Six Degrees of Separation: How we’re all connected

The idea of six degrees of separation, also known as the six handshakes rule, suggests that anyone on the planet can be linked to anyone else in just six steps. Through this chain of connections, you can be linked to the Queen, Leonardo Dicaprio or even a Somalian sheep herder. 

According to the theory, every person in the world knows around 100 people through being friends, family, acquaintances or co-workers. As each person also knows 100 others, the number of people connected in just the second link of the chain increases to 10,000. By the sixth link of the chain, you could connect 1,000,000,000,000 people (one trillion) people – a number that far exceeds the total population of the planet.  

History 

In the 1960s, psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment to research how closely connected people can be without realising it. He sent a letter to 160 people in Nebraska with one stockbroker’s name and address, and asked each person to write their name on the letter and send it on to someone who might get that letter one step closer to the stockbroker in Boston.   

Each person added their name then forwarded the letter on until it reached its final destination, showing Milgram that it only took five or six people to link one person to another. This created the concept of six degrees of separation. 

Connectors 

Furthermore, through this experiment Milgram found out that half of the letters that were given to the stockbroker were delivered by the same three people. Although the experiment proved the six degrees of separation theory, it also showed how a small group of individuals are connected to a disproportionately large number of people.  

These people are called connectors: individuals that seem to know everyone and are extremely sociable. They have an ability to connect with a large number of friends but also acquaintances, with different social circles and communities.  

Your Connections, Your Story 

With the technology of social media and the Internet, it’s not only easier to be able to visualise these links but also the ability to stay in contact with your friends and family. 

When writing your autobiography, you can consider your own individual unique group of at least 100 people you know. This theory puts fate into perspective: how amazing it is to link with people through family, friends or acquaintances so that they become part of your life, and of your story. 

The use of images is an important aspect of autobiographies, helping to paint the picture of particular periods of your life as well as aiding with preparation and memory recall. Our previous blog outlines the main starting points when preparing an autobiography, two of which are to identify a clear core concept and to pinpoint significant memories.  

Photographs can help with both aspects, as many of the pictures that have been kept over time are likely to signify important milestone in your life. Generationally, before smartphones, that was the way to share memories and the best way to display your life in highlights. Events like weddings, graduations, family holidays, new births and new homes are all great examples of photographs that are widely displayed and act as visual cues for important memories.  

According to Psychology Today, photographs can strengthen memories and relationships, but in some cases can replace memories, as the image of the photograph dominates over the actual experience.  

We also touched on this in another previous blog, delving into memory itself and how memory works. Just as certain tastes and smells can immediately recall memories from your childhood, for example, and visual cues can do the same.  

Preparing to tell your story 

Gathering as many photographs as possible is a great way to display your story in chronological order and piece together those significant core memories that will be the basis for your autobiography. This process will allow for a deeper understanding of that period of your life and the feelings you experienced, making for an accurate account of what happened.  

Physical documents can also be used to accompany your story. Scanning things like letters, postcards etc. is commonly used in autobiography and something we would definitely recommend. 

Tips on choosing images  

Our storytelling team will ensure that the images you choose help paint the picture of your life while going through the preparation stages of this process. Here are some things to consider when choosing images to accompany your story:  

Does this image match the scope of my book?

Think about how the significance of that highlight in regards to the chronology of your story. You may find ten or more childhood photographs, but if that only comprises a small percentage of what is being written, it’s better to choose one or two.  

Similarly, you may find old concert tickets that have been kept as keepsakes. Choose the concert that had the most significance and include that one.  

Does the image show personality?

Choose images that display people’s personalities and quirks. This adds to the reality of the story and images that can be looked back on fondly. Things like people pulling funny faces, or proudly showcasing their favourite team’s kit, or holding a treasured stuffed toy, are ideal examples of how an image can provide personality to your story.  

