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Guide on How to Write a Decent Biography

Writing someone’s biography can be both fun and challenging experience. You may be required to do it for a class or, perhaps, you want to write such a story as a part of your personal project. Whatever the purpose of your essay is, knowing how to approach this task will simplify the whole process making it enjoyable.

What Is a Biography?

Biography is a detailed description of a person’s life. It involves the number of facts from the subject’s life and portrays someone’s personal experience. Its purpose is to highlight the important events and depict their influence on the life of the subject. Biography can be both fictional and non-fictional; it can also include the analysis of the subject’s personality.

Choose the Subject

Like any piece of writing, the biography essay requires preliminary research and preparation. Depending on whether the subject is living or dead, you will need to adjust your approach accordingly. Here are things that need to be considered when you choose who you will write about.

  • Writing about a living person

1. Get permission. There are many biographies available in the public domain, which were not authorized. However, to stay on the safe side, ask a person of your interest whether you can study his/her life and share your discoveries with other people. Otherwise, you might hurt somebody’s feelings and you may set yourself up for a lawsuit.

2. Take advantage of direct communication. If the person passed away several centuries ago, obviously, you will not be able to get first-hand information about his/her life. When the person is alive, you have a great opportunity to get access to as many details as possible. You can learn about the feelings, emotions, and reflections directly from the person who you are going to write about. There is no need to meet your subject in person since you can contact him/her by phone, video calls or by means of the electronic correspondence.

  • Writing about a deceased person

1. You do not need to obtain permission. From the first sight, this may look like the thing that can make your task easier but it’s not always the case. Anyway, you will need to conduct a thorough research since if you publish erroneous biographical details of your subject, you may jeopardize your reputation of a writer. That is to say, if your subject can no longer give you permission to disclose the details of his/her life, it does not mean that you can write unchecked claims or freely reveal private facts from his/her life.

2. Study all available sources. When writing a biography of the person who is no longer alive, you will have to make a thorough research of all related documents including existing biographies. If you have chosen a person who was famous in the past, it is more than likely that the number of sources for you to analyze will be quite high. Books, newspapers, interviews, videos, autobiographies are only some sources that will need to be carefully studied. Be ready to spend a substantial amount of time to create a truthful picture of someone’s life.

General Tips on How to Write a Biography

  • No matter if the person is living or dead, try to visit the places, which are (or were) significant for the subject. Reading what your subject reads, visiting the same events and taking on the same experiences can help you intuitively submerge into the personal world of the subject.
  • If you interview a person, do not rely on your memory only. Write down the material or record your conversation on video. It is also helpful to use a voice recorder on your phone or computer.
  • Decide what you want to emphasize in the first place. Do you want to show an intimate side of a person? Possibly, you would like to demonstrate the determination of the subject by telling about the events when resilience and heroism were displayed. Or do you want to simply list major events one by one? Figuring out a theme of your piece of writing will give you a sense of direction.
  • Double-check everything. No matter if the biography is written as a fiction or not, all the details should be accurate and everything should match. Any deviations will jeopardize your credibility of a writer so accuracy is a must.
  • Create a timeline of a person’s life. This will help you organize the abundance of data that you will use in the biography. It will also help you see more clearly which events influenced a person’s life the most and how they affected his/her personality.