One of the biggest challenges people face when starting out in creative non-fiction is trying to find the true story in the tragedy. Everyone has felt the pain of a lost love; everyone has someone very important and special who died suddenly (or died of cancer).
Since we all have those stories in our life, they aren’t the ones you want to write because you want to give your reader an answer to the questions, “why this story?” and “why this point in the story?”
Also, from my personal experience writing about my life, I can never get the story on paper (or computer screen). The prompt I propose for today gives a person a way to walk around the tragic event.
Today’s exercise asks you to make a timeline of the event. Once you have the timeline done, start crossing off events everyone has in common. What you are left with are the events specific to you and in those events is your true story.
(Inspired by Kyle Minor’s Chapter, “The Question of Where We Begin” in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction http://http://www.rosemetalpress.com/Catalog/FGWFNF.html)