I am looking for the appropriate word for a kind of narrative that covers a large time period in someone's life, or is a summary of their entire life. A desired sentence would be as such:

"That song is written in the style of ____ , so you will know what happens to the character towards the end."

All I can think of is to include the word "life", such as "life narrative" or "life chronicle" but this doesn't seem to capture what I want.

  • 6
    You mean biography?
    – user66974
    Jun 26 '15 at 17:13
  • biography or memoir would be my choice here.
    – Jason M
    Jun 26 '15 at 17:32
  • 1
    Consider combining any of: [auto]biography, narrative, fiction, journal, memoir, diary; e.g.: "fictional biography", "fictional narrative autobiography", "narrative diary"... Jun 26 '15 at 18:39



1 A long story of heroic achievement, especially a medieval prose narrative in Old Norse or Old Icelandic:
a figure straight out of a Viking saga

2 A long, involved story, account, or series of incidents:
launching into the saga of her engagement

That song is the saga of his life.

  • Gotta love the battle forming around this little word: +4 -3 = 1. Comments welcome :-)
    – ScotM
    Jun 26 '15 at 23:35
  • 1
    +1 I like saga well enough, but I can see why others might reject it. Saga fits the request of the title well, and the general notion of the question, but it doesn't fit the particular example sentence of the OP.
    – Good A.M.
    Jun 26 '15 at 23:56

memoir is very close in meaning to biography, but it does include the sense of a biographical sketch covering an event or period, rather than an entire life.



  1. a biography or biographical sketch.
  • Ah, yes. Memoir seems to fit pretty well here. Thanks.
    – NDubonix
    Jun 26 '15 at 17:40

Life diary may fit in your context:

  • A book in which one keeps a daily record of events and experiences.(ODO)
  • The song is written in the style of a life diary.

Biography or auto-biography may also work:

  • An account of someone’s life written by someone else. (ODO)
  • Biography is close but it might have the connotation that it details the entire life, whereas I'm more interested in describing the narrative of a few events, which take place years apart. Thanks for the response!
    – NDubonix
    Jun 26 '15 at 17:34

You might want to consider Bildungsroman, which doesn't necessarily describe the character's entire life, but at least covers the development from youth to adulthhood, the time when the most is learned (hence the meaning in German of "novel of education/formation").


A term from psychology could be adapted for this. A longitudinal study is a research study in which "researchers conduct several observations of the same subjects over a period of time, sometimes lasting many years" (Institute for Work and Health). The Wikipedia page on the subject says that these studies may even last "many decades."

You could co-opt this term to refer to a longitudinal song, a longitudinal narrative, etc. However, I'm not sure how well known the original term is among those without some knowledge of psychology; it certainly hasn't reached the "pop culture" level of, say, Pavlov's dog or Oedipus complex.


Maybe a bit melodramatic but a ballad is a song that tells a story.


: a slow popular song that is typically about love

: a kind of poem or song that tells a story (such as a story about a famous person from history)

Reference: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ballad

  • Lay is an old-fashioned synonym.
    – Bookeater
    Jun 26 '15 at 18:27

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