All Pro Dad
People have asked me several times whether I am interested in writing a book. I normally say no. In fact, I gave that answer the last time somebody asked at a dinner party. As my wife and I drove home, she asked why I have no interest in writing a book. I said, “I don’t think my story is worth writing in a book. Who will want to read it?” That’s when she said, “Everyone has a life story worthy of a book.”
I believe she’s right. Your life story is certainly worth telling. Even if it’s only for your children and grandchildren, it is valuable to record. Future generations can experience how you felt and reacted in your time. Whether you write your story down, record it, or simply tell your children about your life, the following 10 questions will help you get started.
1. Who Are You?
Where did you come from and where are you going? What are your passions and strongly held beliefs? Define the person you are and how you got to that point.
2. Where have you struggled?
We all suffer sometimes. What are the moments that challenged and molded you? Sharing your wounds enables others to connect with you emotionally.
3. What are you passionate about?
Your legacy is the footprint you made in the world. Display and explain the passion that led you to successful outcomes. What do you love the most? What makes your heart race and your temperature rise?
4. In what areas have you gained expertise?
We learn through experience. And with experience, we gain expertise. What solutions have you discovered? In what does your expertise lie? Where in life are you “the man?”
5. What is your worldview?
What is your “message” to the world? What are your philosophies and wisdom gained? Define a central message you most wish to convey and run it continuously throughout your story.
6. What is your honest story?
Keep your story on point. Keep it simple and keep it direct. Always be honest and sincere. Your life is interesting enough. No need for embellishment.
7. To whom do you owe gratitude?
No successful life is accomplished alone. Give credit to the people in your life who have helped you on your journey. Tell stories about the people who influenced you and lifted you up to the heights you have reached.
8. How do you relate to others?
How can you make yourself relatable to a later generation? How can you reach out into the future and lend a comforting hand? Some things in life never change. Matters of the heart, hopes, dreams, and fears—talk often of these.
9. What are your failures?
Do not be afraid to share your failures and shortcomings—especially how they helped you grow. These are as important as any great successes. No man is perfect and no life is perfect. Describe in humorous detail your many faults.
10. What have been the greatest moments of your life?
These are the moments you stood at a crossroads and made the right choice. This is the day your child was born. The moment you discovered God. The memories that make you smile and fill you with gratitude.
Sound off: What has been the greatest moment of your life?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up and ask your kids, “What is your favorite memory?”
These days everyone’s talking about writing your story. Not just any old story, but the story of your life, the road map that got you to where you are today. For most of us that’s a pretty daunting thought. I mean, why would anyone be interested in hearing our story anyway?
Well, I’m a big proponent of this personal story writing business, and I’ll tell you why: it changed my life.
I used to write fiction. I loved hiding behind the facades of the characters I created. But then my work led me into writing for a magazine where people share their personal stories, and I found myself on unfamiliar territory.
I actually had no interest in sharing my story—I wasn’t a fiction writer for nothing. I thought my past was empty and depressing. But given my role as both a writer and editor for this magazine, I really didn’t have much choice.
So I sat down at my computer and with absolute resistance I began to write the truth of my life. I was full of fear—afraid to reveal my authentic self and the vulnerability that came with doing it. I was also fearful that no one would give a hoot about my story.
My resistance to the process resulted in quite the crappy effort. Apparently my chief editor thought so too. She sent the article back to me with these words: “go deeper.” Not quite the response I was looking for.
So I went back to my computer, stared at a blank page for a while and began to write. But this time I didn’t write from a place of resistance, I wrote from the heart.
The result was tears, not just on my part, but my editor’s too.
But more important than the tears was the overwhelming sense of release. In reconnecting with my story I somehow gave it a voice. I gave myself a voice that needed to be heard.
I have continued to write my story and to pursue the practice of helping others do the same. Not only do I believe that telling our stories is an important way to get to know ourselves and find healing, I also believe it’s a way to connect with others on a deeply authentic level.
You need to tell your story and share it with the world!
