Journaling Idea #21: An Anecdote Journal

A photo of the rest area at Oakland Woods on I-90 in the U. S. taken by daveynin

Seven years ago I wrote about anecdotes for an Inlandia Literary Journeys column titled “Anecdotes Are the Antidote” that was published in the Press Enterprise newspaper on October 18, 2015.

I advocated in my column that our personal anecdotes deserved a place on our coffee tables along with our photos. I’d still make that argument, but I no longer recommend writing them on index cards and keeping them in a box. Experience has taught me that a journal is a safer place.

Years ago a student caught my attention as he went to leave the classroom.

            “Can I go to the bathroom?” he asked.

            “I don’t know.  Can you go to the bathroom?” I replied with my typical smart-aleck teacher response.

            “Yeah, I can,” he said matter-of-factly and left the room.

This anecdote illustrates the basic three part-structure of most anecdotes. Anecdotes are simple narratives with a beginning, middle, and end.

The beginning sets up the story. It provides context. The writer often answers three questions: When? Where? Who?

In the middle, the writer creates conflict by presenting a complication. The reader learns the answer to the fourth question: What? They learn what first happened, and they begin to wonder what will happen next.

The end provides the twist and tells us the answer to the fifth question: How? How did things turn out?

Anecdotes don’t always answer our typical sixth question: Why?

Not all anecdotes are humorous, but many are. They follow the classic pattern of humor: preparation, anticipation, punch line.

So whether you pick out an event from each day and record it in your journal as an anecdote, or your choose to write on the days when something strikes your proverbial funny bone, I hope you’ll sharpen your narrative skills through anecdotes.

If you come up with some funny anecdotes, you might be able to earn some money. Reader Digest is always looking for jokes and funny story. Look here for details about submitting.

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2 thoughts on “Journaling Idea #21: An Anecdote Journal

  1. You’ve got to have a grudging admiration for that student. 🙂

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