Write a Killer Keepsake Story—My Secrets

For the last few years, I've been a walking, talking billboard advocating storytelling. I've helped hundreds of people share their stories. During each of my workshops, someone will tell me they’re dry as a bone—they have nothing to write about. I reject this statement every time.

I ask, “Do you have a keepsake at home—an heirloom, a memento, or a souvenir?” 

After a few seconds, the writer usually thinks of something and shares it with me.

“Where did it come from?” I follow-up. “Why do you keep it? Does it remind you of someone? Tell me the story. Tell me all of the story.”

I believe that everyone has a keepsake, and every keepsake has a story to tell. It’s the premise of my book, Project Keepsake, a collection of fifty-five short, nonfiction stories about keepsakes. Each story focuses on a specific keepsake or memento—a knife, a ring, a cake pan, a hat, a book, a quilt—and explains why the keepsake is special to the writer.

We must keep storytelling alive. Write the stories that matter. Share your memories. Preserve your family's history. (Photo by Audrey Lanier Andersen)

We must keep storytelling alive. Write the stories that matter. Share your memories. Preserve your family's history. (Photo by Audrey Lanier Andersen)

It’s easy! Here are a few tips for writing a killer keepsake story.

  • IDENTIFY A KEEPSAKE—Look around your house, on your shelves, in your drawers, in your closets, and in curio cabinets until you find an object that has a special place in your heart. By definition, a keepsake is something you keep to help remember a person, place, or event. 
  • BRAINSTORM—Start with a blank sheet of paper and just start writing everything that comes to your mind about your keepsake. List your thoughts on paper and don’t worry about making complete sentences. Where did it come from? How long have you had it? What does it look like? Why is it significant to you? Why do you keep it? Are there any stories about the keepsake or the person, place, or event the keepsake reminds you of? Where do you keep it? 
  • ORGANIZE YOUR THOUGHTS—I draw bubble diagrams to help map my stories out. Take all of the thoughts, memories, and ideas you listed in the brainstorming process and group them together in some logical fashion.
  • HOOK 'EM—Every story needs a strong beginning to hook the reader’s attention. Consider starting off with an action, an anecdote, a scene with strong imagery, or interesting dialogue. Decide how you will launch your story, and go ahead and draft a transition sentence that will guide the reader to the rest of your story.
  • PUT PEN TO PAPER—Using the notes from your outline or bubble diagram, draft your story. Try to get it all down on paper before going back and adding more meat to the paragraphs. 
  • REVISE AND POLISH—Look at your opening paragraph and make it stronger. Make sure your subjects and verbs agree. Check spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar. Replace weak verbs with stronger verbs. Add a dash of dialogue here and there. Add more content.  Remove content that doesn’t seem to work.
  • PUT IT AWAY—Put away your story for about two weeks. Don’t think about it. 
  • REVISE IT AGAIN—Revisit your story again. Your story will look completely different. You will see many opportunities to strengthen it. Keep revising your story until you are happy with it.
  • PUT THOSE FINISHING TOUCHES ON IT—Place your title, your name, and the date at the top of the first page. I also suggest you snap a nice photograph of your keepsake and embed it into your document.
  • SHARE—Again, I ask you to join me in keeping storytelling alive, so share your story and encourage your friends, family members, neighbors, and coworkers to write about their own keepsakes. Share your story on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, eBooks, and via email. Share! If you send it to me, I may post it on my blog.
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My mission is to help people tell the stories that matter—the stories that need to be preserved for future generations. I've helped hundreds of people (young and old, professional writers and newbies) write stories about keepsakes. Pick up your pen today and start writing!

Still not sure how to do it? Browse the Project Keepsake blog and read a few excerpts or order your own copy of Project Keepsake today (free shipping). And thanks for stopping by!