Writing our personal stories is the most vulnerable kind of writing we can do. We fear being laughed at, rejected, or that our words will be met with silence. And in turn, we ourselves remain silent.
Through the process I have found six important steps to be helpful:
1. Tap into your emotions.
Your story won’t resonate with others if it is void of emotion, as I discovered when writing that first draft of my own story. So take out your paper and pen and write down some key feelings that you associate with your life so far. Then write something about each feeling and the story behind it.
2. List the turning points.
People often make the mistake of starting with their earliest childhood memory and moving through their story chronologically. But rather than starting at the beginning, it’s more helpful to make a list of your life’s key turning points—those times when you were standing at a crossroads and the direction you chose marked a significant change in your life.
3. Write everything down.
It might not seem like much at the time but it’s amazing how one memory leads to another and allows you to go deeper into your story. As with all writing, you may not use many of the scenes you write, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a purpose.
4. Use the senses.
The one thing that will help you explore long forgotten memories is to use your senses. As you recall events, try to remember the smells, tastes and sounds that accompany them. Not only will this help you remember details, it will also enrich your writing.
5. Find the theme.
Once you have compiled a large number of significant scenes, it’s likely you will begin to see a theme emerging. Your theme is the central question driving your story. The ability to carry this theme through the sequence of events you have recorded is what will turn your individual scenes into one story. It may be that you discover more than one theme. That’s okay; it’s likely there will be one that stands apart from the others.
6. Tell a story.
You have your theme and a multitude of scenes; you’ve gone through a box of tissues in the process of exploring your emotions, but have you told a story? As you begin to work on pulling it all together, focus on the reader. What about your story will connect with him? The best stories are ultimately those that connect with the reader the most.
This process of telling your story is, I believe, one of the most rewarding and clarifying things you can do for yourself, and for others.
So step into that place of discomfort and write the words that will bring freedom and meaning to your life. Is it not time?
Are you writing your story? Have you found the experience to be healing? Share your journey and process in the comments.
By Susan Cain
What’s your life story?
I don’t mean where you grew up, went to school, got your first job, etc. I mean what’s your STORY? What narrative have you constructed from the events of your life? And do you know that this is the single most important question you can ask yourself?
According to the fascinating field of “narrative psychology,” the stories we tell about ourselves are the key to our well-being. If you’ve interpreted the events of your life to mean that you’re unlucky or unwise, it’s hard to look optimistically at the future. Conversely, if you acknowledge that you’ve made mistakes and faced difficulties but seek (or have already glimpsed) redemption, you’ll feel a much greater sense of agency over your life.
That time you were laid off, for example, is it further proof that your career’s going nowhere? Or is it the best thing that ever happened, liberating you to find work that suits you better?
What about your divorce? Is it a sign you’re unlucky in love or a difficult passage to a more hopeful romance?
The idea is not to delude yourself that bad things are actually good. It is, instead, to find meaning in the progression from one event to the next. It is to recognize that everything constantly changes. In your life, you will move from triumph to heartbreak to boredom and back again, sometimes in the space of a single day. What are you to make of so many emotions, so many events?
The facts matter less than the narrative.
Once upon a time, an 18-year-old Frenchwoman named Sophie Serrano gave birth to a baby girl, who suffered from neonatal jaundice.
The baby spent her first days in an incubator under artificial light and was returned to her mother four days later. Unbeknownst to Sophie, it wasn’t her baby. It was another 4-day-old with jaundice. The nurse had switched the babies by accident.
Sophie named her daughter Manon. As she grew older, Manon looked nothing like her parents. She had darker skin and frizzy hair, and the neighbors started to gossip about her origins.
But Sophie never faltered. The nurse had explained that the artificial light used to treat jaundice could affect hair color. Even more, Sophie loved Manon. She knew the story of her life: her cries, her coos, her first words.
It was only when Sophie’s husband accused her of giving birth to another man’s baby that she went for paternity tests and discovered that her husband was right (sort of). The baby, then aged 10, wasn’t his, but she wasn’t Sophie’s either. She belonged to another set of parents, who had been raising Sophie’s biological daughter in a town several miles away.
