Kinds of Personal Stories
There are all kinds of stories in our lives that we can develop into multimedia pieces. Here are a few sets of example questions for some of these stories. Adapting any of the question sets by integrating the existing sets, or developing a separate set, is encouraged.
The Story About Someone Important
How we love, are inspired by, want to recognize, and find meaning in our relationships
are all aspects of our lives that are deeply important to us. Perhaps the majority of the
stories created in our workshops are about a relationship, and in the best stories they
tell us more about ourselves than the details of our own life story.
Honouring and remembering people who have passed is an essential part of the grieving
process. These stories are often the most difficult and painful to produce, but the
results can be the most powerful.
- What is, or had been, your relationship to this person?
- How would you describe this person (physical appearance, character, etc.)?
- Is there an event/incident that best captures their character?
- What about the person do/did you most enjoy?
- What about the person drives you crazy?
- What lesson did the person give to you that you feel is most important?
- If you had something to say to the person but they never had a chance to hear you
- say it, what would it be?
The Story About an Event in My Life
One of the reasons we travel is to break away from the normalcy of our lives and
create new vivid memories. All of us who travel know that the experience is usually
an invitation to challenge ourselves, to change our perspective about our lives, and
to reassess meaning. We often return from these experiences with personal realizations,
and the process of recounting our travel stories is as much about sharing those
realizations as sharing the sense of beauty or interest in the place visited.
Strangely enough, while almost everyone tells good travel stories, it is often difficult
to make an effective multimedia piece from these stories.
We rarely think about constructing a story with our photographs or videos in advance of a trip.
And we do not want to take ourselves out of the most exhilarating moments by taking out a camera and recording. Before your next trip, think about creating a story outline based on an idea prior to your visit, as well as what sorts of images, video, or sounds would be useful to establish the story.
Accomplishment stories are about achieving a goal, like graduating from school, landing a major contract, or being on the winning team in a sporting event. These stories easily fit into the desire–struggle–realization structure of a classic story. They also tend to be documented, so you might find it easy to construct a multimedia story. Televised sporting events have taken up the accomplishment story as a staple, and it might be helpful for you to carefully examine an “Olympic moment” to see how they balance the acts of establishing information, interviews, and voice-over.
- What was the event (time, place, incident, or series of incidents)?
- What was your relationship to the event?
- With whom did you experience this event?
- Was there a defining moment in the event?
- How did you feel during this event (fear, exhilaration, sharpened awareness, joy…)?
- What did the event teach you?
- How did this event change your life?
The Story About a Place in My Life
Up until this century, 90% of the world’s population died within a ten-mile radius of
the home where they were born and raised. While this now might be difficult for us to
imagine, our sense of place is still the basis of many profound stories. One of the earliest
interactive storytelling websites, 1,000 Rooms, a German-based project, invited
people to submit a single image of a room in their home and tell a story about their
relationship with it. Hundreds of people responded with their own intimate stories.
You may have a story about your current home, an ancestral home, a town, a park, a
mountain or forest you love, a restaurant, store, or gathering place. Your insights into
place give us insight about your sense of values and connection to community.
- How would you describe the place?
- With whom did you share this place?
- What general experiences do you relate to this place?
- Was there a defining experience at the place?
- What lessons about yourself do you draw from your relationship to this place?
- If you have returned to this place, how has it changed?
The Story About What I Do
For many people with professional careers, a life story is shaped by their job. Author
and oral historian, Studs Terkel, collected a series of interviews in his book, Working,
to demonstrate that we all have unique ways of perceiving and valuing what we do.
And while jobs help to give some people a sense of identity, people also refer to their
hobbies or social-commitments when thinking about who they are.
A good story often comes from looking at the familiar in a new way and with a new
meaning. The details of the tasks, the culture of the characters that inhabit our workplace, or our spiritual or philosophical relationship to our work or avocation can lead us into many stories.
- What is your profession or ongoing interest?
- What experiences, interests, and/or knowledge in your previous life prepared you for this activity?
- Was there an initial event that most affected your decision to pursue this interest?
- Who influenced or assisted you in shaping your career, interest, or skill in this area?
- How has your profession or interest affected your life as a whole (family, friends, where you live)?
- What has been the highlight of your vocation?
Other Personal Stories
Sharing the experience of overcoming a great challenge in life is a fundamental
archetype in human story making. If you can transmit the range of experience from
descent, to crisis, to realization, then you can always move an audience.
Romance, partnership, familial or fraternal love all naturally lend themselves to the
desire-struggle-realization formula. We all want to know how someone met their
partner, what it was like when the baby was born, or what our relationship is with
our siblings and parents. We constantly test other people’s experiences in these
fundamental relationships to affirm our own. These are also stories that tend to have
plenty of existing documentation.
The process of learning is a rich field to mine for stories. The detective in us gets great
pleasure in illustrating how we uncovered the facts to get at a truth, whether it is in
fixing a broken bicycle or developing a new product.
As you decide what story would best serve your needs, keep in mind that these
categories are in no way sacrosanct, and they intersect in a number of ways. It is also
probable that you will come up with your own additional categories or other ways of
dissecting the stories in your mind.