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Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Life - June 2012

Your life is a great story, but only if you tell it
The trick to writing great personal stories and picking what to write about

By Peter G. Tamburro, Boomerang staff writer

Do you have a story to tell? Most of us do, and in today's increasingly connected world, folks all over are finding new and inventive ways to share their experiences. What's more, most are finding that the introspection that comes with the process is just as rewarding as the reactions from friends and family to their tales. Today, storytelling is more visual than it's ever been, with scrapbooking, blogging and online videos as popular media. Taking an old-fashioned pen to paper is still popular, too, and is often the first step. And, remember, the beginning isn't always the best place to start. Here are some tips to get your story flowing.

Get organized. Start to compile your thoughts on notecards or in a notebook. On separate cards or pages, jot down just one topic area and underline it. Ideas include:

  • Most of us have a story to tell, and folks are finding new and inventive ways to share their experiences.A particular subject or event;
  • Hobbies and interests, family recipes;
  • Political and spiritual views;
  • Family, friends or old flames;
  • Heroes, teachers and mentors;
  • Places you've visited or lived in;
  • Television shows, music concerts, games, sports, cars; and
  • Anything else you find interesting.

Pick a personal interest that's a good metaphor for your personality. Don't worry about arranging these in any order. Review them and start writing sentences and phrases about each topic on the same page. Go back and expand on these ideas, then select and expand the stories that are worth telling. Common themes will emerge. If you enjoy writing about it, consider it a sign it's a story worth telling.

Get your stuff together. Gather your photos, memorabilia, documents, maybe even old report cards and letters to help support and add visual interest to your tales. Begin grouping these items by your topic area on your cards or pages and attach with paper clips. Give yourself a lot of room by spreading everything out to review. A book will begin to emerge as the cards and pages grow. Go back and add a few more paragraphs, phrases or key words to jog your memory on these various topics.

Follow your own cues. If you notice yourself going back to rework and write about particular topics, these are probably the best ones on which to base your story. If you find them interesting, others will, too.

Start writing. Once you've chosen a topic or topics for your story, decide on the format in which your story is to be presented. Will the story be told chronologically or in an order that reveals details when they have the most impact? Will it center around people or events? Will you write in chapters or more like individual journal entries or letters? Give your story a setting, a backdrop and interesting situations. Engage your senses; capture your memories by acting them out and reliving them. Use free writing to describe what you are thinking, feeling, and tell us about your surroundings - what it all means to you. Don't worry about grammar and punctuation, just focus on getting your ideas on the page. You'll refine grammar as you work and rework these over time.

Don't tell everything. Stick to the highlights and leave parts to your audience's imagination. Do movies usually show people taking out the garbage or changing light bulbs? If it doesn't move your story along, or worse, keeps it from being interesting, then drop it. Develop a theme and include only those details and highlights that move that theme forward.

Share it. There are so many options for presenting your story. Online photo and book making services are relatively affordable. Or you can use the camera on your computer or phone to record yourself reading the story. Scrapbooking is still pretty popular, too, and new social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram have taken the scrapbook online. There are many, many websites, online tools and books available on how to approach telling the stories that add up to your life.


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