Finding Your Story
There are always moments or dramatic events in our lives that are so fascinating or memorable that they scream to be shared with the world and we think, “This could be a movie.” Though that may very well be true, how does one go about finding that moment in time worth writing about and sharing with the world?
Where is the story in your life? What part of your life should be shared with the world? I will give you a hint─the possibilities are endless.
Although there are many ways to go about such an interesting task, I have my own unique formula for choosing just the right tale to tell. First off, instead of looking for just that one story to tell, I recommend compiling a list of several to choose from.
See if the following wets your appetite:
What happened to you during your school days? Were you bullied until you learned to defend yourself? Did you pursue a major for the sake of pleasing your parents? Were you partying so much that you ended of cheating just to make passing grades? It doesn’t matter whether it was grade school, high school, college, grad school, medical school or law school, I’m sure if you dig up enough dirt, you will find something hidden in the shadows worth talking about.
The Children In Our Lives
Were you blessed with a baby when the doctor told you it was a ten percent chance? Did you want a girl, but ended up with a boy and realized it was a boy you really wanted all along? Did you try for a baby for two years, then stop trying and became pregnant the next month? Inquiring minds would like to know.
The Animals In Our Lives
Do you love your pet so much that you are single because you always put your pet first? Did you lose your pet and swore you would never adopt another one? Is your pet more important than people? Do you have a pet now?
Did you fall in love with someone of a different race or background and had to flee the country just so you two could be together? Did you say you would never date a person of another race because of family tradition only to fall head-first in love with someone of that same forbidden race? How do you feel now about your passed down beliefs? How will it affect your children?
When you were growing up, did you cherish your baby sister or brother? Did you have a love for your older brother that other people found unusual (think Angelina Jolie and her brother)? Did you model your behavior after your older sister because you thought the world of her? What’s the relationship like now? Is it the same or different?
Did you wish you were an only child because your sibling received all of your parent’s attention? Did your sister or brother pick on you and blame you for everything? Were you always blamed for something your brother or sister did? Whatever became of that relationship? Are you still close to your siblings now or are you still on non-speaking terms?
Did you meet someone on line and lose all sense of reasoning when you found yourself engaged after only knowing each other for one month? Were you ever so much in love you actually considered murdering someone? Would you have shaved off ten years of your life to be with a certain person? What do you think of that person now?
Did you have a world-wind romance that lasted for six months and then abruptly stopped? Were you so much in love that you and your romantic interest barricaded yourselves inside a hotel room for one week? Were you so in love and lust that you couldn’t think straight? Did you disappear from your friends and family for a period of time because of your obsession with your new love interest? Where is this person now? Do you still speak?
Did you hate your job so much you quit even though you needed the money? Did you suffer a breakdown after the loss of a job? Was there a time in your life where your job was your only source of companionship? Do you still have that job?
Were you so close to your parents, you could tell them things other kids wouldn’t dare share with their parents? Did the relationship with your parents make you want to be a parent? Did you hate your parents for the longest time until you became a parent yourself? What’s that relationship like now?
Did you harbor a secret that you would do anything to keep under wraps? Were you ruined by a secret that got out? Are you keeping a secret now?
Did you have a health scare that made you see life in a totally new light? Were you diagnosed with an illness that changed your life? Were you a health nut because of something that happened to a friend or family member? What’s your health situation now?
Did you have a religious awakening after a traumatic life event? Were you so religious that people found you to be a fanatic? Did you refuse to date someone you really liked because you and this person did not share the same religion? What religion are you now?
Did you always want to be an actress but were afraid you would fail? Did you want to play sports professionally but were afraid your parents would not approve? Would you have done anything to be a dancer? How has not following your dreams affected your life? What dream would you like to pursue now?
Awesome and Miraculous Accomplishments
Were you top in your graduating class? Did you figure out an answer to a problem that stumped everyone else around you for months? Had you given up on love and then soon after met the love of your life?
Did you overcome an addiction when everyone else had given up on you? Did you go from making $50,000 a year to $100,000 a year? Are you living the life of your dreams? Why not?
The Beginning of Marriage
Did you marry the wrong person? Was getting married the best or worst decision you ever made? Did marriage teach you something that you would like to share with others? What do you think about marriage now?
The End of Marriage
Do you regret your divorce? Was getting a divorce the best or worst thing that could have ever happened to you? Did you marry again? Will you marry again?
Was there ever a particular holiday that brought you so much pain that you wished you could sleep the day away? Is your birthday one of your favorite holidays or is it the worst? Which holiday is more significant to you? Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve? Has that changed over the years?
