In Writing Your Life Story, Try New Ideas to Capture the Most Important People in Your Life

As a ghostwriter and personal historian who writes the life stories of ordinary people, and a teacher of Writing Your Life Story classes, I’m always looking for new ways to help men and women capture meaningful stories about the most important people in their lives. Recently I’ve been introducing new Story Sparks to help evoke feelings and images that can open the door to richer and more compelling stories about those key people. Story Sparks, by the way, are simply open-ended phrases that you can use as a prompt to begin writing for five or ten minutes in a spontaneous response.

Let’s say you’re planning to write more about your mother. You have certain stories that you know you are going to include in your life story, but then once you get those down you’re left with a sense that there is something more you want to bring forward and you’re not sure how to do it. Try this Story Spark:

“She is/was the kind of mother who would…”

Was she the kind of mother who would always know just what you were up to? Or the kind of mother who would sacrifice her needs for the family? Or the kind of mother who would keep you on your toes? Or the kind of mother who would always be there when you stumbled or fell? 

Notice how just describing your mother this way instantly leads you to recall stories that illustrate and highlight her manner. Plunge right into those stories while they are fresh.

Then see what different associations and stories might be stirred when you add a twist to that Story Spark:

“She is/was the kind of mother who would never…”   

Is she the kind mother who would never say anything to hurt someone’s feelings? Or the kind of mother who would never admit that she was wrong? Or the kind of mother who would never say no when you asked to stop for ice cream? Or the kind of mother who would never let your leave the table before you finished everything on your plate?

Again, watch for those stories that will spill out once you have tapped this feeling tone related to a certain perspective of your mother.

You can experiment with many different approaches to pin down lively and informative descriptions of your mother’s personality and style of parenting. Here are a few other possibilities:

“She is/was the kind of mother who would say things that would make you…”

“She is/was the kind of mother who would wake up every morning and…”

“She is/was the kind of mother who would look at the family budget and…”

You can certainly apply the same kinds of Story Spark prompts to writing about your father, or your grandparents, or any other important person in your life. And if you are a mother or father, you can have fun in writing your life story by flipping the same statements around and applying them to yourself:

“I am the kind of mother who will always (or will never)…”

These are just a few ideas for zeroing in on the kinds of stories that will most make your life story come alive. Feel free to play around with new ideas of your own – and let me know if youc ome up with any that I might add to my list!

– Kevin Quirk, founder of Life Is a Book (formerly Memoirs for life), member of the Association of Personal Historians, and author of the new book “Your Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It! An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story”

On Two-Year Anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson, Brace for Impact Remains a Life Bond for Passengers Darren Beck and Don Norton

Today marks the tw0-year anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson. Remember when US Airways Flight 1549 spalshed down on the icy Hudson River and, thanks to Sully Sullenberger’s astounding skills and the heroic efforts of rescuers, the crew, and the passengers, everyone went home alive? Remember the images of those passengers standing in the water on the wings of the plane?

I wasn’t on that plane but I’ve been closely involved with the story since the day it happened. I was drawn to find out how this experience changed the lives of those who were on that plane and became co-author of the book “Brace for Impact: Miracle on the Hudson Survivors Share Their Stories of Near Death and Hope for New Life.” The only book that focuses primarily on how the passengers’ lives were dramatically changed after the crash and rescue, “Brace for Impact” (http://braceforimpact.hcibooks.com) present 25 first-person accounts.

Darren Beck and Don Norton tell their stories in our book, and their story has taken on a new twist in the last few months. Darren and Don were co-workers in a large Charlotte firm on the day of the crash, but now they’ve become best friends whose work and social lives are indeliby linked. Darren came away from the experience motivated to find more meaningful work and a few months ago became CEO of the small firm Business Insurance Now near Dallas. He immediately reached out to Don and recruited him as his right-hand man. “You have to take this job. I saved your life on the Hudson,” Darren joked, because he had changed Don’s seating assignment for Flight 1549 so Don wound up on an exit row. Don Norton’s fast thinking enabled him to open that door open immediately and allowed passengers to scramble to safety.

Don tok the job because he trusted Darren like no one else. Now they live five miles apart and their families share dinners and social outings regularly. From the first day of shock and slow healing after the crash, they have held this spirit: We’re in this together. It’s never been more true today. You can read more about Darren and Don in this story in the Dallas Morning News:

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/011511dnmetmiracle.570286.html

– Kevin Quirk, Founder of Life Is a Book, Member of the Association of Personal Historians, and author of the new book “Your Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It: An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story”