Family story

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Elenitsa

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Trying to get some advice and tips from people who had written something similar. I am gathering all the information I have available to write, some time in the future (maybe next year) a family saga. I have read several books like this in the past, but now I am still in the phase of condensing ideas. I know it is not memoir, because that is short and mine is on 3-4 generations... so maybe biography.

I think the book will be divided in parts - each part about one of the 4-5 families I am writing on. Would it be unusual (because for me it makes sense) to title each part with the name of the place of origin of that family, wherefrom the story starts?

E.g., assuming it is the story of an American family (it isn't), part one will be titled Italy (or Venice) for the Venetian ancestors, following them in the process of arriving to US and getting established there, part two will be titled Ireland (or Dublin) for the Irish ancestors, we might have a part three titled The Wild West (or maybe Missouri) for those already arrived there who go West, and so on? Of course, the story will converge in the next generations when the Irish American marries the Italian American, etc.

I have written family sagas until now in novels, but not this way. I would like some advice, because it's the first time I am trying such an endeavour and I am not so sure how to tackle it. It can't be about a fictional plot anymore, since it is the history of families which were alive, and most of them see me (or my niece) as their last generation, since we are childless women, so no more family name, no more offspring.

I saw most advice for memoirs, which provide a shorter time and are focused on one main event only. My story will obviously have several wars in it, and all the history twists as they affect the families...
 

Siri Kirpal

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What you have is autobiographical (assuming you are in it) narrative non-fiction or possibly a non-fiction family saga.

Dividing it by where the ancestors came makes total sense to me. Much better than doing everything chronologically and mixing up the lines.

BTW, most memoirs cover short periods of time, but it's possible for memoirs to cover lengthy periods of time. That's possible if you're following a personal story thread that happened over years. I've done that. Haven't gotten it published...yet. But it's doable.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

frimble3

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It's certainly doable. And dividing it by location, departure point or destination is an excellent choice. It gives the people their individual stories, and shows how they came together.
The only examples I can think of are fictional - James Michener's books about how diverse people end up in his book's location, and John Jakes' American family sagas: The Kent Family books, and North & South (Civil War story, characters on both sides.)

I don't see why it wouldn't work perfectly well in a non-fiction family saga.
 

Maze Runner

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I did this. I think what I learned was to never let the truth stand in the way of a good story. But also that truth is often more interesting than anything I could make up. But I was so intent on sticking to the facts that I battled with my conscience mercilessly until I saw that it was useless and ultimately chose whichever route was more effective. Sometimes it was truth and sometimes it was an alternate version of the facts, so to speak. Once or twice, I found out after I'd written the thing that the truth might have worked better. One of my main female characters, I portrayed as a somewhat sexually liberated woman, by the standards of her time and place anyway, and I knew the facts were such that she was to die young, just as she was embarking on adulthood, so I wanted to give her something of a life before I was to take it away from her. I gave her the start of an exciting career at a law firm and a budding romance, and I think it works because by the time she gets sick and is sidelined from her life, she already has a lot to lose and the downfall is thus a more drastic plunge. But after I'd written the book, edited, done and done, I learned that she'd been pursuing a life as a nun when she became ill (Lupus, I believe) and was ejected from the program when they found out she was sick and therefore had no future worth investing in. (excuse the clumsy terminology--I am not a good Catholic) But I think there's a possibility that may have been a more interesting story thread to pursue. I did hear back from an elderly great aunt who liked everything about the book except for what I had done to her sister.
 

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