How To Find Writing Treasure In Your Own Back Yard

How To Find Writing Treasure In Your Own Back Yard

In this post, we discuss how to find writing treasure in your own back yard.

How To Find Writing Treasure In Your Own Back Yard

Think of your most interesting family member. That old aunt who never married, or the cousin who has been married five times, perhaps the cousin a million times removed who isn’t actually related but always pitches up for the snacks. Sit next to them and chat.

Of course, you don’t have to use their stories, just use them as inspiration. If you start talking to people you know, and asking questions, you’ll find stories you never knew existed. Details you could never have imagined.


There are things you don’t know in any family. They don’t have to be secrets. Just things you never thought to ask.

If your great aunt was alive during World War 2, ask her what she remembers about that time. What happened to her cousins? Where was she when she heard that Hitler was dead?


A long lunch with a good bottle of wine started a conversation about my great-grandma, and I ended up with a box of treasure.

It was a shabby shoe box full to the brim of old postcards. It had been sitting in my uncle’s garage and he didn’t know what to do with it. He never thought anyone would have any use for it. It is a box of correspondence that belonged to my great-grandmother. The cards are from her husband and her sister and give beautiful insight into her life.

I never imagined such a rich story could exist in my family. It never occurred to me to look at my own history.


I am using the box to build a story that took place during that era. I am not using their story, but I am using it to create a world with which I am unfamiliar. The letters add texture and details that aren’t readily available in general research material. When I started talking about the letters, everyone started telling me stories and anecdotes that range from the charming to chilling to the funny and silly. I realised that I have a huge, unique amount of information at my fingertips.

Perhaps there is a ring that your cousin inherited from her distant aunt or a pocketknife that belonged to grandpa? Find out about these things and use them to start conversations. Who knows what you will find.

If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course.

 by Mia Botha

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Posted on: 18th June 2014