Episode 27 : Little Things for Your Story

by Ian

in Podcast, Prompts, Sharing Stories

It’s the little things in your Life Story that we relate to.

Think of some great person and their story. Particularly one of those biographies where you know the back story. How they got to greatness or how the fell from grace. Consider those everyday parts of their story that is behind their greatness. Maybe Lincoln’s humble upbringing on an Illinois farm then studying law from a barrel of books that he bought, the death of his child then that of his great love. Or maybe Gandhi and his childhood marriage at 13 then studying law. It’s the everydayness of the back story that helps us to relate to them, and see them as people. Without these humble stories they might as well be Gods. Instead they are like us and we connect to their story and eventually relate in some way to their greatness.

A life of memories

Every item has a story

Think of the stories that you’ve heard from someone in your family about those everyday things.  It’s the everydayness of those stories that puts so much of their and maybe your life into context. These stories often say more about what a person is really like. So what are the everyday stories?

We relate to the small things

Much of our life when considering prompts for subjects to talk about fit into three general importance groupings of life events:

  • The larger than life rare events of study, business, sport, military, adventure, spiritual, travel etc
  • The important marriages, deaths, births, vacations, study, career and all the things that we all do but are particularly important only to us
  • The insignificant non-events that we don’t even notice but only reflect on once the time has passed

We are all interested in the huge events of a person or even a culture. These are the things that change us and our societies with stories of the individual interwoven amongst the events of a culture. But in amongst these large events it’s the individual stories that we are interested in. These stories could well interest the greater community as they put events into some sort of context by relating to the event through the experiences of an individual.

The events that we all have in common are the the stories that connect us as family but are not relevant to the outside community as each individual family group has their own version of the same stories. How much do you care about someone’s baby photos?(Come on be honest now). A standard wedding story would move into the previous category, for example, if the earth opened up and swallowed the bridal party.

The insignificant non-events is the area of a Life Story that is surprising in that it is a much richer area of stories and context than would be expected. This is where the stories of a forgotten time are hidden and often not considered when building a long list of questions and prompts. We my not consider what is the significance of the clothes that we wore to school or church but if the only time that shoes were worn was to church it says a lot about the lifestyle that someone was brought up in.

Story of a tool

Stories from precious objects

Your Life as an Archaeological Dig

Archaeologists search through all aspects of a societies remains. The obvious is the buildings where a great deal of the important aspect of a society is recorded in the methods of construction, tools, paintings and messages written on the walls.  Or in the graves and tombs where the methods of burial and the trinkets and keepsakes buried with them can reveal a lot of the culture or individual. But everything, even the insignificant things on a person can say something of the times of their life as is the case for Ötzi – The Ice Man.

Stories from the past

Stories of a different time

The richest diggings on a societies everyday circumstances is often found in the rubbish, the trash heaps of cast offs. From marks on bones that identify hunting and butchering practices to bottles of long gone health giving elixirs. These all tell a story if only we take the time to look at them. What are the things from your everyday life that tells the stories of your time.

Look at your life now and compare it to how it was into the past. Compare how your childhood compares to the childhood of children today. Some things worth considering:

  • Schooling and childhood club activities
  • Technology changes, work, home, entertainment and societal
  • Parenting attitudes
  • Celebrations and events. Birthdays, weddings, religious, etc…
  • Sporting
  • Fashion
  • Music

If you’re still struggling to understand go to an antiques or brick-a-brack store and look at the things that people collect that you remember from the past. Old newspapers and magazines have advertisements for what are now your memories.

What's your memory

Remember when it was modern

Developments around you

What has happened with your community and how has it changed

  • How has you city/town changed
  • Farms converted to housing or visa-versa
  • Gentrification
  • Freeways, road development and public transport
  • Industry opening and closing
  • Introduction of electricity, phones or party lines

From these ideas will spring all the memories that lead to the stories of your life with the emotions interwoven amongst them. Sometimes it’s the small things that will bring back the strongest emotions and memories. Just have a look at what you’re about to throw out.

If you’re recording someone else consider all these same topics from their point of view and build enquiring questions based on your curiosity.


  • Look at the brick-a-brack around home
  • Think back over the changes in all aspects of your life
  • Look for items or changes in surrounds of photos
  • What memories, opinions and stories relate to these items
  • Write down notes for creating stories or asking questions

What are the inconsequential things in your life that mean a lot and you could tell a great story about? Let us know in the comments below to inspire others.

This post is just one aspect of creating your Life Story project. To help you with a full overview get the e-Book Recording Life Stories to help you. Just sign up for it in the side bar form.

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Music is from

Jeremy Cohen
“Rose Room” (mp3)
from “Jeremy Cohen: Violin Jazz”
(Violinjazz Recordings)

Buy at Napster
Buy at iTunes Music Store
More On This Album

Kermit Ruffins
“Panama” (mp3)
from “Happy Talk”
(Basin Street)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
More On This Album

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