As creative writers, we want to create stories—not reports. We know a story when we hear or read one, but sometimes it evades us when we’re writing, especially when we’re writing nonfiction, like memoir or autobiography.
But even if the audience you envision for your memoir or autobiography is your family, you’ve got to tell them stories to keep them engaged.
Tristine Rainer, author of Your Life as Story, writes that a simple definition of a story is how you got from point A through point B and on to Point C, where you see things differently from the way you did at point A, the beginning.
Rainer goes on to say that “a story is: what you wanted; how you struggled; and what you realized out of that struggle.” In other words, how your experiences and challenges changed you.
As you think about your life, memoir, or autobiography, think of the way(s) in which what you went through changed your life or your lifestyle; the way that you think; your view of yourself or of others; or your values or priorities.
The struggle doesn’t have to be a fight to the death. It might be something as ordinary as convincing your parents to let you go to college or into the military. It could be about your reaction when you found out you were allergic to your favorite food or when you broke a bone just before a sports trial.
But whatever it is, give it power by shaping it into a story.
Next we’ll talk about the elements of stories. (Hint: one is emotion.)