Through biographies, we learn about another person’s life.
Whether you’re writing a biography of a famous person, a historical figure, or a powerful family member, it’s critical to understand all of the qualities that make a biography worthwhile to write and read.
What Is a Biography, Exactly?
A biography is a thorough third-person description of the life story of another person.
It includes fundamental details about the subject’s life, such as their birthplace, education, and hobbies.
A biography may also include details about the subject’s relationships with family members, as well as significant events from their childhood and how they shaped their upbringing.
There are facts and data about a real person’s achievements and life experiences in a biography. There are stories, too, that are told from start to finish.
What Is a Biography’s Purpose?
A biography’s objective is to tell the story of another person’s life to an audience.
An author may decide to write a biography because the subject’s story intrigues them or has elements that are relevant to modern life.
Some authors produce biographies because there is a scarcity of knowledge about a fascinating subject or to provide the public with details that an existing biography may have overlooked.
Biographical stories can be motivating, showing a person’s accomplishments and highlighting how the subject overcame adversity and providing readers with a sense of hope.
Biographies can sometimes act as cautionary stories, alerting readers about the types of people they should avoid.
Biographies: 7 Famous Examples
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton
Martin Gilbert’s Churchill: A Life
Diane Jacobs’ book, Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft, is a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft.
Hans Christian Andersen: A Storyteller’s Life
Jackie Wullschlager contributed to this article.
Robert Caro’s The Power Broker
Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs
How to Write a Biography: 6 Pointers
You need to know more than just the basics to be able to write a person’s life story.
An excellent biography focuses on the most intriguing aspects of a person’s life, such as notable accomplishments, adversity, and important turning points.
The finest biographies are able to capture a subject’s complete life in a fascinating manner while still providing enough personal details to give the reader an intimate glimpse into their biography.
The steps below can help you get started writing a biography:
Once you’ve decided on a biography subject, you’ll need to get their permission to write about their life.
While gaining permission may not be required in some circumstances (for example, if the subject is a public figure or has passed away), it will make the research aspect of your writing process much easier.
If the subject agrees to be biographyed, they may reveal important details about their own life story up front, which will make your writing about them more engaging.
Do your homework.
Regardless of how much you know about your subject, you’ll need to do a lot of research to get a clear image of them.
If they’re a historical person, include details about the time period they lived in and how it influenced the way they lived their lives.
The most dependable sources are primary sources, which are firsthand recollections of your subject’s life.
Journal entries, emails, interviews, and memoirs are examples of this.
Any extra information the subject has provided, such as a personal website, Twitter bio, social media account, or professional bio, can be considered a primary source.
The information can be used if it is proven to be true. Secondary sources, like books or movies, can also be used.
Make a thesis statement.
The first paragraph or chapter of your biography should tell the reader what they will learn about this person from it.
A thesis declares something about the biographee, and the rest of the biography will back it up with evidence.
Make a schedule.
The major events in a person’s life are usually organized in chronological sequence in a biography.
Before you start writing, make sure you know the order of the most important events in your story. This will save you a lot of time and effort later on.
Make use of flashbacks.
You could wish to intercut an incident from your subject’s adult life with one from their high school days while writing the content of your biography.
Flashbacks are a way for the author to communicate important historical information to the reader without having to write long paragraphs of background information.
Include your suggestions.
A biography is more than just a list of facts.
A biographer is free to express their own thoughts and sentiments about their subject’s life.
If the person did something important, the author may explain why they believe it was significant, how the time period affected it, and what it meant for society as a whole.
This will demonstrate why this person is worthy of being written about and will keep the audience reading from the first to the last sentence.
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