Telling Your Life Story

Two prompts that may make it easier to tell or write your story.

Posted Aug 05, 2020

 Trung Bui Viet/Flickr, CC 2.0
Source: Trung Bui Viet/Flickr, CC 2.0

Whether you’re 20, 90, or anywhere in between, it can be fun and instructive to write your life story, even if only briefly and told only to yourself.

But many people have difficulty getting started, or they get stuck. Perhaps one of these prompts will make it easier. The first has you chronologically replaying your life. The second tempate helps you describe the life you wish you had.

Your true story

Template: There once was a little (insert boy or girl) whose most notable characteristic was that (insert). The first important thing that ever happened to him/her was (insert). Its effect on him/her was (insert). Continue by chronologically, describing each major life event and its effect on you. After having written your most recent event, describe what you hope and what you fear will be the next major event.


Once upon a time there was a girl who was unusually smart. She liked that, but it also got her in trouble: The popular kids were jealous of her and so kept her out of their clique and made fun of her. That made her spend much afterschool time alone: drawing, reading, or in front of a screen.

Her life’s next major event was when she got into Cornell. It was her reach school and she was surprised when she was accepted. Scared, the summer before her first semester, she started reading all the textbooks for her fall courses.

Her next major moment was when she met her husband, a fellow senator in Cornell’s student senate. She fell in love and the relationship was good for a while, but after five years of marriage, they divorced simply because they had grown bored of each other—it was an amicable divorce.

Her next major event was, at age 30, in her job at an eating disorders clinic, when she had her first breakthrough with a client. That made her decide to specialize in eating disorders. Finally, she had found something she felt naturally good at. She is detail-oriented and herself had been obsessive about eating, so she felt she could relate well to such clients.

Now at age 38, she’s looking forward to getting more expert as an eating disorders counselor and although she worries that she’s getting too old to find a great romantic partner and/or to have kids, she wants to try.

The story of the life you wish you had

Template: There once was a boy/girl named (choose a name other than yours).  S/he (insert the most desired characteristic you don’t actually possess). The first important thing that ever happened to him/her was (insert an event you wish had occurred early in your life). It had the effect on him/her of (insert). Then chronologically, for each major wished-for event, describe it and say what its effect on you might have been. When you’ve written about your most recent event, describe what would be the next wonderful event, even if, in reality, it’s a long shot.


There was a boy who always managed to stay calm yet fully engaged no matter the situation. As a child, that made him a good peacemaker, stopping kids who might have duked it out or were already fighting.  

His next major memory was his acceptance to West Point. While he was scared of basic training and all that discipline, he figured the army would provide good training for becoming a negotiator.

His next major memory was being hired by the New York City Police Department as a hostage negotiator. After two years, he got the opportunity of a lifetime: to talk down a terrorist who in the lobby of the New York Stock Exchange with a radiologic device in his backpack. He succeeded, his name was all over the news, and he received lots of fan mail. One letter was from a woman who appealed to him because of her looks and apparent intelligence and kindness.

His next vivid memory was when they, now married, had a child.

Their next ambition is for him to become a negotiator for the president of the United States or at least the State Department and she to become a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood.

The takeaway

Does your response to either of those prompts suggest anything that you want to do today or in the near future?

I read this aloud on YouTube.