How to Start Writing a Life Story in 5 Easy Steps
"I wish that I had written down my grandfather's stories before he passed away."
Life story recording is something everyone thinks about doing but few get around to doing it. What happens to the ones who don't? They end up regretting that they never made the time. Always. If you've found yourself on this page, chances are you're starting to think about writing your life story or capturing the life story of someone you love. Not knowing where to start is perhaps the most common and most preventable barrier to accomplishing writing your story.
Here's how you can start writing something friends, family and future generations will treasure for years to come.
1. Find memory prompts
There are great digital technologies designed to guide you through the process of capturing a life story. Find a website or app with a list of questions or memory prompts you can ask or answer. It can be daunting to start at the beginning of life (which is the hardest part to remember for most people) and go through the years chronologically. It's more productive to look at a list of questions and discover which ones have strong, vivid memories correlated with them. Dig deeper into the stories that seem to hold significance and meaning. Write down anything and everything you can think of.
2. Consider the legacy
What is it about you or your loved one that you want future generations to know? What is the legacy being left behind? This can help you narrow your focus on what you want to communicate through the life story.
3. Create a storyboard
If you've ever seen a Writer's room for a movie or TV show, you'll have noticed lots of index cards or sticky notes up on a wall. Writers take all the ideas for scenes and write them down on these pieces of paper. Then, they move them around until it creates a storyline that makes sense. This same process can be applied to anyone writing a story. It can help to think about which 'scenes' of life you want your audience to experience. Next, write them down separately. Finally, decide how you want to organize your life story, changing and rearranging the 'scenes' until they're in an order that fits.
4. Reminisce with loved ones
Once you have an idea of which stories or times of life you will feature and focus on, seek out the perspective of friends and family. Get together for coffee and reminisce about these memories. Ask about the details they recall. Our lives aren't completely insular. We impact our friends and family in ways big and small. If you are writing about a parent or grandparent's life, it is important to consider how their identity and actions affected those around them. What was your dad like as a brother? If you were to talk to his best friend, what would his favorite memories of your dad be? Someone else's perspective of the story you want to tell might end up being invaluable to your writing.
5. Use ephemera to pull out memories and enhance storytelling
A life story doesn't have to be something written down or typed up. With digital platforms like Storii, you can use videos and audio recordings of your loved one answering questions. You can upload photos relevant to a memory prompt. Additionally, you could create playlists of meaningful songs or upload family recipes, newspaper clippings, etc. Going through old family photos and other personal ephemera may help jog memories but they also enhance the experience of listening to a story.