You should now have a good understanding of the beginnings of your family history plot and how to mine your research for the conflicts and obstacles your ancestor faced. I wanted to offer you a visual tool to map your story. I want you to consider creating a family history story map. A family history story map is much like an outline but rather than listing your story it shows you the story. It will illustrate what is next in your writing process, but it can also show you the strengths and weaknesses of your story and what may be missing which may not be as apparent in an outline. A story map as a visual tool can take the place of an outline or be used in conjunction with an outline. If you like create an outline, no need to stop, the story map is an excellent addition to an outline, offering a horizontal view of your story.
Let’s chat about the 3-Act structure of a story, as it is the base for drawing our map. After that, we’ll pull together the various elements of a story plot that we have reviewed in the last couple of days. It will offer you a visual of your family history storyline.
The 3-Act Story
The majority of good stories that you have read in your life follow the time-tested components of a 3-act structure. The three act structure is also a reliable structure for composing your family history story. Those 3 acts are very simple, Act 1, 2 and 3. We will refer to them as the beginning, the middle, and the end.
Act 1- The beginning – Introduces us to the protagonist ancestor. It sets up the story question, and the motivation for your ancestor to take action.
Act 2- The middle – This is where we watch our ancestor overcome all the obstacles they faced in pursuit of their goal. It is usually the longest section and where most of the action will take place.
Act 3 – The end – It starts at the climax and concludes with the resolution. It is usually the shortest and begins immediately at or after the climax. We will talk more about these two elements in the upcoming days.
For now, let’s look at our family history plot to see how all these elements pull together into three acts to create a family history map.
In the family history story map below, note that we have included the various story elements that we have discussed so far, the hook, the first turning point, and obstacles. Feel free to create your own family history map to create a visual tool for your family history story.
My favourite tool is a whiteboard with post-it notes, but you can use a corkboard with cue cards, create your own map using mapping software. Use your imagination, but choose the tool that works for you and offers you a visual of your story that can be placed in a convenient location, readily available as you write.
Keep in mind that as you write, your map may change. You may change your hook or the inciting incident, the obstacles, it is not written in stone but is meant to be a fluid tool to help you visualize your story and brainstorm your story structure.
I’ve enclosed a downloadable story map, feel free to print it off and use it to organize your family history story. You’ll find other story elements on this map, which we will address in future posts.