Love, family, work, travel – what will be the theme of your life story?
While the structure of our biographies vary dramatically – some follow a chronological order while others revolve around key events, moments and memories
We usually find that books can be categorised by their central theme: the defining force or moment in an individual’s life around which everything else revolves.
For some, their life at its heart is a love story – or several love stories! Some individuals will have revolved their lives around family, others around business or work. Some will have spent a lifetime looking to achieve the extraordinary – their biographies will detail their achievements and inevitable failures of their adventures and travel.
When it comes to memoirs, themes can be as varied as the people whose lives we document. We find it is worth considering this, before the work starts. Consider what most defines you, what you are most proud of, what drives you, what motto or ethos you live by, which may have helped you through tough times.
Often, establishing your theme at the start can help your personal biography come together and make it easier to write. It can often help unlock thoughts, ideas and memories that help you make sense of your life in a way you might not have before. There is no right or wrong, of course, but here are a few common themes that you might find work for you.
Your ethos, your motto
Having a central ethos or motto that you live your life by is surprisingly common – but where it originates is as varied as the people we work with. For some it is established at an early age by parents or religious figures; for others it is something they establish during formative years through a club such as scouts or even during service in the armed forces. And then some individuals establish their own moral code and mottos during the course of their lives – and even adapt them to suit the times or the particular challenges they face. Whether your motto is ‘Never give up’. ‘Family first’ or ‘Be nice’ – understanding what drives you can be the link and central theme that pulls your personal biography together.
Against all odds
We have all faced challenges in our lives – some more than others. Through history people have survived extraordinary circumstances and come out the other side to thrive. For some, this is the central story and theme of their lives and their biographies will revolve around this fact.
For some, this idea of survival could be very tangible, specific and revolve around a short period of time. Perhaps they survived an accident that changed them – physically or mentally – forever. For others, it will have a very different meaning. Some individuals may have endured years of an abusive relationship or even decades of mental health problems. In such instances, their lives will often revolve around this fact and it becomes and remains central to their life stories.
Family and friends
One of our most common central themes in our biographies is a deep commitment to family and friends. Our friends and family truly define many of us and make us who we are today. Many books will revolve around this as a central theme – we tell the story of how individuals shaped the life of the subject, for better and sometimes worse, and helped them find their place in the world.
Coming of age
Growing up can be confusing and tough and it is no coincidence that coming-of-age stories are so popular in many genres – from Hollywood to best-selling books. A coming-of-age story predominantly focuses on the subject’s younger years and details how they navigated childhood and adolescence – and how those experiences shaped them as an adult. Biographies with this as a theme can be real page-turners, real tear-jerkers but often also offer a real sense of uplift and emotion.
The one constant in the lives of many of our subjects is change – through relationships, jobs, living circumstances. Life is rarely stagnant, and it is how we navigate these constant challenges and change that defines who we are.
A very common theme for a life story is around accepting and managing change; such books examine the resilience and adaptability of people as well as how the right frame of mind when approaching change can make all the difference. Does the theme of change summarise your life? Tell us how you managed that – and what you learned along the way.