Story and Why
Putting Your Story in Order
An article by Tom Gilbert - © October, 2018 and updated May, 2021
There are many things in life that need to have
order. Without order there is randomness and chaos. That makes a lot of
Nevertheless, there is a natural tendency in life
for disorder. Consider the law of entropy. It essentially means that
things tend to move towards disorder. If you never clean your desk (or
your office) it will get messier. The tendency towards disorder in our
lives and our world often leads to things not getting done. Also, it
results in lack of organization, confusion and randomness. It takes
energy, meaning and effort to counter entropy.
So what does this have to do with your life story?
It is a fair question and in this short article I will attempt to
Our lives are lived out in moments and experiences.
Over time they help to shape our beliefs, values, habits and much more.
When we spend time reminiscing and attempt to make sense of our
lives we often want to share that. This is done by telling the story of
our life and our various experiences. You need to spend time figuring
out what your story is and why you want to preserve this story. Once
you have done this the next step is to determine how
you will do it.
Part of the how is taking the many experiences you
write about and putting them into some kind of order. There is not one
way to organize your experiences. But I think it can be helpful to try
some different approaches.
finished book is an entertaining and funny compilation of personal life
stories. Virgene Kilbourne is the author and her book, Is My Underwear on Backwards?? is available on here on Amazon.
Your story might be a personal or family history.
Or you might be creating a memoir of a certain time in life or type of
vocation or vacation. Regardless, any story has multiple parts and the
resulting parts (stories) can be put into some kind of order.
The order of your stories in your memoir is
important. It can establish a theme and a tempo. One way is to put it
in chronological order. Start at the beginning of the time of the story
across time to the place where the story concludes. This is probably
the easiest approach, but it isn’t necessarily the best way
to do it.
Some people find it very effective to start with a
riveting event or experience that draws the reader in and then sets up
the story for where you want to go. For instance, if you have a life
changing event as a result of a disease or accident, you might start
with the time when life was most threatened and then go back to before
the life changing event and present background material. The rising
action of your story will already have some momentum from your use of
the opening flashback.
I worked with a gifted writer who has
many short, funny and entertaining life experiences. Each of them tends
to be just two or three typed pages. What they have in common is humor
and usually a twist to the outcome. Each of the vignettes provides
insight into her personality.
We discussed some ways she
might organize her many little stories into a book. It was fascinating and challenging to consider how. One of the things I
suggested was to label each short story from her life on an index card
and then lay them all out on a table or the floor. There were probably
twenty or more stories for her to consider using. Laying out the cards
and trying different groupings gave her ideas of how to structure
the book. She could group the stories into similar categories, such as
when she was a teenager, or stories about her married life.