Telling Life's Tales
All you need to know about writing life stories from planning to publication.
Telling Life’s Tales is a comprehensive guide to writing life stories. It helps writers and non-writers to decide what they want to tell of their lives and how they want to tell it. Giving practical advice and information, the reader will learn story structure, key elements of writing, how to plot and plan and how to check all their facts.
Everyone has a tale to tell and this book will help those tales come alive. Whether you are 22 or 82, Telling Life’s Tales will help the reader to put into words their most memorable recollections.
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It's time, Boys and Girls, to tell your life's tale! And to do this, we're following the sage advice in a t'riffic little book called ...Telling Life's Tales, by Sarah-Beth Watkins. We all have stories to tell, and everyone's life is interesting -- or can be made to sound interesting with a bit of judicious organisation -- and that's where you'll find Chapter Three such a boon. Rather than just starting when you were born and telling a chronological tale, Sarah-Beth advises a different approach: "A good book starts where there is action. It jumps you straight into a momentous event that is happening to the main character." So how do you choose this momentous event from your own life? You begin by choosing " ... the five most important events in your own life." Grab a pen now and just for fun, write down five important events from your life. Don't stop to think too deeply about it, trust your memory and your emotions and write down the first things that occur to you. The "five most important events" may not necessarily be any of the usual suspects ... from the hatchings, matchings, dispatchings side of your life. Sarah-Beth suggests that the unusual events are "... more likely to interest readers than the same old life events everyone goes through. And your family would much rather know your secrets too!" To make it easier for us, this chapter then has sections that offer some different approaches to those universal life experiences e.g. if writing about your childhood, mention things like the actual birth -- was it "a highly surgical birth" in a hospital or a home birth? Look at children's health and medical practices of the time ... things have changed. I can vividly recall the doctor making house calls when I went through the scourge of measles, mumps and chicken pox in the mid-50s, and the little strawberry-flavoured pills in the round cardboard pill box he left with my mum. You'll find suggestions on ways to write about school, teen years, love and work, and how to find a theme in your life-story. Sarah-Beth writes, "There are many themes you can choose from and it might take an amount of writing before you see one appearing ... Look out for it as you continue writing." And that's what happens when you do start writing -- the story often takes over and themes assert themselves. Another excellent tip is to place your life-story in the context of world events, but that doesn't mean you have to provide a history lesson of major political crises ... You just need to mention things that were happening in the world so readers can place the time in their minds. If your memory is a bit dodgy, then enlist the help of our best mate Google to research the details, or frequent second-hand book shops for books that will help re-create the particular time. Year Books are a great resource and can often be picked up very cheaply, plus they have the advantage of giving you lots of information in an easily referenced form -- wages, population, costs etc. that can help your failing memory. Your readers will be upset if you state that it cost 1/- to post a letter in 1950 when it really only cost 3d. Telling Life's Tales covers all aspects of writing your life's story with plenty of practical tips to make the process fun for you and for your readers. You may decide to do this purely as an academic exercise with your family as the target audience, or you may decide to offer your full story to a publisher or selected highlights to magazines. Whatever approach you take, there's a chapter in this book to help you go about it the right way -- there's even a section on libel! And who knows ... once you embark on this, you may enjoy it so much you'll want to help others write their life stories or even pass on what you've learnt by giving talks or presenting courses. And, of course, the book explains how to do all this, too! ~ Jennifer Stewart, Write 101