Check out this post by Kate Farrell author of Story Power
The years from early childhood, the first flickers of memory, are precious. Yet they can often be difficult to capture. What if you’ve lost track of your story line? Where did it all start? Where is it going now? To get a sense of yourself and your own life story, those loose threads, take some time to reflect.
Find an island of time where you can be alone with your thoughts. Turn off distractions—radio, TV, smart phone, laptop. Just listen to yourself. Let your mind ramble comfortably for a while, then try to remember as far back as you can.
Recall your first memory, not what your parents or relatives have told you, but what you recollect. Fix that memory. Try to visualize it and sense as much as you can about it. Concentrate on the details of people, setting, dress, smells, temperature. Summon tactile sensations: Were your socks itchy, your hands sweaty? Recall your emotions: What feelings did you have? What did you say? Remember as much as you can, then relax, let go. Let the images fade and vanish. This is hard work, but an important first step.
Replay your sense impressions of your first memories again. As you do, think of the beginning. How would you start if you were going to tell it as a story? You probably would want to introduce it with a few details of place, time, your age, the others involved, and their relationships. This gives your story a context, a setting, and its characters. Continue to the action. What was so compelling about it that made it worth remembering? Describe the experience in detail. How did it end? Now comes the most interesting part: the conclusion. What does the story say about you, what did you learn from it, or what did you learn about yourself in telling the story? There can be many conclusions: Draw one.
Listeners are curious about our origins, our roots—not to stereotype us, but to gain an understanding of our background, the forces that influenced us. This is particularly true of stories from our childhood and youth. The early imprint of place, its culture, language, and weather are formative and draws listeners in—to learn more about us and connect.
For a childhood setting to stand on its own and tell a story, it needs to be substantial enough to answer these questions:
- What happened there?
- Was there a conflict or was there rising tension?
- Did the main action occur over time with a clear progression?
- Were there other characters?
- Was there dialogue?
- Finally, was there a resolution?
EXERCISES & PROMPTS:
CHILDHOOD & COMING OF AGE
- Choose a year in your early life, any year. With a year in mind, gather whatever memory aids you might have: photo album, a childhood toy, an heirloom from that time.
- Close your eyes and recall images of that year. Let them flicker off and on at random, then look for important events of that year. Choose one that had a problem, a conflict or tension, a drama.
- Spend some time focusing on that event. See it, feel it, sense it, using all your senses. Feel your emotions. Think your thoughts.
- Frame the impressions into a narrative arc: Visualize the first scene and follow the action to the end.
- Jot down the story notes in a journal. Use your own code or shorthand. Use sketches or other visual cues that will continue to unlock your memory of this story.
- Tell the story to a close friend or relative. As you do, conjure up the images, details, feelings, and sensations that were part of the original event.
- Tell it, don’t talk it. For telling, the story must be well-lit with a freshness and immediacy, as if it were happening in the present.
Follow the Emotion Charge
- If an incident still has an emotional charge from your youth, it’s bound to include conflict or tension.
- Remember a time when you were young and you were scared.
- Remember a time when you were young and you were sad.
- Remember a time when you were young and you were happy.
- Remember a time when you were young and you were surprised.
- Remember a time when you were young that was funny.
- Remember another time when you were happy, and another time when you were sad, surprised, scared.
- Now remember an event from one of those times that you would like to tell as a story.
- When you have focused on that event, live through it again, and open your eyes.
You may want to replay the story incident more than once. As you do, recollect sensory impressions; feel the emotions; rehearse the dialogue. Then, tell your story!
Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories
Stories are everywhere. The art of storytelling has been around as long as humans have. And in today’s noisy, techy, automated world, storytelling is not only prevalent—it’s vital. Whether you’re interested in enlivening conversation, building your business brand, sharing family wisdom, or performing on stage, Story Power will show you how to make use of a good story.