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So what do we mean by a story?

You’ve just created your Zahmoo account. “So now what?” I hear you ask.

Zahmoo is for collecting your family or business stories. To get the most from Zahmoo it’s useful to have a good sense of what a story looks, feels and sounds like. Mountains of books have been written on this topic but from a practical point of view a story describes a situation where one day, in one place, one person did one thing. OK, this is an exaggeration, but you are looking for actual events and experiences that you can really picture happening.

Here’s a story I’ve added to my family Zahmoo collection, an anecdote I heard over Christmas.

Back in the 1960s Mum and Dad were driving from South Carolina to New Jersey; it’s a 12 hour trip. They didn’t have the money to stay overnight so they drove non stop. Mum had made a little bed for 3 year old Shawn in the back seat of the car. No seat belts or baby seats in those days. When they got to New Jersey Mum looked over to the back seat and Shawn was gone. “What have we done? Where has he gone?” Mum then looked on the floor of the back seat and there was Shawn slumped over the drive shaft hump fast asleep.

As you can see stories can be quite short. They also don’t have to be momentous events (but they could be), just the stories that are naturally told in the family (or in your business). They often start with a time marker like “back in the 60s …” or “the other day …” or “on the 9th June, 1964 …” In fact you can almost guarantee you have a story if it starts with a time marker.

What you want to avoid are opinions or points of view. For example, the opinion or POV version of the above story might be, “after we got married we had very little money so we had to travel long distances non-stop. We didn’t have seat belts in those days so quite often you ended up on the floor.” Can you see this is the generalised version of the story? If you hear something like this ask, “can you remember an example of that happening, a specific instance?” The details bring the story alive and the listener then infers things about the characters and the situation. It’s much more entertaining and memorable to tell it as a story.

Of course a story can be made up of multiple events connected together. I’ll talk about that in a later blog post.

January 5th, 2011 by Shawn Callahan
Filed in: How to
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Zahmoo is a story bank for collecting and sharing your family and business stories.