Creative Ways To Tell Your Life Story – Volunteers often email us asking, ‘How can I write my story?’ Try these 7 life writing tips to get started:
There are many ways to approach life writing. You can take a non-fiction approach and include dates, facts and memories as close to the events as possible.
- 1 Creative Ways To Tell Your Life Story
- 2 Creative & Funny Pregnancy Announcement Ideas
- 3 Nonfiction Books To Change Your Life In 2018
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- 5 How To Write Your Life Story: 7 Tips To Start
- 6 How To Write Your Life Story In Ten Easy Steps By Sophie King
Creative Ways To Tell Your Life Story
Another option is to imagine and blur the line between fact and fiction. This way of writing a biography can be useful if you want to:
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Barthes then presents the reader with fragments written in the third person containing photographs of the subject from his childhood. For example, in the section called ‘Qurreti’, he writes as follows:
His love has nothing to do with declaring victory. He is hurt by being insulted by others, every time he sees success in one place, he wants to go to another place. Barthes, Roland Barthes, p. 46.
Barthes describes himself in the third person, like a typical autobiography, he presents his views and behavior to the readers. Yet in their disjointed third-person narration (without narration), they become more like short, philosophical poems than traditional linear ‘fables’ with character development. Remembering is often said
For example, will your book include birthdays to date? Or a few weeks or months covering two sides of a major life event?
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First-person writers in fiction give us examples of narrative styles we can adopt in writing about our own lives.
Starting my life with the beginning of my life, I write that I was born (as I am informed and believe) on Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850), p. 5 (1992 Wordsworth Publications).
I am at Blunderstone, in Suffolk, or “with this,” as they say in Scotland. I was a child after death. My father’s eyes were closed to the light of this world for six months, when my eyes were opened to it. Dickens, David Copperfield, p. 6.
This method of time provides a lifelong understanding of grammar from an early age. It is a common way of reporting in many people
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For example, you can start with an important event that happened later in the main character, and go back to later events that reinforce the situation and help the reader understand what led to the events that followed.
Many writers are nervous when they start a new project. This is often more difficult when writing about more personal experiences where you don’t have the protective shield of fictional characters.
When Virginia Woolf’s famous biographer, Hermione Lee, was asked if fear was a useful emotion for a biographer, she replied:
Fear must somehow be brought into the workforce. When you do that, I think you should feel that it belongs to you and you just understand it. But to get to that feeling, you have to tap into and master your intuition. Hermione Lee, interviewed in ‘Hermione Lee, The Art of Biography Number 4’ of The Paris Review, available here.
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I go to my desk every morning and I hear these little voices saying, ‘He doesn’t know what he’s doing!’ and I lift my hand and wash, I wash them off the table.’
Find your way to calm the fear, make it change the names of the main characters or imagine the rest of your life.
Everyone’s life is a vast storehouse of important events and memories. As Hermione Lee says, the sheer volume of this ‘source material’ can feel overwhelming.
As a preparatory step in choosing to write your life story, summarize the main events you want to cover. Try to write only two sentences for each scene or event you think of (you can create and organize a summary of events in our Scene Builder tool).
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At the heart of great life writing (like great fiction), there is often a great internal conflict and/or external conflict. A special problem or event confronts the autobiographer. Tweet This
As in fiction, in life, writing in the memoirist’s voice helps create a unique character.
Renowned memoirist and poet Mary Karr offers valuable advice to aspiring writers in her book.
Every great memory lives or dies 100 percent on sound. It is the transmission method of the author’s information – a large broadband cable that carries every pixel inside and outside the person with crystal clear clarity. Mary Karr, The Art of Remembering (2015), p. 35.
Karr warns against covering up aspects of your voice to make the reader seem likeable. He says:
The voice must allow a range of emotional tones – very intelligent, and rejects pathos; It’s sad, and it’s sweet. It separates and transforms both the text and the reader—from cool and different to elevated and intimate. The author does not choose these styles as born, depending on who he is and how he saw it. Carr, p. 36.
In Karr’s chapter, ‘The Real Deal Twixt Author and Reader’, he discusses the importance of telling the truth (rather than ‘sucking’ your audience):
However, how does telling the truth help the reader? Let’s say you had a terrible childhood – every day you were tormented by ridicule and starving – beaten with fists and heavy bags, etc. You can write a recurring reminder of misery, duller than a rubber knife. But will it be “true”? And is it true how you keep it now, or the experience of that time? Then, those same thugs offered you something, or you would die. Carr, p. 2.
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What Karr’s words emphasize is that ‘truth’ is often more complex than what makes us good (or what makes others look bad).
One of the most important lessons in learning to write your life story is to show people as more than heroes and villains. Indeed, showing the slices of life between people’s better and worse choices produces complex, colorful (and some gray) pictures. As Karr says:
It is the contrasts of your childhood, your life among the ghosts, that bring the pain of the past into greater order for the reader. Carr, p. 2. 7. Get help to solve your life story
Writing a fictional memoir or autobiography is challenging because you’re not only dealing with the context of the story (conflict, narrative, tone, etc.) but also the characters. Some of these may be more difficult to find again (or hold prose) than others.
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Because of the many challenges involved (including the difficulty of submission), don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Karr writes about sending the people they mix into the script to make sure the embellishments don’t hurt the characters or the story. Beta readers can provide valuable insight, so if they are active observers or participants in the events you describe.
You can also get help from a writing coach who will help you start weaving your personal experiences and anecdotes into a better, more complete story.
Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He earned his BA in English Literature and his BA in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town. Provide details of what you need help with along with a budget and time frame. Questions are submitted anonymously and can be made 100% private.
How To Write Your Life Story: 7 Tips To Start
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How To Write Your Life Story In Ten Easy Steps By Sophie King
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