How to structure your story

Structure your story

How to structure your story is really up to you. Your story could be arranged in years, in seasons, on a significant day each year e.g. Christmas seasons, each generation or what is appropriate for you and your story.  Recently, I structured a book according to the houses the client had lived in.  This sounded a little odd at first, but as I made progress on the book, I realised this was a great way to tell this particular story.

Each house held the social history of the family, new babies, grief and loss, hopes and dreams.  The physical environment of the house was able to add to the context of their lives and what influenced and affected their decision making and what was to become, habits and family traditions. On talking to the younger family members, I came to understand how important this is to young people today. As the story teller matured in her life, so did the choices and decisions she was making. It was easy to see the depth and love she had for her family and how she wanted the joys to be remembered and treasured.

structure your story
Your life is like a field of flowers. How you gather and preserve them is up to you.

Family tradition

A family tradition has to begin somewhere and to hold some meaning. I always had associated traditions with older cultures and history, but not so – young people love traditions and traditions may only be a couple of years old. A tradition can hold a family and friends together regardless of what else is happening throughout the year.

  • My family have a Christmas lunch together the Sunday before Christmas and young people will make every effort to attend. Why? Because it’s tradition.
  • I moved from my previous street where I lived for nearly fourteen years.  Always there were Christmas street parties held where everyone came. These parties were transferred to my present house and the ‘old’ neighbours continue to come – and that is for twenty years now. Why? Tradition.

Our stories and our social history create us and contribute to how we interpret the world.  I recently read a memoir where a mother wrote a letter to her daughter adding in, not only all the favourite stories from the daughter’s life, but also tips and information she thought the daughter would need. She also included favourite family recipes and those helpful hints on how to go about things that you just acquire through life or get handed down to you.

Sometimes I think of the structure of a story just like I would the structure of a building. I think about the front appearance of the building and how I want it to look and the backyard, where I would put lots of practical things.  I think about the rooms I would have in the building and what I want to use them for, is their a purpose or are they just for pleasurable.

One interesting approach to writing your life, is to structure them as a mosaic piece, short and self-contained stories that make up one book. This may not be for everyone, but is a creative approach. Sometimes, people see their life as lots of events without any connection or resemblance to each other and it is not until they stroll the process of writing their memoirs the connections appear.

The structure of your story is only limited by your imagination and put together and supported by some photographs, would make a wonderful book.