Don’t be deterred by a low-quality photo

If the image perfectly portrays a moment, but is damaged or low-quality, don’t be deterred by this. It’s more about what’s in the photo that matters.  

Low-quality scanned images can be improved upon using correction tools on your scanner or photo-editing tools like Photoshop. Severely damaged photographs can also be digitally restored for a small fee.  

We will recommend the best images from your collection, ensuring that your finished book is written to the highest quality and looks the part.  

Don’t forget about historical documents – postcards, letters etc.

Utilising various documents can add context for the readers and immerses them in the world being portrayed by your story, adding visual interest and emotional impact.  

Documents you could consider include:  

  • Letters, postcards, invitations 
  • Tickets from special events or concerts 
  • Travel tickets, documents or passports  
  • Handwritten recipes, ration cards, green stamps 
  • Newspaper clippings 
  • Report cards or childhood drawings 
  • Certificates 
  • Diary entries or other handwriting samples 

All of the above will have a story attached to them, so use your imagination! 

Our storytelling process not only focuses on what happened, but how that had an impact on your life and the significance of it. Our team will be on hand to guide you through the whole process, including choosing images and where to place them within the book.  

Start your storytelling journey by getting in touch today: https://www.mystorytold.co.uk/contact/  

Presenting your life story in a way that will intrigue readers to continue on with your book is one of the biggest challenges when writing an autobiography. Here we take a look at things to avoid, and how our writing experts at My Story Told can help you with your storytelling journey.

No planning

Extensive planning is important when telling your story as it means that you leave no stone unturned, include the best details and it allows you to chronologically piece together how your story will unfold.

Outlining your story using a timeline is recommended for autobiographical writing as it involves real events. Collating the best events in chronological order will give readers a better understanding of where the story is going.

At My Story Told, we will undertake interviews to take the hassle of planning away from you and ensure that you are including the most suitable details. Take a look at our blog on planning an autobiography, which identifies how to approach your preparations.

Overdoing the family history

Unless the details are vital to your story, keep your family history concise and relevant. A common mistake is to overdo the background elements of your story, so briefly outlining this section of your life is key so you can concentrate on the narrative elements of your story.

Libel

Though your autobiography is from your own perspective, you have to be careful about mentioning others whether that is previous employers, partners or friends. Your book must not be used as a platform to insult or embarrass anyone.

Poor writing quality

This mistake can be avoided by choosing My Story Told for your autobiography. This ensures that you will have great quality writing that you can be proud to share with family, friends and colleagues. With over 20 years of journalistic experience under our belts, our writers have covered a plethora of topics.

At My Story Told, we’re eager to learn about your story and share it with family, friends and colleagues. Whether you want to share your expertise or a life-changing event, get in touch so we can help you preserve your legacy for generations to come.

We have already covered the autobiography sub-genre as a whole in our blog ‘Planning an autobiography: tips on getting started’, where we differentiate between autobiographies and biographies and outline the preparation taken when in the planning stage.

But the differentiation does not end there. There are actually 6 types of autobiography that you can choose depending upon the central approach and theme of the book. The 6 types of autobiography include:

Full autobiography

A full autobiography usually revolves around a complete life story, the whole journey from birth to the present day. Authors will use this form of writing to give insight into their lives, allow readers to experience the “real you” and give inside, exclusive information.

An example of this is My Booky Book by Russell Brand.

Memoir

Memoirs are differentiated from full autobiographies due to the fact that they focus on a specific place or time, and are written from the first-person point of view. This type is limited in comparison, due to the focused nature of the writing.

A renowned memoir from recent years is Becoming by Michelle Obama, detailing her life up to the point where she became the First Lady of the United States. This memoir also made it into our list of ‘6 timeless autobiographies worth reading’.

Personal essay

Similarly to memoirs, personal essays also focus on a specific lesson of importance from the writer’s life experiences. Also written in first-person perspective, personal essays are not a long form of writing in most cases and follow a typical essay five paragraph format seen in academic essays.