It’s a typically fascinating “switched at birth” tale. But here’s where it takes an unexpected turn.
A meeting was arranged for the two mothers and their daughters. Sophie saw that her biological daughter looked just like her in a way that Manon did not and never would.
But she felt no connection to this other girl. It was Manon she had nursed, Manon whose nightmares she’d soothed, and Manon whose stories she knew. This other daughter looked just like Sophie—but what did that even mean, when she didn’t know her stories? The other mother felt the same way.
“It is not the blood that makes a family,” Ms. Serrano told The New York Times (where I read this story). “What makes a family is what we build together, what we tell each other.”
Our stories are everything. They are the heart of love and of meaning.
So what is your story? Are you telling the right one? And are you telling it to the right people?
Here are three sets of people to tell your stories to:
1. “Declare yourself” to your colleagues at work. Doug Conant, the much-admired former CEO of Campbell Soup and founder of Conant Leadership (and one of my favorite people), is an introvert who’s not inclined to schmooze and self-disclose. So he scheduled “Declare Yourself” meetings, one at a time, with each of his direct reports. The purpose of these meetings was to tell his employees his story: how he liked to work, his management philosophy, and the things and people that mattered to him most. (We at Quiet Revolution are partnering with Conant Leadership to develop a “Declare Yourself” tool that you can use with your colleagues. Stay tuned on that.)
2. Share your stories with your family. A few weeks ago, I told my 7-year-old son about a story I’m writing for kids. I mentioned that I’d been working on this story for months. “How come you never told me before?” he wanted to know. He was genuinely shocked—maybe even a little hurt—that I’d kept the plot points to myself. “I guess I didn’t think you’d be interested,” I told him truthfully. He is obsessed with soccer and ice hockey, and mine is a story of girls, time travel, and shyness. But it bothered him that I had a story I’d chosen not to mention. From now on, I’ll err on the side of sharing the things I dream up even if they have nothing to do with soccer balls and hockey pucks.
3. Tell your story to yourself—and make sure you tell the right one. If you’re having trouble constructing an honest yet positive life narrative, here is an exercise to help you. Just ask yourself these three things:
- Can you think of an early part of your life when you felt strong and happy? If you had a difficult childhood or other challenges that prevent you from identifying this starting place, try thinking of the time when you were still cradled in the womb.
- What was the challenge, or series of challenges, that came along to threaten your strength and peace?
- Can you find meaning in these challenges? You don’t need a classic happy ending as long as you’ve found meaning. And don’t worry if you’re not there yet. Just think of the outcome you’d like to see one day. And remember the words of mythologist Joseph Campbell: “Where you stumble is where your treasure lies.”
Want to share your story? I’d love to hear them!
These quick, one-time-only exercises can teach us about ourselves and what we want—and how we can tell our story. The bonus? You might just end up with a book.
By Leigh Newman
1. Your 3-Sentence Life Story
What to write: Try to summarize your life in two or three sentences. Take your time. Think about your past. “But mostly think about who you are today and how you got that way,” says Roberta Temes, PhD, psychologist and author of How to Write a Memoir in 30 Days. “Maybe you want to focus on a certain relationship, maybe a certain theme. or maybe a feeling that has persisted for years.”
Consider these examples before putting pen to paper:
Loving mom who worked all the time, no dad. Never really got over lonely childhood.
Love my life, love my dog, love my kids. No room for a guy.
Finally sober. Exhausting journey. Many regrets.
Beautiful, close family. And then the accident.
Fears and phobias finally overcome, thanks to husband. Still not sure if I deserve him.
Why it helps: First off, if you want to write a memoir, this three-sentence description will form the structure of your book. In effect, it’s a supershort story of your life—a beginning, a middle and the now, if you will. Even if you have zero impulse to write another word, however, the exercise can show you how you view yourself, your past and your present, all of which can inform your future. Unless, of course, you change the narrative—a privilege granted to any writer.