Were you changed emotionally by a specific event? Was there a time when you thought you would not make it, but you did? Had you ever given up on life? Did someone say or do something to you and set you on a new course of life? Where are you now because of that decision? Have you ever strived and struggled to accomplish something, then after not succeeding realized it was not what you wanted all along?
Of course, this list is in no way conclusive. I am sure you might be able to come up with other wonderful points of interest. This is just a little something to get you started.
Now that we have glossed over possible angles for your life story and the wheels are turning in your head, what’s next? Choose one of the following.
Choose the moment in time where there was the most drama and pain. You say, but there are so many. I know. I know. Just pick one.
Choose the moment in time that you find the most fascinating, meaning good or bad fascination.
Choose the moment in time where you learned your biggest lesson.
Choose the moment in time that put you on a new course of life.
Choose a moment in time when you strived and struggled and then won.
Memoirs are about certain unique, sometimes life-transforming periods of the life as opposed to the whole life. So you want to choose a story where somebody does something, something happens as a result and how it affects the person negatively or positively in the end. Here are a couple of examples:
A woman graduates from medical school, then realizes that she really wanted to be a lawyer.
A man searches for Ms. Right for 10 years only to learn that he really prefers to be with Mr. Right.
After a woman loses her dog in the divorce settlement, she hires a hit man to kill her husband just so she will regain custody of the dog. (Don’t laugh. This would make a great story.)
Now it’s your turn to choose your moment in time to which to focus your story. You do this by forming a one to two-sentence description similar to the above examples. But before you get to compiling your description which is many times referred to as a logline, I want to share with you the two different approaches you can take in weaving this true-life tale into an intimate dramatization.
This is the goal-oriented tale, where the main character pursues some type of goal. An example would be a story about a person in search of a romantic partner. The middle of the story would focus on obstacles and problems throughout his journey, and the story would end when the main character accomplishes his goal (or not).
If you decide to take this approach, try to answer the following questions for the story you have in mind:
When does the event take place?
Who is/are the main character(s)?
Does/do the main character(s) have a goal to pursue?
Is the goal accomplished in THE END?
Can you list the obstacles that the main character overcame on his way to THE END?
Does/do your character(s) learn a lesson in the end, or does some change happen along the way? How?
Who are the secondary characters that populate the story?
How are the secondary characters related to the main character(s)?
Do any of these secondary characters have goals of their own? If yes, what are they?
This is the story I like to call, everything that happened while on the way to the market. This is my favorite type of tale because it is usually a character-driven piece. An example of this type of story would be a person who takes a road trip with a friend, and the story is about everything that happened to them along the way.
If you’re interested in this approach, try to answer the following questions for the story you have in mind:
When does this event take place?
How long does this event take? A weekend? A month? A year? A summer?
Who is/are the main character(s)?
What happens in THE END?
Can you list everything that happened on the way to THE END? For example, on my way to Florida, my car was stolen, I twisted my ankle, I caught a cold, etc.
Does/do your character(s) learn a lesson in the end, or does some change occur along the way? How?
Who are the secondary characters, and how do they relate to the main character(s)?
Now it’s time to craft your two-sentence description.
What is the description of your story?
It’s a story about a _______________________________________________
who does ________________________________________________________
Play around with this description for a little while until you find something you feel really good about. This is the tough part. Once you get this description down, the rest is smooth sailing, then again, maybe not.
While you are in the planning stage of your story, it might be a good idea to view a few true-life stories just to get an idea of how the subject matter is handled. Although you may have already seen some of the following movies, I have listed several for your amazement:
An American Haunting
The Assignation of Nixon
Black Hawk Down
Born on the Fourth of July
Boys Don’t Cry
Catch Me If You Can
The Deep End of the Ocean
The Diary of Anne Frank
Escape from Alcatraz
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Fire in the Sky
Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey
The Haunting in Connecticut
Introducing Dorothy Dandridge
The Life of David Gale
Men of Honor
The Mothman Prophecies
Murder in the First
The Perfect Storm
The Pursuit of Happyness
Remember the Titans
Saving Private Ryan
Walk the Line
We Are Marshall
What’s Love Got to Do with It
After you have viewed some of the above-mentioned movies, you will probably have a better sense of how different stories are executed based on theme. If you have already decided upon the story you wish to tell, congratulations. If not, I offer you one last piece of advice. Look for the hot spots of your life, the moments of the greatest change, greatest lessons, and sometimes the greatest loss. Do this and you will find the story that only you can tell.