What does it mean to be tidbit fishing? Last week I talked about this on Instagram, but my videos kept getting cut off. Please bear with me while I get used to posting videos on social media.

Tidbit fishing is when you stop the writing or recording process to make time to research extra details. When one is writing family stories or memoir sometimes we need to look for another detail, more information, facts, artifacts or any information that can help bring our stories to life.

We’re looking for tidbits of information. Fresh details. Another angle. Ideas. Perspectives. Something to nibble on the line that gets us excited to keep telling the story. When you find or remember additional details it grabs hold of new excitement in your storytelling. You’re as excited as any seasoned fisherman who realizes something big is hooked. The reader can feel what you’re trying to say. They can picture themselves there.

It takes your writing beyond the facts.

What does tidbit fishing look like? It looks like

  • A marriage certificate from 1915 you find on Ancestry that illustrates a great aunt’s marriage in Pennsylvania, rather than New York. Now you know the date, time, and courthouse. You can probably determine how she traveled to her next destination. You’ll see who the witnesses were to determine if family was there. 
  • A military metal that recognizes your participation in a critical battle.
  • A P-38 that you wore the entire time in service and only found recently buried in your rusty tool box, because you still used it gardening.
  • A silk scarf you sent home to you mother that you just found.
  • A drive around the old neighborhood to relive the walk you took to school.
  • A trinket from your home that probably means nothing to anyone else but to you could explain an entire story. An heirloom, essentially.
  • Equipment used, places you traveled, habits you had, things you got into, hobbies.
  • Lists of expressions, songs, verbal tics, and so on.
  • Another story remembered.
  • A feeling, scent, taste, emotion, look or sound; the emotions in a story.

This process is a reunion of memory. It forces you to go into the attic and research for details. Sometimes this happens quickly and other times you’ll let it swirl around in your head until it wakes at night. A memory or idea will pop into your head. Write it down quickly. This is why I always keep a notebook by my bed. 

Your ultimate goal is to put readers in your place. Details make the difference. So, go fishing for those tidbits. When you get a nibble, add it to your story.