2. Your Crucial Incident (or Incidents)
What to write: Choose one or more of the sentences below and write a page or two that begins with that particular sentence. Don’t worry about bringing up material that you are afraid might be too painful to explore, says Temes. “Please don’t bother with grammar or spelling or punctuation issues. “Just write for yourself and for your clarity of mind.”
Sentence 1: I was just a kid, but.
Sentence 2: I tried my best and.
Sentence 3: In that moment everything changed.
Sentence 4: It was shocking to find out that.
Sentence 5: It was the proudest day of my life. I couldn’t stop smiling when.
Why it helps: Sometimes we avoid the most obvious—and complicated—events that have happened to us, events that inform our whole life story. Let’s say your three-sentence exercise was Loving mom who worked all the time, no dad. Never really got over lonely childhood. Maybe you could try, “I was just a kid but. ” or “I tried my best but. ” Was there something else that happened that prevented you from getting over your lonely childhood? Did it happen when you were a child—or later? Did it involve parents? You don’t have to know the answers to these questions. Let the pre-written prompts guide you. “Don’t think and write,” says Temes. “Just write.”
3) Your Secret Why
What to write: Take a minute to think about the previous two exercises. Then, please finish this sentence; I’d like to really understand everything that led me to _______________.
Here are some examples (it’s okay to add an additional sentence or two):
I’d like to really understand everything that led me to marry Blake. He was so wrong for me and I don’t want to make another mistake.
I’d like to really understand everything that led me to choose architecture as my life’s work. Did it have to do with the way we lived when I was growing up?
I’d like to really understand everything that led me to become such a good mom, considering I had no role model.
I’d like to really understand everything that led me to never get along with my step-mother. Now that she’s gone I realize what a good person she was and how she tried to have a relationship with me.
Why it helps: There’s no need to do the actual examination and investigation now. Instead, just focus on identifying what it is you might delve into someday—in a memoir or in the pages of a journal or just in your mind. What truth is important for you to get at? You have a structure (your three sentences), you have a crucial event (that may have caused or contributed to that life story) and now you have a purpose—a reason for writing that will let you learn, enjoy and even be surprised by the story you’ve been waiting to tell yourself and—maybe, just maybe, the world, as well.
Roberta Temes, PhD, is the author of How to Write a Memoir in 30 Days, which includes other exercises like these.
The strength in storytelling
Posted November 27, 2012
One of the reasons I began blogging is because I had a story to tell, one I intended to live out loud, on a public stage, recording along the way the journey of how I had lost my mojo and how I would get it back. Making this one decision to tell my story transformed my life forever.
Since then, I’ve been telling my story while inviting other bloggers in the Owning Pink community to tell theirs and inviting readers to share their stories in the comments and on the Owning Pink forum.
I was also given the chance to tell my story when my friend Christine Bronstein, founder of A Band Of Wives, invited me to contribute to a book she was compiling called Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God, a book of personal revelations told by 51 women who hold nothing back. (You can read my review of the book here).
If you’ve been longing to tell your story, feeling like you’ve got a song in you that’s yet unsung, Christine and I have good news for you! Because Christine so believes in the healing power of telling your story and sharing it with the world, she has created an opportunity I’m so solidly behind that I agreed to help spread the word.
The My Story Project
If you’re interested in being one of the storytelling voices in Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God and having your story published alongside many other fearless women unapologetically telling their stories, I invite you to participate in My Story, a customized version of Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection, where you (or if you’re a guy, the women in your life) can go online at nothingbutthetruth.com and enter your own story (up to 2,000 words) and art, and your story will become the last chapter of a customized version of the book. (Woot! Check that off your bucket list. You’ll be a published author!)
The My Story project gives you an opportunity to flex your voice, have your story witnessed, see yourself in print, and create a book with your own story of positive female connection in a book with other awesome female authors.
Because telling your story—while being witnessed with loving attention by others who care—may be the most powerful medicine on earth. Each us is a constantly unfolding narrative, a hero in a novel no one else can write. And yet so many of us leave our stories untold, our songs unsung—and when this happens, we wind up feeling lonely, listless, out of touch with our life’s purpose, plagued with a chronic sense that something is out of alignment. We may even wind up feeling unworthy, unloved, or sick.
