Retelling lives: Narrative style and stability of highly emotional events over time.

Narrative forms are a tool for organizing lived experience, reflecting both the structure of the experience in the world, and the individual’s reactions to that experience; Labov (1972) termed these as referential and evaluative dimensions. We investigated how four individuals narratively structure their stories across these formal narrative components in their high- and low-point narratives in relation to stability of life story event selection. Two participants showed a consistent, referentially elaborated and/or evaluatively dramatic narrative style, and also narrated the same culturally canonically scripted events over time. In contrast, two participants displayed less referentially elaborate, evaluative narrative styles which were specifically less consistent in the low-point narratives, and each narrated different high and low points over time. We posit that individual and cultural differences in the stability of the content of life stories might be related to the consistency of narrative style used for the life story. We discuss the possible roles of conventionality of life courses, canonicity of life stories, individualistic versus communal outlook, and rehearsal of a stock of life story anecdotes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)