Category Archives: Life Story Secrets

How To Really Tell Your Story

We all have the power to create myth by weaving the ordinary events of life into the dramatic structure of story.
But is it that simple?
In writing courses, when students are asked to produce a story, one of the most common story themes turns out to be ‘not being able to write’.

mountain of story

Something like this:

‘I sat at my desk and stared at the garden and the butterflies on the rose bushes but nothing came to me …’ and so on for the required number of words.

Why does this happen?

As adults we are the keeper of thousands of stories, but when asked to write them down in a coherent form we can often hit a brick wall. It’s as if the idea of ‘story’ is a magical place where entry is allowed to only a select few.

It’s just not so

When you have a story to tell, imagine you are speaking to a friend. Sit at your desk and visualize the friend sitting opposite. Think of an incident in your life you want to discuss with your friend. Obviously that incident has a beginning, middle and ending.

If this is a dramatic incident, a holdup at the local pharmacy, say, you will want to start at the beginning, describe the dramatic sequence of events and finish with the arrival of the police. As you go along, you will probably digress into other stories, embroidering the tale with interesting details.

Or if it’s a story about someone else, the local football hero, you will want to describe the way he looked the day he turned up at school to coach the kids.

Start to write as you would tell your story out loud. If it helps, use a recording device and transcribe it later.

Story secret #4

If writing your life story feels like climbing a mountain, think of the incidents in your life as interesting anecdotes you are telling a sympathetic friend.

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Book Recommendation:
Your Life Story: How to Turn Life into Literature by Kay H. Rennie

landscape4

How To Find A Way Into Your Story

Here’s a simple exercise to help you re-imagine the details of your life:

Sit comfortably with a pen and notepad ready. Close your eyes and relax, then let your mind find that special place you knew as a child, the place where you were most yourself.

How old  were you then? Were you alone or with someone else? Was the space wide or constricted? Feel the landscape, or if inside, feel the closeness of the room.

If you can’t remember the finer details of your special place, start to imagine them. In this imaginative world, do you feel hot or cold? What can you hear, smell or taste? What do you want?

If you can’t remember the fine details of the life story you need to recreate, how do you write effectively?

Begin to write in the present tense. For example, ‘I am walking to school. The air is heavy. Storm coming over the ranges. Sarah is ahead of me. She stops to talk’.

Write continuously for three to five minutes, then read the result. If you have let your imagination take over the writing will read as fiction, but is it? How can you be sure that what you have written did not come from actual memories?

You may find this exercise leading you into territory very different to the familiar and safe reality of the story you thought you knew.

So the secret to a writing a great story is this:

You are not yourself in autobiography. It is never going to be you, it is only words on a page. Memories are unreliable, so adding the magic of imagination will make your story come alive.

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Book Recommendation:
Your Life Story: How to Turn Life into Literature by Kay H. Rennie

The One Big Secret to Writing Your Life Story

There’s one big secret to writing your life story.
It’s a secret every storyteller has known since people huddled in caves and around campfires to listen to others describing their adventures, such as what they did to trap that bear, how their neighbours attacked them with rocks, who turned out to be the hero and so on.

cave storyThat same story would have been told again the next night, only this time with more detail. How Ogg stood up against the largest of the enemy, how he hit him between the eyes with a sharp rock, how the bad guys ran off when their leader went down.Perhaps the story was retold again and again, and each time more details were added. Now the gods might have come into it, helping Ogg pick just the right magical stone to fell the giant.

I’m sure you get the idea

By the time the story comes round again it has changed.Storyteller No.1 might have given a careful account, but storyteller No.10 lives in another valley. He heard it from storyteller No 9 and so he needs to make up a few details that were left out as the story spread through the communities.

And No.10 is not content with just telling what happened.He wants to reach out to his audience. He wants to really show them how it happened in a way that will keep them hanging on his every word until the end. Perhaps then he’ll get a reward – an extra share of food to take with him on his travels.

So the #1 secret here is this:

If you don’t know all the fine details, if you just can’t remember what Bobby said when he finally left, or those wise stories your grandmother told you as a child, or what you ate for lunch on the day President John Kennedy was shot, if you have the ‘feel’ of those words or events inside you but not the fact, it’s OK to make it up.

Yes, really.

Your readers will enjoy your ‘fictional’ stories far more than a bare, factual report of your life, and you will also get more pleasure from writing when you let go your fear of inaccuracy.

Your true story needs to be retold as entertainment that will appeal to your readers’ imagination and help them really ‘see’ your life as you want them to know it.

In the next post we’ll look at an exercise that will help you re-imagine the fine details of your life story.
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Book Recommendation:
Your Life Story: How to Turn Life into Literature by Kay H. Rennie