HOW TO Write YOUR STORY – Lesson #30

Christmas15_GreenSantas1Writing Assignment. #30

This assignment completes our year-long journal writing project for

“Walking by Inner Vision Journal”

Assignment: Write an essay about a memorable gift you received as a child.


In my EXAMPLE on the previous blog post,  I outline the STEPS I take when I write this type of story. View the STORY by clicking here:

A Western Pennsylvania Christmas, a memoir


Here are the STEPS I used to write “A Western Pennsylvania Christmas.”

I suggest that you go to the LINK above, and read the story BEFORE you begin reading this “HOW TO”  article.


Step 1:

THINK  First!

You have an inkling of an idea of something you want to share, so think about it. Consider what will be YOUR story to tell. Decide this first, and then write your idea down  in one sentence.


Step 2:

WRITE an outline

It will guide you in creating your story. I begin with my first idea of what I want to tell the reader. Use your “one sentence” to begin.  After I have that idea in mind and written down, I will then begin to develop a “Story-within-a-story.”  This will give texture and insight into the theme. It will also set some historical context for the reader.


My story is about one Christmas morning and a gift I received that was unexpected. It is simple and direct, yet it becomes an exploration of childhood expectations at Christmas time.


Step 3:

Set  the time period for your story.

Mine is the late 1940s.


Since my story takes place in western Pennsylvania in the late 1940s, I selected some particular information about what life was like for a family living in Pennsylvania at that time. I considered some information about our home, neighborhood, our father’s occupation and how regional people earned their income. In this case, it was through mining coal and making steel.  I asked, “How did it all affect our family and inform   our lives?”


Step 4:

Develop characters.

Consider what characters you will write into your story. They will help you as you write it.Each one will have a voice and each one will tell the story.

My example:

My family members are in the story; each of them tells a little piece of that Christmas season in some way.


Step 5:

The Story-Within-the-Story

Think about the possibility of developing a “Story-Within-the-Story.”

Is this idea a new one for you?

Let’s try it!!!!



What else was taking place at the time your narrative was developing?

What other activities developed at the same time?

Think of any additional influences that are taking place before or during the events you a talking about in your essay.

How can I set the historical context to give the reader additional information into the depth of the times and influences on the people who are telling the tale?


My example:

When I was growing up in the 1940s and 50s, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was famous as the top producer of coal and steel for the entire country.  My memoir will include information on the history of this area of western Pennsylvania, and will give information about our homes, our family life, and our Christmas season.  We were a working class family of four children.  Our mother was a homemaker and our father was a steelworker. I am the oldest child in the family unit of two girls and two boys. I plan to include a “story-within-the-story” about one particular Christmas morning and a gift I received that was memorable. My story is about the gift, and the background and historical context give the reader some understanding about why the gift was particularly memorable to me.


HOW I ORGANIZED the story,

“A Western Pennsylvania Christmas”

I created an outline for my story.

I tell my stories in a non-linear manner. That means I won’t be speaking in a chronological direction from a beginning to a middle, and finally, to an end.

That is personally not how I think when I consider the element of time and events.

My perception is more complex.

I write in a non-linear manner for it is much more interesting to consider the parallels of time and place in this way. It is far less predictable.


After I have listed the events in an outline, I will MIX THEM UP when I start writing the actual story. The outline will simply keep me on target and give me a place to begin.


My Outline was created FIRST

I made a list of different aspects I want o use.

My list gave me a structure for the story.



  1. Describe the economy and occupations of people  in the area where the story takes place.
  2. Coal industry, brief history of coal/western PA
  3. Steelworkers in western PA
  4. Describe a Steelworker’s Home in western PA
  5. Décor of the house: colors/materials
  6. Circumstances of living in this house, soot, heat
  7. The coal furnace, central part of life
  8. Santa and Christmas gifts





Lynda McKinney Lambert is the author of “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage” published by  Kota Press. She authors two blogs on writing, the humanities, arts, and faith.  She is a free lance writer and her poetry and essays appear in numerous books and literary journals.  She is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities and she exhibits her fiber arts in exhibitions world-wide.
 Currently she has two books in development for publication in 2016.



Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2015.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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