In the last post I wrote about the “Great Pelican Rescue Adventure” and the advantages of sharing stories like that in an e-mail or other written form to get them recorded while the detail is fresh in your memory and passion still high.
Using e-mail to record stories is especially effective, because you'll probably write in your most natural voice that way, and you can immediately share your work with family and friends. I strongly suggest you save the story in some other format rather than leaving it solely as an e-mail. E-mail is probably the most fragile or volatile form of digital information storage I know of. I've lost large chunks of e-mail at various times, but never lost a word processing file. Some of the e-mails have been lost when changing from one e-mail management form to other. Through the years I've used Industry Net, Juno, AOL, Adelphia, Comcast, Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, and a few others. It's not easy, and sometimes impossible, to go back and find old e-mails, especially with the online varieties.
If you write in an e-mail program, copy the story text and paste it into a Word document for long-term storage. Eventually you may want to remove the formatting that e-mail programs often add. I sometimes stumble into story writing mode without intending to, but if I plan to write a story as part of an email, I'll start in OpenOffice (my preferred free, open source, Microsoft Alternative), then paste the story into the e-mail.
Once you have your story saved, you can let it sit for days or ages to mellow before you do anything else with it, if indeed you ever do. Eventually you may think of other ways to use the material in other stories. For example, I may use my pelican story as an element in a larger account of contact with wild life in general. I may link it to memories of the chickens we raised when I was very young, and duck and geese that hunting neighbors used to share. I could use it in an essay about the perils mankind poses to wild critters, or I could go off on a tangent about the spiritual nature of encounters with wild animals. Most likely it will simply fit into a comprehensive account of the Everglades Elderhostel we were attending when this adventure took place.
As you can see, the opportunities for expanding stories and putting bits and pieces of them to other uses are limited only by your imagination. You can string stories together like beads on a necklace, nest them, or segue one into another. For more information about these various methods of combining stories, see an earlier post, “Like Beads on a Necklace.” You'll also find a more complete explanation in The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing.
Write now: think of a lively story or story idea of your own. Make a list of all the various associations you can think of that relate to that story. Select at least two others and incorporate them, together with your original story idea, into a more comprehensive account.