Episode 7 : What to talk about – Prompts

by Ian · 1 comment

in Audio, Conversation, Motivation, Podcast, Prompts, Topics

Nine Aspects of Life and the Prompts to Start Your Story!

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Welcome To Episode Seven of Create Your Life Story.

So you want to talk to someone or you want to record yourself, but what are you going to talk about?  Sure it’s a conversation and we have conversations all the time so how hard can it be.  In the shower and driving in the car you think of a constant stream of subjects to talk about.  You remember the time you broke your collar bone or the time Dad came home rolling drunk, the birth of your children and the passing of your parents, your excitement of heading off to university and that stunning holiday in Europe.  Oh, and all those special loves and adventures not to mention the achievements in business and work.

Then you turn on the microphone and recorder and you say… Nothing.  All you have is a void, all of a sudden, those subjects are gone, vaporised… funny that!

Having something to talk about is the single greatest fear and subject that concerns people when it comes to creating a Life Story.  Either it’s “I don’t have anything worth mentioning” or  “I don’t know where to start”.  Either way, here is a start and something to talk about to help you on the way.

Rather than you having an endless list of questions to ask here is a list of prompts to get you thinking.  Read through this list and think of the times, situations and people that pop into your memory.  Carry a notebook and as ideas appear to you write those ideas down to work on later.  Ideas will come to mind as you travel somewhere, hang up the washing or walk to get lunch, any and everywhere.

In the first instance just write down quick notes of the times, people and events that you want to talk or ask about.  These are just memory grabs to remind you for when you get a moment to return.  Then when you have time pull out your notes and flush them out into a more useful form to use when actually recording.

Here are some general ideas of time and situation in the average life to get you started:

S. Shepherd and mother at Archerfield Aerodrome, 1939

I wonder what the story is? 1939 tri-motor from Flickr, State Library of Queensland

Family History

  • Meaning behind name, heritage, culture and country
  • Grandparents and older generation stories, work, times & culture
  • Family traditions current and past


  • Type of birth, where, times
  • Name choice
  • Health and first memories
  • Stories passed on from parents and siblings


  • Where, times, culture, climate
  • Toys, games and playing
  • Celebrations, birthdays, Christmas and gatherings
  • Hobbies, activities, chores, clubs and groups
  • Good and bad times
  • School, education, talents and skills
  • Illnesses, hospital, dentist and accidents
  • Parents and Grandparents
  • Changes form today for children


Enjoying the sunshine on the deck of the cruise ship Orion,   Brisbane

Enjoying the sunshine on the deck of the cruise ship Orion from Flickr State Library of Queensland

  • Friends and social groups
  • School, activities, social, academic
  • Work at home, volunteering, paid
  • Family and other holidays trips
  • Relationships with parents, siblings, relatives and friends

Early Adulthood

  • Additional education or training
  • Work, people, friends and skills
  • Dating, Intimate relationships and love, who, what, where and how
  • Meeting partner, marrying and settling
  • Family life and relationships


  • Children, births, names, personalities, history
  • Career, study, location and skills
  • Home locations, holidays and celebrations
  • Children’s development through years
  • Retirement, travels, hobbies and education
  • Accidents, illnesses, divorce and deaths
  • Friends, hobbies and recreation

    Qantas hangar and biplane at Charleville airport, ca. 1930

    Qantas hangar and biplane at Charleville airport, ca. 1930 from Flickr, State Library of Queensland

  • Good and bad times
  • Relationships with siblings and adult children

Later Years and Reflection

  • Times now, reflections over decades, phases of life
  • Spouse, friendships and relationships
  • Gratitudes and regrets
  • Turning points, accomplishments and significant events
  • Children, great/grandchildren, family, friends and community
  • Career and work
  • Home life
  • Legacy, heritage and advice for others

Religion and beliefs

  • Significance, place in life and understanding
  • Family and personal opinions

Additional Questions

  • Grand adventures
  • Military service, why, when and where
  • Interesting places, opinions, people or cultures
  • Missed items

Everyone has a different list of specific life experiences to talk about.  Reference to this list then consider what are the specific situations that you remember or want to ask about.  From each of these ideas will spring to mind the specific situations that you can write down and any additionally provoking ideas to add to the list.  Keep building the list as you think of items either while you are in front of it considering all options or while you are busy with your life doing other activities.  This is the importance of caring a notebook to jot ideas down when you think of something new.

Once you have your list of specific situations but before you start the recorder these ideas need to be converted into a more useful form as we discussed in the last podcast, Episode 6.  These are the conversational prompts that are used in the actual recording process and are designed to lead into the response that will be the recorded Life Story.

Turn the question, person or subject into a leading question to provokes a response, then create a response to answers that question as a statement.  This is all outlined with an example in the previous episode.  Now you have a chain of events that has evolved from:

  • a general idea
  • to a specific time/situation/place in life
  • to a question of that time/situation/place
  • to a statement in response to the question

…which provokes the start of a story that cascades into follow-on events.  If these guides are followed we are now having a conversation about the richness of someone’s life not requiring another prompt as laid out here until the story has run it’s course.  Then we just reach for another prompt to take us onto the next subject and so conversation carries on.

There is no need to finish gathering the long list before you start recording, as a matter of fact starting to record will help add to the list of prompts and the sooner you start the better as mentioned earlier.


  1. Read through the list of prompt subjects
  2. Carry a notebook to write new ideas that come up away from the main list
  3. Write down specific situations, people and events that come to mind
  4. Generate conversational prompts to lead into the conversation from your specific situations
  5. Start recording

What stories are you discovering that you had never thought of before you started on this project?  Please share with us what you have discovered in the comments below even if you come along much later after this post is published.

Record or Write, Your or My Life Story Biography

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