Every time you tell your story and someone else who cares bears witness to it, you turn off the body’s stress responses, flipping off toxic stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine and flipping on relaxation responses that release healing hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, nitric oxide, and endorphins. Not only does this turn on the body’s innate self-repair mechanisms and function as preventative medicine—or treatment if you’re sick. It also relaxes your nervous system and helps heal your mind of depression, anxiety, fear, anger, and feelings of disconnection.
You Are Not Alone
If I could sum up everything I’ve learned from over four years of blogging, it would boil down to one thing—you are not alone.
So many of us are tormented by the insane idea that we’re separate, disconnected beings suffering all by our little lonesome selves. I say this from experience. That’s exactly how I felt when I started blogging, as if I was the only one in the whole wide world who had lost her mojo and longed to get it back. Then I started telling my story—and voila! Millions of people showed to tell me they had lost their mojo too—or even more inspiring, that they had once lost theirs and since gotten it back.
How had they gotten their mojo back? By telling their story.
The Power of Storytelling
When we tell our stories and others bear witness, the notion that we are disconnected beings suffering alone dissolves under the weight of evidence that this whole concept is merely an illusion and that millions of others are suffering just like us. They say misery loves company, and it’s true! The minute you discover that someone else is suffering just like you—or even better, that they’re celebrating their wholeness just like you—that sense of disconnection eases and you start to glimpse the truth—that we are beings of vibrating energy, connected on the energy internet through processes like quantum entanglement, with overlapping consciousness that connects us to a divine Source and to the Inner Pilot Light of every being on this planet (and perhaps others.)
The Power of Vulnerability
In order to benefit fully from the healing medicine of telling your story, you must resist holding anything back. You must strip off your masks, be unapologetically you, ditch worrying about what “everybody” is going to think, and let your glorious freak flag fly. Otherwise, your story becomes a watered down, milk toast version of who you are.
As Brené Brown teaches in her TEDx talk The Power Of Vulnerability, the gateway to intimacy is via being vulnerable about your imperfections. If you try to sugar coat your story, you miss out on the sense of connection with another human being that you can only attain when you’re letting someone see your warts and your big ugly tail. Every time you expose those imperfections—and someone loves you in spite of—even because of—those imperfections, you gain trust (or as Brené calls it, you “put marbles in the jar”). Over time, the intimacy you feel with other people depends on how many marbles are in your jar.
You Ready To Tell Your Story?
We all have within us a story to tell, a song yet unsung. Is it time for you to tell your story? Click here to get started .
Or tell us your story here in the comments.
Where you stumble is where your treasure lies.
Posted May 11, 2011
When you look back at your life, do you assemble the events, and your reactions to them, into a cohesive narrative? Is it a cheerful tale, or a wistful one, or are you living an adventure story with hairpin plot twists and an unguessable ending?
At the Foley Center for the Study of Lives at Northwestern University, a psychologist named Dan McAdams studies the stories people tell about themselves. We all write our life stories as if we were novelists, McAdams believes, with beginnings, conflicts, turning points, and endings. And the way we characterize our past setbacks profoundly influences how satisfied we are with our current lives. Unhappy people tend to see setbacks as contaminants that ruined an otherwise good thing (“I was never the same after my wife left me”) while generative adults see them as blessings in disguise (“The divorce was the most painful thing that ever happened to me, but I’m so much happier with my new wife.”)
Those who live the most fully realized lives — giving back to their families, societies, and ultimately themselves — tend to find meaning in their obstacles. In a sense, McAdams has breathed new life into one of the great insights of Western mythology: that where we stumble is where our treasure lies. (The jewel lies between the dragon’s teeth, the golden key lays buried in the tangled thicket — that kind of thing.)
