Guide: How to Write a Good Biography
Writing someone’s biography is always an interesting and challenging task that gives you a chance to feel like Sherlock Holmes, since writing a biography implies thorough research, digging through sources, and interviewing different people about a person whose life you are interested in. Although it might seem that a bio is a rather boring type of writing and/or research, in fact it is an exciting opportunity to turn a person’s life into a thrilling and realistic novel entirely based on real events.
There are several things that you should consider before starting to do research for a biography.
- A biography is not necessarily written about some famous person or celebrity; you can write a biography of any person you like, including your parents, friends, and so on.
- In relation to the previous point, you must keep in mind that it is unethical to collect information on other people without them being aware of it. So, before you even start the research, inform the person you are interested in about your intentions, and receive his or her agreement (we recommend you to receive this agreement in written form).
- You might also want to use nicknames instead of real names, so that the privacy of your characters will remain intact. Also, consider avoiding describing any distinctive features of characters’ appearances, so that it would be impossible for strangers to recognize them. However, if your person of interest is not against fully disclosing his or her personality and life circumstances, you can avoid these limitations.
- You must talk to every new person you include in your biography in order to receive his or her agreement to be written about. Writing a biography often implies dealing with sensitive and private information, so you should not treat this aspect light-mindedly.
- You should also update the person you are researching about your progress and further intentions.
Now that you are aware of the main aspects you should be aware of, it is time to start writing a biography.
- Get to know the general information on the object of your interest. Learn about this person’s occupations, hobbies, personality, and so on, so that you know in which direction to move, or which aspect of this person’s life you would like to stress on the most. This will allow you to create a general outline for your future biography.
- Interview the person you are going to write about. This is the most crucial part of writing a biography. During the interview, use a tape recorder to be sure that you do not miss anything crucial. Before interviewing, divide your outline into logical blocks: for example, a block about childhood, a block about career, and so on. Create a more detailed outline or plan for each of the blocks. You might need several interviews to cover all the points of your outline.
- Research literature and the Web on the person you are interested in. If this person is famous, you will definitely find something worth your attention in media; if you are writing about your friend who has yet to become famous, try browsing their social media pages: you might discover a lot of interesting things and generic details.
- Ask this person’s friends, relatives, acquaintances, and so on, about the personality of the person you are writing about. Always mention for which purpose you are gathering this information, and inform your interviewees that the “main character” of your story is aware of your intentions and actions.
- Write everything down and sort it out carefully immediately; do not rely on your memory, and do not postpone sorting out materials. The sooner you organize data, the better.
- After all the information is collected, start writing the book. Start with creating an overall plan of chapters; after you finish it, create more specific outlines for each of the chapters. Allocate the collected data between chapters, and organize it within each chapter as well (this is where you will need properly recorded and sorted information).
- Write the first draft of the book. At this point, your task is to present all the information correctly and accurately. After you finish the first draft, ask your interviewee to revise it and provide feedback.
- After you receive comments, write the second draft; this time, you should pay attention to your style and grammar.
- After you finish the second draft, proofread the biography and make final corrections. This is it: your book is finished!
Unfortunately, when you are writing a biography about someone like Copernicus or Einstein, you have no chance to talk to these people directly. But, even adjusted to this circumstance, the writing procedure remains the same.
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