A famous example of a personal essay is Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell. Published in 1936, this essay documents Orwell’s time working as a policeman in Burma where he once was instructed to shoot a rampaging elephant. The essay is described by Buzzfeed as ‘a condemnation of imperialism – and his own selfish desire to not be implicated by it’.

Confession

Confessional writing, whether real or fictitious, reveals often intimate and hidden details of the subject’s life. The earliest recorded example of the genre was Confessions of St. Augustine (c. AD 400).

Psychological illness

Many autobiographies highlight the hardship that the subject has endured in order to present a contrast to their success, but will often have airbrushed details in order to maintain the image of the subject. Conversely, some autobiographies detailing psychological illness do not pull any punches and are brutally honest due to the subject matter.

Overcoming adversity

A popular topic for autobiographies, overcoming adversity stories are shared to inspire others in similar situations who can relate to the struggle. They say truth is stranger than fiction and some adversity stories seem abnormal to be reality.

Readers enjoy stories of adversity, which is why this autobiographical approach is so popular and successful. An example of a story involving adversity is the 1965 book The Autobiography of Malcom X.

Religious/Spiritual

Religious stories consist of a compilation of experiences showing the subject’s connection to God. Typically, this type of writing will show the contrast between the subject’s life before and after their spiritual salvation and how finding God has helped them improve their life.

The current spiritual leader of Buddhism, the Dalai Lama’s book My Spiritual Journey is a great example for those looking for books on this topic.

My Story Told are happy to help with any of the above autobiographical forms. Your personally selected writer will be there every step of the way to help with planning your book and ensuring the right questions are asked to get the best content. If you’re wondering how it all works, click here for more details.

Autobiographical content has been utilised in TV and film for many years, and a story that originates in reality engages viewers that much more. Many of the most famous autobiographical movies were once penned in written form long before they saw the screen. This type of content is also popular amongst the upper echelon of directors, swapping immersive fictional narratives for real life experiences.

We take a look at 5 famous autobiographies that have since been recreated on the big screen.

127 Hours

The autobiography, Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston, was released in 2004 following a mountain climbing accident in 2003 where Ralston found himself trapped in Utah’s Bluejohn Canyon for five days. It follows Ralston through both past experiences and his entrapment in alternating chapters.

Inc. Magazine called Between a Rock and a Hard Place one of seven ‘great entrepreneurship books that have nothing to do with business’. The book encapsulates determination and fearlessness perfectly, and such a rare occurrence was captivating for filmmaker Danny Boyle to reimagine on screen.

The 2010 movie version of this book generated a lot of media hype not least due to it being directed by renowned director Boyle and starring James Franco. It was nominated for six Academy Awards including: Best Picture and Best Actor.

The Pianist

This memoir was written by Polish-Jewish pianist and composer, Wladyslaw Szpilman. Szpilman grew up in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II, and the story highlights his struggles through this extremely difficult time.

The English version is titled The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945, and the story was later reincarnated into the movie, The Pianist in 2002 and like 127 Hours, was also reimagined by a renowned director – Roman Polanski.

Arguably Polanski’s best release, The Pianist was awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and three Academy Awards (Best Actor, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay), two years after Szpilman’s death.

Donnie Brasco

A crime story for the ages, Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia is an extraordinary tale lived by former FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone. Pistone was an undercover agent tasked with infiltrating a theft ring run by the Mafia.

The book was released in 1988 and following the sensitivity of his work, Pistone’s life history was wiped by the FBI in order to retain anonymity and establish a secret identity. The operation it depicts lasted several years and led to more than 200 indictments and 100 convictions of mafia members.

The 1997 movie, Donnie Brasco starred Hollywood royalty, Al Pacino and Johnny Depp and was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

The Wolf of Wall Street

The life story of Jordan Belfort is known worldwide for his exploits in Wall Street. His 2007 tell-all book of the same name outlines his rise to success through stock trading. Belfort’s company would trade penny stocks artificially inflating their prices by spreading misinformation.