I’ve thought a lot about this idea in terms of my relationship to public speaking (which I’ve written about a lot, for example, in this post about the body’s Stop and Go systems, and my Year of Speaking Dangerously.) I would love to be the kind of person who assumes the spotlight without a second thought. I would love not to have endured the sleepless nights and abject horror that I’ve suffered too often in the days and hours before giving a talk. Yet I sense that there is meaning to be made from this shyness.
Where have you stumbled? Did you make something meaningful of it? If not, it might be worth revisiting.
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For earlier posts on the Power of Introverts, please visit my website here.
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Why Tell Your Life Story?
Why tell your life story? There are many reasons. Telling your life story, the biography or autobiography of your life is something you should really do.
So, again, why tell your life story? I can think of two very important reasons .
First there is the need to find the real meaning life has for you. This journey we are all on is a varied one, for sure, but there are some similar things we are all going through.
Each of us, in our search for meaning in life, has a vast amount of experience to draw upon. Our struggles and hardship, along with our achievements and blessings, teach us life’s lessons. Your experience, your strength and the hope that endures are part of your unique story — and part of the reason why you should tell your life story.
The second primary reason to tell your life story is to leave your mark. This is what we call your legacy . We all want to be remembered. Certainly we want to be remembered for the good we’ve done and for the significant accomplishments in our lives. There is satisfaction in a life well-lived. Living a life fully. richly experiencing what it means to be alive and involved in helping others is a great thing. To share with others who you are, what you are about and what you believe in is passing on some very valuable personal history.
This story is of great value.
The process of telling your life story will help you identify the core values and beliefs you hold. Sharing it will pass on valuable lessons to others.
The benefit of that should be apparent. Children, spouses, relatives, friends, coworkers, and even complete strangers all love to learn more about other people. We thirst for this knowledge. It helps us, because we find out that all people have a story to tell that can enrich our own lives. We revel in the triumphs. We grow in our struggles. Sharing our difficulties is part of why you tell your true life story.
What story will you tell?
The most common forms of life stories are biographies and autobiographies. A biography is your story as told by someone else. The autobiography means you are writing it. Both are records of life events, memories, thoughts and lessons learned. It is the experiences and observations of them that make each story unique.
This typically encompasses one’s entire life and is full of memories from childhood through later stages. It usually flows chronologically.
You can also write a memoir. Your memoir is a collection of values, recollections and stories about your life and may cover just certain aspects or times of your life or your entire life to date. However, memoirs are not as focused on a historical recap or your life chronology.
Instead of concentrating on your entire life, you might want to consider focusing on a particular period or event. Many military personnel desire to record their experiences, especially those who’ve served overseas or in conflicts. People who’ve been through the hardship of disease and addiction have found that experience to be tremendously profound, especially when they’ve recovered against incredible odds. They have a powerful testimony to share. Same goes for times of achievement in athletics, work or adventure.
The personal journey to faith in God can be especially rewarding to write and to share. Your spiritual or special life experience story is often a life changing event and can be the basis of a powerful personal history (see more about this option).
How you will tell your life story includes a choice of format and the decision of whether to involve others. Writing is a difficult challenge for many, although it is easier than feared. Most people don’t do it enough to get past those fears. Having some tools that will assist in writing your life story can be very helpful.
There is the process of journaling and various types of journals that can keep you going. Memory-inducing books and methods can also be of great help. There are even games you can play that will help you mine your past.
Once you’ve decided on what type of life story you are going to do the next step will be How you will tell it.
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Selling true life stories for adaptation as a Made-For-TV-Movie, Drama Series, Docuseries, or Reality TV Series.
Life is stranger than fiction, and often more entertaining. Many times we’ve seen the feature film, television movie, or even dramatic series based on a persons true life story. In television we’re familiar with the biographical made-for-tv-movies that virtually every network produces. These stories can span genres from an against-all-odds miracle story that takes place in a small town with otherwise regular folk as the hero, or an epic mini-series that brings new insight to a popular historical figure we all thought we knew. Any of these examples of dramatized life stories can be adaptations of best-selling biographies. But for the purposes of understanding this genre as it relates to selling a person’s life story to the Hollywood television industry, it is necessary to focus on the marketing of a persons life experiences/ profession/ or specific event that they believe would translate into an intriguing television project.
