What’s your angle to tell your life story? It may be easier than you think. Everyone has a story, and not just any story. Everyone has a fantastic, amazing story inside of their lives. If you don’t think so, take it from me, a journalist of over 20 years – they do. And I love finding those stories. Often, I can catch a scent of the story within the first five to ten minutes of talking to someone.
Everyone has a story
We all overcome hard things, and even if we think we aren’t fighters to get through what life deals to us, we are. Every time I interview someone, I find this out. Some overcome their struggles by serving others, some overcome their struggles by education, and some overcome their struggles by making more mistakes they have to move past. Life is hard, but we all have ways we cope, and how we do that is our story. Those stories shape the lives of those around you, especially those that come after you and that’s why it’s so important to tell not only our stories, but the stories of those who have gone before us. How do we do that? Find the angle.
What’s your angle?
The other day I was talking with my husband about how I have learned to find the angle. I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s almost become second nature to me, but it sure is fun. And with social media being so prevalent in our lives, it’s much easier to find the unique angles in people’s lives, because they are all out there, for the most part.
My parents are a classic example. They think they lead pretty boring lives. In my humble opinion, their lives have been pretty amazing. Talk to my dad for just a few minutes and you will find that he was born and raised in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Texas. Even though he was a Texas boy at heart, he was eager to escape his life soon after his divorce from his high school sweetheart, which was settled in his mid-twenties. He escaped several states away to Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Soon after his arrival, his car broke down and needed a rescue. Cue my mother. My mother, a Brigham Young University graduate, was fresh with her teaching degree but eager to find herself outside of the state of Utah. She had an adventurous side and kind of wanted to spread her wings a bit. Who knew the unique and uncanny way she met my dad would be the start of over 50 years, two children and 8 grandchildren?
Pick a Moment in Your Life That is Special
An angle as simple as, “How did you meet?” can open a floodgate of possibilities. It does in my parents story.
As the story goes, she is never one to leave anyone in distress and offered to pick up my stranded dad when his friend was still working his shift at the casino where they worked. She and my dad met. My mom, the shy Mormon girl, and my dad, a towering Texan. He is 6’4” and she a tall, willowy 5’! The two never looked back and their worlds changed a great a deal when they decided to make a life together.
Ask all the questions
In that brief introduction there are angles galore: How did they create a life? Different backgrounds, different sizes, different religions, different everything!
What was their first meeting like? What did they talk about with such an awkward (non)introduction? The year they met was 1968 – hippie era and in Lake Tahoe. What was that like? Did they slip into the party lifestyle or did my mom stick to her Latter-Day Saint upbringing? If not, did she change her ways? Why did he get divorced so young, especially at a time when divorce wasn’t all that common? And, what came after that first meeting? There are about 20 angles to be explored from just one paragraph.
Related: Help! My story is stuck!
When you talk to someone, often something they say will catch your attention. If it does, chances are it will be interesting to someone else. In our lives we are all trying to find common ground, telling stories of people’s lives helps us to find that common ground and helps us to know we can do hard things, because other people have done them before.
Tell your life story and let one question lead to another
Sometimes it works to even have that conversation with yourself. What is your story? What about your family interests you? What is your angle? I would start looking at a few angles with those around you that are interesting. They are out there. Write them down. Record them. Everyone has a story, take a moment to tell your life story.
Related: Your story is enough
Always remember: your story is enough
Even what you think may be a mundane moment is most definitely not for those that will follow in your footsteps. When you met your true love, what were you wearing? Why? What was the date? Does it have significance? So many little things to think of and share with all the details of your life. Don’t hesitate to record them all. Whoever reads it will love you for it.
It is interesting to me that people who have a major event in their life such as an illness, a tragic death from someone close to them or something else really tough that they just got through it, so they don’t think it’s worth sharing. I have heard stories of houses burning down, brain tumors or overcoming alcoholism that may seem like something they don’t want to discuss that is rich with lessons and shows the strength of overcoming.
So I ask again, “What’s your angle?”
Maybe you still feel stuck with finding where you want to start or what you want to share. There are a few good methods to finding that sweet spot. There is the storyboarding method where you can lay out pieces of your life, or even one specific story in a storyboard style where you portion out each part of your story (or your life) with a beginning, middle and end. You are the hero of the story in this style and it is amazing all the creativity that can fly from putting your story together piece by piece.
When clients feel like they can’t get a good order going for their story, or that they are taking too many tangents and not getting to the meat of their story, I encourage them to create a timeline of their life. That way they can identify all the pieces of their life and focus on what they think is important. This is a great way to find an angle, because often with a timeline a theme keeps coming up – family, religion, education, work. All those angles often intertwine and create something pretty amazing. Another of my clients has loved this method and often when he writes he will text me and say, “I’m so glad I have a timeline! I know where I am going!”
One other method is to create a simple outline of what you want to share. It’s always interesting how the organization sparks creativity. I have found with all three of these methods to find your angle several things rise to the surface. You find that your story is interesting and worth telling. You realize there is plenty to say about your life. You feel excited to get work!
And one other thing – find a buddy to help you! Telling your life story is personal and you may not want to share everything you write at first. But if you find someone to bounce your ideas off of or give you suggestions in the process it is much more effective. It keeps us going and keeps us accountable. You can hire a coach, work with a good friend, trusted family member or maybe find someone that is also working on your story and you can motivate each other! So, what’s your angle? Start writing and I promise your angle will come to life!
Rachel J. Trotter is a writer at Evalogue.Life, where we tell personal and family stories that inspire, and help you tell yours. She has worked as a writer since her college days over 20 years ago. She loves telling people’s stories. She lives in Ogden, Utah and is busy raising six children and loves working on family history alongside her husband, Mat.
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4 thoughts on “Finding the angle to tell your life story”
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I love this post. I haven’t done a lot of interviews like you have, but I am always encouraging people to do this kind of thing within their own families. The thing I’ve really learned over the years–both as I encourage others and as I read the stories of my own ancestors–is that EVERYONE HAS A STORY. And nobody thinks their story is any big deal. But if someone loves you, your story is a great big deal to them.
Thank you so much! It never ceases to amaze me how humble people are about their lives. And usually the most humble people have the best stories. One Vietnam Veteran I interviewed told me he was no big deal in Vietnam. Then he pulled out his Purple Heart.
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