Belfort’s success was not without low points, and subsequently ended with his incarceration for securities fraud. The honest delivery of The Wolf of Wall Street puts the reader inside every moment.

The movie was also an immense success, partly due to director Martin Scorsese’s storytelling ability, Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Belfort, and a star-studded cast. The movie was released in 2013, six years after the book’s release and was nominated for five Academy Awards including: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.

Eat Pray Love

Eat Pray Love, a 2006 memoir by American author, Elizabeth Gilbert, chronicles the author’s trip around the world following her divorce. It remained on The New York Times Best Seller list for 187 weeks.

It is a tale of self-discovery, spirituality and individual growth in times of hardship. The movie produced under the same title was released in 2010 and starred Julia Roberts.

Though the book was well received as shown by its dominance in the bestseller lists, the movie saw mixed reviews. The Huffington Post review described the film as ‘ultimately charming and inspirational … though it doesn’t have quite the impact of the book’.

The range of industries, topics and themes that autobiographies can explore are endless. The 5 books above all have different subject matter, so whatever your story is, it’s worth telling! Whether you have had success in the face of adversity or have expertise within a specific industry, there is always a story to tell and at My Story Told, we want to help tell your story in your words.

Get in touch here to start your storytelling journey.

An autobiography is a written account about oneself, narrated by oneself. An autobiography can be written for many reasons but are typically released by people who are well established or recognised in their fields and can also document unique introspective life stories.

Autobiography vs Biography

Biographies on the other hand are life stories written by a third party, and more often than not document the story of historical figures including politicians, entertainers and entrepreneurs.

Though biographical writers have a particular set of skills in order to aptly present the lives of renowned people, autobiographers need expertise in one field: themselves.

Planning an autobiography

If you are considering writing an autobiography or telling your story, My Story Told is the ideal choice to accompany you on your journey. Our expert writers will be there every step of the way to help with developing and writing your story exactly how you envisage it.

Understand your audience

Before planning an autobiography, thoroughly understanding who you are writing the book for. This is important because it will influence the tone, structure and overall approach of the story you are telling. If you are sharing industry expertise, it must be presented in a coherent way for the target audience.

Identify a clear core concept

Some key questions that are important in the planning stages of your autobiography include: what are you looking to get out of the book? Is there a central idea that can shape and unify the narrative of the book?

Familiar core concepts in autobiographical writing include keeping faith in the face of adversity or a rags to riches story; however, identifying a reoccurring trope can help streamline the planning process to include the most suitable stories and memories that align with the vision you have for your story.

Significant Memories

In addition to identifying a clear concept, pinpointing key life moments and weighing up their relevance is another important aspect of the planning process. If you are writing your story for your family, involving them in the planning process can be effective in choosing the best stories to include.

Here are two starting points when thinking about significant memories:

  • Childhood – detailing how your journey started or your formative years can provide contrast to where you are today and how you got there. This will also give the reader some background detail that creates a rounded view of your life.
  • Pivotal moments – significant turning points or moments that played a major role in your journey are what readers are looking for. They are also important in formulating the narrative construct of your story.

Our previous blog entry titled 7 questions you should ask yourself before telling your life story can help with this section of the process.

Be yourself

Your book should be seen as a portal into your life and should be written in your own voice. It is your story after all. Use the language you are most comfortable with,  don’t try to upgrade your writing with a larger vocabulary than you would normally use. Instead, pick the words you would normally use and this will maintain the personal touch of the story.

How My Story Told can help

My Story Told can aid with any of the above considerations when planning your book. Our expert team of writers will be on hand to ask the right questions and get all the juicy details of each story.

Regular catch-up meetings will provide the perfect opportunity to reflect on the memories that have been documented and a chance to fill in any blanks.

Get in touch and start your journey with us today.