Before discussing the narrative aspect of adapting a person’s life story for sale, it is important to understand the legalities involved so that you can be sure you have the right to sell yours or another person’s life story rights.
If you are telling the story of your life, or a period in your life, you have the right to negotiate for sell your experiences as they are substantiated by your own record or common knowledge of others. If you are selling the life experiences of another person for adaptation as a film, you will need to have an “option” agreement with that person. In it’s most basic form, for the purposes of simply being able to find a buyer (producer or production company) an option agreement can be outlined in a simple deal memo. You should be given “Exclusive Right” to sell that person’s life story rights to any third party producer, company or distributor for the purposes of developing and producing a televised or theatrical production to be publicly aired and released. More specific details of partnership and participation should be resolved between yourself and the person whose life story rights you are selling before you ever approach any third party. You do not want to get a buyer interested and not be able to legally deliver the product you are pitching. If you would like more specific advice or information regarding industry standards for this issue or any other partnership agreements for selling a project, we recommend consulting an entertainment attorney.
So lets assume you are selling yours or a friends amazing life story to be optioned by a production company, and you are now piecing together a treatment or synopsis for presentation. There are three key elements that are very important to any development executive or producer considering your project; the story, the key character, and the commercial viability of the project:
Event or Story : There are always moments or dramatic events in our lives that are so incredible one could think “this should be a movie!”. However, one event does not make a dramatic story unto itself, and many times a dramatic story does not suit well for a televised or filmed adaptation. However, such specific events can become the focal point by which a larger dramatic story is told that a producer or network may take an interest in. How has that event changed someone’s life? What led to the event or events, and what new course were the people or persons involved set on? What is the point of social relevance within this story? What does the main character overcome or accomplish that brings redemption or irony to their life? As you will always see, it is never just about an event. It’s always about the person.
Identify the protagonist (Hero, or main character) from whose point of view the story is told. This is perhaps the most important choice when adapting a story to be dramatized. It may not always be the most obvious or centralized character when first looking at the story that is being covered, but it should be the most unique. And it is that person’s story arc that we will witness as the movie unfolds.
What makes a unique protagonist?: People love inspirational stories of the underdog who survives against all odds. It more often gives the viewer something to relate to and root for. It is an example of a choice in Protagonist that brings an emotional experience to the audience.
When exploring the development of a unique protagonist or main character in your story, there are some very important choices to make when illustrating this person within a screenplay, and more importantly, when giving limited information in a three to seven page treatment that you will submit to producers. If you look at all the great character-driven pieces you will see that what is explored in each protagonist is not just the obvious, but sometimes the opposite. In a hero, don’t just focus on the great qualities, but find his weaknesses and downfalls. This gives him a human quality. Conversely, in a main character who is primarily bad or of criminal persuasion, find his qualities that are good and explore his struggle within his poor choice making in life. This helps an audience care or sympathize with someone whose agenda may be clearly bad, but brings truth to the story by “humanizing it”. Nothing is black and white. To bring a three dimensional illustration to any main character of a story, one needs to approach that character with no assumptions and ready to discover all sides of the person and what makes them tick.
Commercial Viability: An important aspect of any dramatized story is that audiences love stories that are based on true events. The important thing for any writer or producer to understand in trying to sell a true life story for adaptation is knowing or discovering what issue or subject within the story has social relevance at this time. These “issues” of social relevance can be anything, eg. How a family copes with a son or daughter fighting a war, same sex couples fighting for adoption, or an athlete who overcomes certain death by cancer and survives to come back and win the most grueling athletic event in the world. All of these stories have issues that impact society heavily or in a unique way. If you believe that your personal story, or the story of a person whose life you are writing into a treatment for adaptation could have the same impact of relevance it is important to find that key issue and point of view that an audience will be enthralled by. The audience wants an emotional experience that they can relate to on some level. Find that message in your story and you may garner the attention of producers who want to develop it into a movie or series.