What is the process of composing a compelling biography?

What is the process of composing a compelling biography?

A biography is an “account of a person’s life written by another.” In other words, a writer narrates another person’s life story in a detailed third-person account. The story contains the basic information of the subject’s life, such as their birthplace, education, or academic career, and interests. The writer elaborates or hints on some known or unknown facts about the subject in the biography. 

The prominent purpose of writing a biography is to share the subject’s noteworthy life with the general audience. The author might want to write a biography simply because they find the subject’s account interesting or the subject has some elements that can be applied or related to the contemporary lifestyle. Generally, a writer chooses to write a biography on a subject if there is a lack of information available about an interesting subject or to update the public with facts that need to be mentioned about an existing biography. These stories might be inspiring while highlighting the achievements of the subject, or relaying how the subjects have overcome a particular hardship, etc.

Choose your subject first

In order to start with writing a biography, you must choose your subject first. Note, if the subject is living or dead, so you can get appropriate permission to write on their life story. You’ll have to investigate and verify their major life events, relationships, and their influence on society.

While you are choosing your subject, consider asking some important questions to yourself:

  • Have your subject made any impact or life-changing decision that can encourage or influence others?
  • Do your subject have or lived an interesting enough life to authorize a biography?
  • Would the subject’s life be relatable to the audience, or if the audience could somehow connect with your subject?
  • Is your subject an influential individual in the society, are they already famous or a lesser-known person, who should be brought to the limelight?

Do your research

The ultimate primary source for your research would be your subject. However, they might be living or dead, so the subject might not always be a reliable option to gather facts and details. Besides the subject, there are other forms of primary sources available that you could rely on, such as the subject’s personal writings, any official historical or legal documents, statistical records, photographs, audio or video recordings, etc. Secondary sources can be helpful, but they must be trustworthy that should ensure the accuracy of that information. A secondary source is created at a later stage on the basis of primary sources, which include the review, analysis, or documentaries. However, check the source’s credibility to verify its reliability. 

Fundamental details you must include in a biography:

  • Date and place of the subject’s birth and death
  • Subject’s family background and educational information
  • Their accomplishments throughout life
  • Major life events
  • Their effect or impact on the society and historical significance

Outline the information to tell a story

Once you have gathered all the intel from your research, start with outlining to determine which facts should be included in the biography. Biography format can be of a different type, e.g., it could be topic-oriented that is narrating each major event of the subject one by one, it could be thematic that ties all the life events of the subject to the story’s central theme, through interviewing the subject or the people around the subject to relay the story in the first-person accounts, or in media res that begins in the middle of the subject’s story and works backward to point out some critical elements then resume a forward-moving account. After deciding on the format, establish the focal point or thesis and outline how every section would convey a part of the story to support the thesis. 

Start with the First Draft

It’s wise to commence the narration with an interesting statement that tells about an intriguing event. If the event is a little-known fact, it would have a high chance of capturing the reader’s curiosity. Avoid starting with the standard facts about the subject, like their date of birth and place. Put your storytelling ability to start a tale of fact about the subject from the first sentence. Make you start compelling and motivating, but keep it relevant to the thesis. Entail your researched facts and details in your outlined flow after creating an impressive beginning. 

The concluding paragraph should summarize the main points and proclaim the main thesis of the biography. While re-naming the subject and focal points, make sure it shouldn’t repeat any specific example. 

After you proofread, it’s best to get a second opinion from the subject of other primary sources, so you could make any suggested changes.  Prepare a bibliography and consult with a style guide to do adequate documentation. 

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