How can you go about writing a loved one’s life story? The prospect of doing it might seem daunting. Here are some guidelines to help give organization and structure to the writing process:
Begin by narrowing down your focus. One way to do this is to first break down possible story subjects into specific themes or categories, such as family; work; value and belief systems; passions or free time activities; periods of life (single, army, married, childhood etc.); locations (family farm, summer cottage, first house, second house etc.); family events (births, weddings, funerals, vacations etc.); and acts of courage.
Further narrow down your focus. Next chose a category and within that category a story you would like to write about. Keep in mind: is this story just for me or will I be sharing it with others? This will help determine how much depth of detail to put into your story.
Use prompts to aid in memory recall. Old photos and portraits; official family documents; letters and journals; bibles and baby books; old books and magazines; and progressive emails can all help jog loose seemingly forgotten memories. Creating a timeline or chronology of events can also help memories worth writing about float to the surface. Additionally, diagramming neighborhoods, locations and even rooms can help bring seemingly forgotten memories to mind (remember how Dad loved to sit in that awful, green battered recliner in the living room and watch Seinfeld! ).
Give your story a beginning, middle and end.
Some questions to consider. Writing a narrative of your loved one’s life can be enriched by asking yourself these questions in the writing process:
Give your stories context. Time period, location, ethnic heritage, family traditions and more can give context to the stories you tell.
Context helps convey why something was important to your loved one and why it is important for you to share a particular memory.
When writing a legacy of values, first identify your audience (self, friends, community etc.) and reasons for writing (Honor your loved one? To gain insight? Find resolution? Let go? Heal something specific? Or?). Then:
Writing a legacy of values can take several forms:
Guidelines for writing your first draft in the form you chose:Devote a paragraph to each belief or value and how this belief or value was instilled in you.