Solving a family mystery from 90 years ago

by Sheree
(Entebbe, Uganda)

Question: I need some help to write about a family mystery, that I have partially solved and spans more than ninety years, and three continents.


My question is this - how can I structure a true story when I have pieces that are missing, and would it be deemed fiction? Some of my natural investigative traits have traced the family from my mother's paternal Indian family. Yet neither sides of the family still living truly know (or may not be willing to tell) the true story.

How can I do accurate historical research about life in India as the son of a wealthy family - when I live in Uganda!

I have started writing - but came to a stop as it is the first time I have ever tried to do this.

I would appreciate any advice or help that you can give me.

kind regards,

Sheree de Witte

Answer: Not every story goal is achieved, nor every problem solved.

While it's true that every story makes meaning out of the events, sometimes the meaning is that not all mysteries can be solved.

You could tell the story from the point of view of a main character, in this case yourself, and your quest to discover the truth. There are four possible endings..

1. You discover the truth, and that the truth benefits you and others in the family (happy ending, it was all worthwhile).

2. You don't discover the truth, and you end up worse off for pursuing the quest (I sincerely hope this does not happen, but there is always some risk).

3. You discover the truth, but feel you and others are worse off for the knowledge or that you wish you didn't make the discovery (again, I hope this doesn't happen).

4. You don't discover the truth, but you realize that the quest has been worthwhile nonetheless or you somehow reconcile yourself with the outcome.

Only you can write the ending, but any of these endings would make for a solid story.

Another approach is to have two stories within the book. The first story would be your quest for the truth and the second story would be the events that happened in the past. Or, if you discover the truth, you could leave yourself out of the book (but I think the book might be more appealing if it includes your journey).

As for researching, I hate to say it but you might have to go to India. Alternatively, if you are in touch with relatives in India, you might recruit them to gather information for you. See how much information is available online at genealogy sites first.

Best of luck.

Comments for Solving a family mystery from 90 years ago

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Nov 24, 2012
Research vs. Your Story
by: James Coons

I have been working on a short Science Fiction story (my first) based around actual places (names have been changed). I created a genealogy of the people that I might eventually use, so that I could refer to them realistically. Also, I found the stories of an actual Victorian Mansion and used many of the details to make the story more realistic. It is possible to take events from real life and manipulate them to fit within your own story. Wikipedia is a good resource, used sparingly, but always make sure to change the names and places to prevent plagiarism claims.

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