Edit: This article was written before we took the LifeStory creation process completely in-house.
Having created five LifeStories for the launch of the LifeStories apps, I thought it would be useful to share my experience with some suggestions for how to create your own LifeStories.
1. Get the right tools. You’re going to need the right tools for the job, so you need to make sure that you have access to an iPad (preferably with a decent amount of available storage), and you’ll need to download the free LifeStories Studio app.
2. Identify your target. Are you going to write autobiographically, or do you have some other subject in mind? You can create as many LifeStories as you like, so the choice of subject is up to you. However, writing a good LifeStory is an investment in time, so it should be something that you’re interested in. The old advice of “Write what you know” and “Know what you write” seems pretty good to me.
3. Identify your audience. Who are you writing the LifeStory for? Something that you create for your own consumption is likely to be very different from what you’d create if you’re going to publish it for a wider audience.
4. Planning is key. It’s very tempting to open the Studio app and start writing Stories. That’s like buying a load of bricks and starting to build a house, and then figuring out what it’s going to look like while you build it. The chances are that what you end up with will not be what you wanted. Spend some time thinking about what you’re going to do before you jump in.
5. Decide on the scope. This mainly translates to the time period you’re going to cover. For example, let’s say you wanted to do a LifeStory of Donald Trump. You could restrict the period you cover to just his presidency, or maybe include his campaign as well. That would be more manageable than if you chose his entire life including the growth of his real estate empire. Do you have enough material for a broad scope, or would you be better being selective?
6. Decide on the level of detail. A LifeStory normally consists of numerous events. You need to decide how much detail you want to apply to each event. This could affect the amount of media you need to accumulate or the amount of text you need to write. Sometimes, less is more. Taking the Trump example again, you could produce something very detailed by identifying individual events and writing stories for each one, or you could just compile a LifeStory based on his twitter feed, writing his story in his own words. It would be much more superficial, but many people would find it more readable.
7. Decide on your perspective. If you’re writing autobiographically, are you going to tell your whole story, warts and all, or are you going to select the parts that you remember most fondly? If you’re struggling with health issues and you’re writing your LifeStory, or if you are a carer doing it for someone, medical advice suggests you stick to the positives. If you’re a fan of a musician or band and you want to write their LifeStory and share it with other fans, you’d be expected to write in a positive light. On the other hand, if we go back to the Trump example, here we’ve got a polarizing figure, so you could choose to write from overtly positive or negative perspectives.
8. Gather your media. If you plan on publishing the LifeStory or just sharing it with friends, you should bear in mind the dangers of breaching copyright. You can’t just grab anything you find on Google and assume that you can use it. That said, if you’re writing your own LifeStory the chances are that you own the copyright to your media, so it’s just a case of selecting what you’re going to use. You may find that you need to digitize photos and videos. You may also have documents that you need to scan as PDFs. In many cases, it is worthwhile recording audio directly into the Studio app that you can then use. Once you’ve gathered your traditional media, turn your attention to your Facebook and Whatsapp activity. Is there anything there that needs to be included? When I wrote my own LifeStory I found a Whatsapp chat that perfectly encapsulated our decision to buy a dog. It made an ideal inclusion.
9. Optimize your videos. Video eats storage space, makes a LifeStory much larger if you want to publish it, and more often than not is unedited. It is well worth the effort to sort out the wheat from the chaff and break your videos down into optimized segments, getting rid of anything tedious. At the same time, you can compress them into a format more suitable for distribution. Most video editing programs have optimized export settings built-in.
10. Decide who are you going to include. The Connections feature in Studio allows you to include people who are related to the subject (by family or otherwise). You have the opportunity to write something about each of these people. There are a number of decisions to be made. The first is who you are going to include as a Connection. You have to decide where to draw the line between who’s in and who’s not. Once you have a list, you have to decide what to say about each one. If you plan on publishing and there’s a chance that the subject will read what you have written, consider their reaction when writing.
11. Create your categories. This applies to Stories and Connections. Categories are a great way of organizing your material into logical folders. You can create as many as you like and be as creative as you want.
12. Switch between Public and Private. Each Story and Connection in Studio has a Private/Public switch. This determines whether the contents of the Story or Connection will appear, or will be marked as hidden. You can write more material for private consumption than you want to release publically, and just ensure that before you choose the Publish option, you go back and switch anything you don’t want seen to Private.