In short, we become a slightly different person, or a slightly different constellation of selves with every story we relate. Our literate selves are re-constituted with each recounting of our own practices and values (Järvinen, 2004).

Scholars offer differing explanations of exactly how such identity transformations are effected. Wortham (2000), for example, focuses on the performance of identity, suggesting that “while telling their stories autobiographical narrators often enact a characteristic type of self, and through such performances they may in part become that type of self” (p. 158).

In such performances of identity, individuals enact agency, in part, through selection: choosing a “story to tell (or not to tell) and details to represent (or not represent),” they describe themselves and others in a certain way and, thus, “reinforce (or ignore) certain characteristics” (p. 158) of their personality or foreground “one particular description, despite other possibilities” (p. 164). Järvinen (2004) agrees, observing that a life history is ”always a selective affair of grouping some elements together into temporal wholes while leaving others out as lacking evidence” (p. 51).

Mary and Kenneth Gergen (1983, 1988) and other scholars (Kerby, 1991) focus on the plotting of autobiographical narratives as a key to their transformative power, suggesting that individuals use the medium of personal stories to compose, or plot, their lives, to order them, and, in doing so, simultaneously, to construct and create them.

The telling of a personal narrative, as Gergen and Gergen (1988) explain, involves people in identifying both a beginning point and a “valued end point” or “goal state” (p. 21) of their stories and then in selecting events that form an inferential trail between these two points; thus, constituting a plot.

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Telling a story about oneself can sometimes transform that self… Sometimes narrators can change who they are, in part, by telling stories about themselves.

(Wortham, 2007, p. 157)