Breathe Life Into Your Life Story: How to Write a Story People Will Want to Read


Breathe Life into Your Life Story is an essential read for anyone who aspires to write a life story—but not just any story, one your family and others will actually WANT to read.

Written for both novices and experienced writers, this book presents techniques used by novelists to immerse readers into their fictional world—techniques like “showing” rather than just “telling”; creating interesting, believable characters and settings; writing at the gut level; alternating scene...

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Breathe Life into Your Life Story is an essential read for anyone who aspires to write a life story—but not just any story, one your family and others will actually WANT to read.

Written for both novices and experienced writers, this book presents techniques used by novelists to immerse readers into their fictional world—techniques like “showing” rather than just “telling”; creating interesting, believable characters and settings; writing at the gut level; alternating scene and narrative; beginning with a bang; generating tension, and more.

Excerpts from memoirs written by such pros as Maya Angelou, Frank McCourt, Russell Baker, and many others illustrate how best-selling authors have used these methods to hook their readers. Dozens of “Learn by Doing” exercises help readers practice and acquire the skills necessary to breathe life into their own stories.

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What People Are Saying

Barbara Renick
"From a distance, writing looks easy. I know from personal experience it is not. The Thurstons' fun and useful guide to writing a personal history is full of sensible help and upbeat advice. The quotes alone make entertaining reading; but even more, each chapter is loaded with essential guidelines and good ideas, supported by apt examples. The book helps you bring your life into focus to write an engaging story."--(Barbara Renick, professional genealogist and nationally known lecturer; author of Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family's History and Heritage.)
Richard Bushman
"This is a powerful book as well as a kindly one. The Thurstons know the pain of learning to write well and are right beside you through the struggle. They may shake you up a little with their concrete, practical recommendations, but if you stick with them they will make you a better writer. You will learn if only by paying attention to their own fluid style. They show as well as tell."--(Richard Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus, Columbia University; recipient of the Bancroft Prize for From Puritan to Yankee: Character and Social Order in Connecticut, 1690)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560850946
  • Publisher: Signature Books, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/1/2007
  • Pages: 218
  • Sales rank: 1,261,832
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

 Dawn Thurston, a graduate of UCLA, teaches writing at Santiago Canyon College in Orange, California.

Morris Thurston, a graduate of BYU and Harvard Law School, is a retired senior partner in the law firm of Latham & Watkins. He is currently a volume editor for the Joseph Smith Papers Project and an adjunct professor at BYU Law School. His biography of a great-great-grandfather, Tora Thurston: The History of a Norwegian Pioneer, won the Dallas Genealogical Society’s biography award.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent guide to get newbies off the fence and start writing.

    The Thurstons clearly articulate how to use fiction-writing techniques to write a compelling life story. Their approach empowers would-be life writers to do it now.

    On their students: "Few begin the writing process knowing which stories they will end up telling, what themes will merge, what form it will take."

    On would-be memoir writers: "Most are everyday people writing about everyday experiences. The problem isn't the content of their stories; it's the way they tell them."

    On writing: "It's obvious to most people that they can't learn to play the piano or master an athletic skill simply by reading a book about it. The same principle applies to writing. We learn by doing."

    On recalling conversations: "Most memoirs contain conversations [and incidents] the author can't possibly remember verbatim unless someone recorded them. We understand this, trusting the author has probably done her best to recall the event as honestly as she can."

    Techniques covered include: begin with action, show rather than tell, focus on key events, give your characters (that would be your relatives, friends, colleagues) personalities and behaviors, link your life to historical events, and use conflict and suspense.

    Their learn-by-doing exercises are sure-fire confidence builders to get writers off the fence, listing thirty-nine specific things to resurrect memories and construct stories, thus overcoming excuses for not starting; excuses such as:

    "My life is not worth writing about."

    "I don't know correct grammar and punctuation."

    "People will think I'm arrogant."

    "I've made a lot of mistakes I can't write about."

    To which the authors say: "Ignore the noise in your head. Trust your heart. Get your feet wet." If you follow their plan, you will be energized and satisfied, you will develop new insights, you will have pride in your accomplishments, and at times you won't be able "to get the words onto the page fast enough."

    Writing is a learned skill. It can be a painful struggle. But the Thurstons' practical recommendations, based on years of teaching and observing, mentoring and coaching, writing and publishing, will not only get you started right with a solid foundation, they will keep you going to finish your life story.

    The book is laid out with plenty of white space so you can follow the text comfortably. To reinforce key points, the lessons are punctuated with quotes from well-known writers including E. L. Doctorow, George Bernard Shaw, Tom Clancy, and Alfred Hitchcock.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2007

    A Clever and Lively How-To Book

    The Thurstons have written a clever and lively how-to book with the tasty subtitle ¿How to Write a Story People Will Want to Read.¿ This is harder than you may imagine. Even the most interesting life can be written in a dull, lifeless way. The Thurstons want all of us to know that there are techniques that can be learned, and practiced, in pursuit of a lively, readable story. Much as an exercise instructor teaches his student to breathe and bend, to twist and turn, the authors transform the awesome task of writing into a series of rhetorical exercises. Step by step, they lead the prospective writer through the steps of building a proficiency in telling the story. They detail the pitfalls many writers face, and explain how to move from envisioning your project to bringing it to completion. Each lesson has a ¿Learn by Doing¿ exercise, designed to hone the skills taught and to give the writer the confidence to move on to the next step in the writing. In the margins are quick inspirations and, at times, hilarious observations by writers we know and respect. I will admit I laughed out loud at this impatient bit of doggerel by the rascal George Bernard Shaw: ¿Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine right of articulate speech, that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and the Bible so don¿t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.¿ Aw, come on, George, give me a break. Starting a writing project makes me croon. But, old Shaw has a point. We do share the language of some of the great writers. And, yes, we do have the ¿divine right of articulate speech.¿ But do we have the human ¿ability¿ to write in an articulate and interesting manner? The Thurstons seem to think so. Finally, I must observe that the authors take a holistic approach to writing. They insist, and I agree, that one¿s entire life must go into the project. People who read your life¿s history want to relive that life with you. They want to walk where you walked, even breathe the air you breathed, as much as is possible through the medium of the printed page. The authors are relentless in pushing the aspiring writer into achieving a great victory over the fear and uncertainty that face new writers. ¿Breathe Life into Your Life Story¿ is a great introduction to writing that even experienced authors will find helpful. This book is an excellent place to start. It is highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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