisement

Life

  • Tom Petty
    Seven overlooked videos that prove the genius of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
    Today's Buzz
  • Gaylord Pickens
    Discover Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum dollar days
    Camera
    6 Photos
  • Yoga poses
    Learn how to strengthen your core muscles with these yoga poses
    Camera
    5 Photos
  • Baby boomer STD rates
    Sexually transmitted diseases: Baby boomers booming STD rates
    Camera
    7 Photos
  • Open relationships
    Are you thinking about exercising your option to be in an open relationship?
    Camera
    5 Photos
  • Medical symptoms
    See which symptoms should cause you to seek a doctor’s attention right away
    Camera
    6 Photos

Related Videos:

  • Teen pilot’s world record flight ends in tragedy
    <div class="video-info" data-id="518338816" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=518338816&autoStart=true"></div>
  • Bir Tawil: Dad claims unclaimed land in Africa to make his daughter a princess.
    <div class="video-info" data-id="518318411" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=518318411&autoStart=true"></div>
  • Demi Lovato
    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/8YQ8hxnwaqo?VQ=HD720&amp;allowfullscreen=true&amp;autoplay=1"></iframe>