The lives of other people have always intrigued others and this is why biographies are made. More often, it is about famous people or historical figures but there are also biographies created for the less well-known that have made a significant impact or have lived an incredible life worth telling. If you are planning to write one, here are helpful tips on how to write a biography.
What is a Biography? Definition and Purpose
A biography is a detailed account of another person’s life story. It is written in third-person and consists of basic information, like the place of birth and education, as well as major events that influenced the subject’s life, accomplishments, and notable life events.
Biographies are written to share another person’s life with an audience. An author chooses to write a biography due to his interest, lack of information on the subject, or to update existing biographies with more accurate or new facts.
Biographies highlight achievements so it serves as a story that can inspire and encourage while there are also other biographical texts that act as cautionary tales since they emphasize negative life events.
How to Write a Biography: Tips to Writing Biographical Texts
Writing a biography is knowing more than just the basic facts. It should feature interesting information, notable achievements, major life events, and turning points. Writing a good biography means being able to cover and sum up the subject’s entire life story in an engaging way and giving out enough personal details that allow the reader to know the subject more.
Here are some necessary steps and tips on how to write a biography.
Tip #1: Choose your subject wisely
A biography is not an easy text to write. There are tons of reading, research, and writing that need to be done. It requires sustained writing from the author and this is the main reason why it is important to choose the subject wisely. You must be interested and invested enough to write about your subject.
Aside from personal feelings, it is also important to consider the interests of the readers. Before fully committing to one subject, ask yourself if they’ve lived a life that others would be interested to know and read about.
In addition, there should also be sufficient information available. You can’t write a good biography if you are missing out on important life events because there are no sources or data around.
Tip #2: Get permission
Unless your subject is a public figure or a deceased person, always seek permission to write about their life. If your subject is willing to be interviewed and biographied, this makes the research and writing process easier as they can firsthand provide important details on their life.
Tip #3: Research (and more research)
Extensive research is necessary in order to know your subject more and in order to create a more detailed picture of their life. If they are a historical figure, include a timeline of the period they’ve lived in and how certain events from that era impacted their life.
For this, you have two different sources. Primary sources are firsthand data of your subjects and contain the most reliable information. These include journal entries, emails, interviews, memoirs, and information that the subject has personally provided like their website, Twitter bio, and social media account and posts.
Secondary sources are also great references, especially if they’ve been proven accurate. These are information that can be found in magazines and documentaries.
Tip #4: Make a timeline
Biographies usually contain a timeline of the subject’s life and main points are structured in chronological order. Before writing, neatly jot down these key events and when they happened to make the writing and organizing easier later on.
Tip #5: Use flashbacks
You may chance upon a situation of your subject’s adult life where you can relate to an event when they were younger. Use this opportunity to insert a flashback, allowing you to fill in relevant past information to the readers without tiring them out with another bout of paragraphs.
Tip #6: Include your thoughts
The author or the biographer can also include their feelings, opinions, and thoughts about their subject’s life. Thoughts include why the biographer had the need to write about this person, what are their achievements that have impacted society, and how they influenced a whole generation. Being able to express your feelings about these matters will support why you have decided to research and write about this particular figure.