WRITE YOUR LIFE – Session #2

Write Your History. Investigate the past and present and hand on a family history.


Signposts for your life

Create a linear map beginning with your birth and moving forward.

On that map set the following signposts. These signposts will point you in the direction of your stories, reminding you of things that happened in your life and what you learned from them.

Suggested process: On a piece of paper, quarter your life (divide into so many years a quarter) Write a list of all the things that happened to you in each quarter, using the signpost list as a reference.  When you have all your quarters complete (depending on your age), put your signposts in chronological order for each quarter and insert them on your linear map.

Life Signposts:

Birth, Present age, End of life, Serious illnesses, Major losses: parents, grandparents, children

Personal Signposts:

Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Children born

Education/Career signposts:

Graduate: public school, high school, university, masters, doctorate, other; Career choices: moves, advancements; Recognition or Wins: awards, titles, etc.

Celebratory Signposts:

Memorable: birthdays, anniversaries, weddings; Births: children, grandchildren,great grandchildren; Memorable holidays or trips

Historical Signposts:

Things that particularly influenced your life, such as wars, new laws, regional changes, economic changes, crimes

Dates of particular relevance to you (Sept 11, Kennedy’s assassination, Elvis death, Trump inauguration)

Geographical Signposts:

Where you lived, when; where you went to school, holidayed, visited, travelled

Exercise #2

Write a short paragraph explaining the photograph you chose as your  homework for session #1, answering the questions: who, where, when, what and why succinctly. Don’t go into detail. Stick to the facts.

Plotting your story

Acts: generally (3) Beginning, Middle, End

Beginning ¼  Middle ½  End ¼

i.e. 12 chapter book B=3, M=6,  E=3

i.e. 2000 word story B=500, M=1000, E=500

Beginning (Introduction – who?)

The beginning tells the reader:

  • The main characters
  • What the story is about
  • The setting
  • Sets the tone of the story
  • Shows the style of the writer
  • Provides the pacing

The beginning contains a number of scenes. Each scene also has a beginning, middle and end, in similar proportions as above. Each scene must do two of three things:

  • move the action forward
  • Develop character
  • Provide information to reader

The beginning contains an Inciting Incident that:

  • kick-starts the story (begins the action)
  • forms the spine of the SKELETON
  • is action oriented
  • sets up the obligatory scene at the end of the story
  • may act as a prelude to the Turning Point

The turning point:

  • is usually at the end of the beginning
  • adds interest
  • keeps reader focused
  • turns action in new direction
  • sets out new events that necessitate new decisions
  • raises central question
  • moment of decision or commitment on part of main character
  • pushes story into the middle section or Act 2
  • takes reader into new arena – different focus for action

Between the set-up and end of Act I the reader needs to see:

  • The characters develop
  • The motivation (or back story of each character)
  • The MEAT or as much as possible of the pacing, mood and visual landscape

Middle (complications – what?)The middle is the toughest part to write. It takes up ½ the story length. It continues to put the MEAT on the SKELETON. The middle:

  • Is a sequence of events triggered by the central characters response to inciting incident
  • Must have twists and turns to keep the readers interest
  • Provides expectation of the characters which results in action or reaction on their part (cause and effect)
  • develops cycles of action that raise the stakes higher, demands more from the characters and involve them in greater risk.
  • Shows complications and conflict building to a crises and/or climax and eventual resolution.
  • Pushes the characters to the point of no return
  • Shows characters taking action that causes something to happen that makes the situation worse
  • The gulf between expectation and results creates an emotional gap
  • Characters are forced to make new choices that move the story along
  • Middle has up close details and dialogue
  • Continues characters emotional growth and places reader inside character to feel what character is feeling

We create momentum in our middle or Act 2 by:

  • Providing a barrier. A main character attempts something that doesn’t work.
  • Providing complications. A happening that doesn’t pay off immediately and gets in the way of intentions. Sometimes this is the beginning of a new through line or subplot.
  • Providing a reversal. This turns the story 180 degrees. Negative becomes positive or positive becomes negative. It often becomes Act 2 turning point – when all is lost
  • Providing a mid act crisis. Something happens halfway through the story that upsets equilibrium and forces emotional response.The end of the middle speeds up the action to make Act 3 more intense. It provides a sense of urgency (like the ticking clock with only so much time before the worse thing that can happen happens). It has two parts, the darkest moment or denouement, followed by new stimulus.

End (Pay-off – how?)The ending begins with the new stimulus following the mid act crisis or turning point. It is another try by a character. The ending:

  • Is short
  • Falls into place naturally
  • Resolves both plot and subplots
  • Leads up to the climax
  • Solves conflict
  • Provides final irreversible decision on part of character
  • Answers central question
  • Gives reader what she/he wants, in an unexpected way

Exercise #3

Now write your story using the photo you brought from session #1 and what you have learned about beginnings, middles and ends. Include it in your collection under the correct heading. You have one story complete. Congratulations!        


Choose a photo of a family happening. Contact each person in it, and ask him/her to tell you the story from their POV. Write them down in point form and have them ready for Session #3.

Your Journaling:

How is it going? Any break throughs, disappointments? Continue to journal each day.




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