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Write about pivotal moments instead of the story of your life

One of my friends came to me recently feeling overwhelmed about writing her life story. She struggled with knowing where to start and what to include. I advised her to approach it as a group of stories about the big, pivotal moments in her life instead of trying to write the “story of her life.”

I figured this technique out when I helped my uncle write his personal story. He focused on key moments that caused a shift in how he looked at life and how he matured as a man, including: time spent on the battlefield in World War II, meeting and marrying his wife, and the birth of his sons. These moments were the catalyst for change, which is something we want our characters to do in stories, whether they’re real-life people or imagined characters living out the plot we create.

If you’re struggling with how to write your personal story or memoir, set your focus on the big, memorable moments.

In the end, you’ll have a group of stories that you can weave together to form a whole. Here are several tips and prompts to help you start:

  1. Excavate memories by using the words, “I remember.” Riff on this question to unearth important memories.
  2. Write about your very first memories. Why do you think they stand out?
  3. Compare notes with family members and reminisce about moments from years ago that you shared. What strikes you the most?
  4. Think about the present and the past and hone in on things that were different. It could be the way people communicated, cars you drove, and clothes that were in style then.
  5. Think about the routines you had with friends and family. What kinds of activities and events did you do and what meaning did they hold?
  6. What would people be surprised to know about you and why?
  7. What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you and why?

While answering these questions, remember to note all the sensory images you can, including touch, smells, and sounds.

What are your memorable moments?

Image courtesy of Knots Thots

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