When you’re writing, what you’re essentially doing is filling in the blanks of a template structure that has already been created. Certain layouts exist that can help you as a writer be able to tell the stories of your life in a meaningful way. With the right format, you can create something amazing that people will want to read.
What is the best autobiography layout? Much of that depends on the type of autobiography that you’re trying to write and the stories you plan to tell. Here are some of the best layout options to consider using.
#1. Chronological Order
This might also be called a “standard layout” for an autobiography. It takes readers from the beginning of your life to where you are at this current moment. You include stories in chronological order as they happened. Start with your birth, go to your childhood, and maybe add in a story or two about what it was like to be in school. Discuss your college experience. Add in your job experience or events that happened to you so you couldn’t work. End with the lessons your stories have taught you, how you have changed because of them, and what readers can learn from that.
#2. The Specific Argument Layout
When you have a specific key point that you want to make with your autobiography, then you’ll want to ask the questions necessary for readers to understand that you’re trying to make a thesis statement immediately. Every story you offer in your autobiography must always be able to tie into the specific argument you’re trying to make to the reader.
To do this, it can be helpful to ask yourself certain questions as you’re working to fill in the blanks of this layout.
- What brought you to the point where this one key point became a life-changing event?
- Were there any experiences that happened to you that hastened your transition from one point to another?
- Are there lessons learned or wisdom to be shared that support your main thesis statement… or is this just an ice-breaker story you’ve told a million times?
#3. The Lessons and Wisdom Layout
This is typically the most popular layout for an autobiography because it is usually the easiest one to write. Instead of one theme that goes throughout the narrative, each story is treated as its own “mini-autobiography.” There are lessons to be learned and wisdom to be shared from each experience.
Many stories in this layout discuss how the writer has been able to grow as a person. Sometimes there might be an inclusion of mentors or other people who had an influence on the writer. It’s important to include the story of your biggest challenge ever faced when using this layout and then how you conquered that challenge because this will provide readers with something they can apply practically in their own lives.
#4. Chasing Your Dreams Layout
What did you want to be when you were growing up? For many, writing isn’t the #1 goal. Kids want to be astronauts, police officers, firefighters, soldiers, doctors… the list goes on and on. If you feel like your wishes came true and you were able to achieve your dreams, then this layout is perfect for you. It allows you to talk about why you first wanted to chase a dream, the goals you set for yourself to achieve that dream, and what it’s like now that you’re living your dream.
This kind of inspirational story attracts a wide range of readers because just about everyone has a dream they want to follow. It might be buried on the back burner of their mental stove, but it’s still there. When they see how you’ve kept the passion alive to keep chasing your dreams, then this autobiography layout will give them the inspiration to give their dreams a higher priority.
#5. My Family Is Important Layout
Sure – everyone feels their family is important. Some families are just involved in important socioeconomic events that shaped the world and others are not. If your family landed on Plymouth Rock, for example, then you might want to follow this autobiography layout.
The challenge to this particular layout is that it is based on facts first, then stories. You’ve got to establish your credentials before you can start telling your family stories. Just because your family has told a story about how Great-Great-Great-Great Grandpa Charlie helped to form one of the first colonies in what would become the US doesn’t mean those stories were true. Verify, verify, verify – no matter what your family might say.