Biographies are not just about business but also about sharing insights on life, work, and success. Here is a complete guide on how to write a biography.
The skill of writing biography was initiated in ancient times as a subsection of recording history. Still, the independent genre of biography began emerging in the 18th century and took the present form around the 20th century.
The fact is that throughout the history of humankind, the lives of the famous have always fascinated us. Whether it is a celebrity, an influential political figure, a humanitarian, or a drug lord —-all that goes in the lives of prominent individuals captivates many of us.
While most biographies are about well-known people who have some influence on the public, sometimes the subject is not famous. But in some way or another, the person has led a life worth reading about and in many ways that may inspire others. Biographies are open to emotions and interpretation but have no place for fantasies and idealism. Only actual facts matter and that is why it is essential to know the process of how to write a biography.
What is a biography?
The word biography is derived from a Greek word that means ‘life description.’ But it’s important to note that a biography is more than a simple narration of life events as that would make it a timeline. The biography does more than tell a story; it focuses on events and experiences while analyzing the personality of the subject. It weighs the impact the subject was managed to create, the value they brought to the lives of people around them, and the value they can get to the readers’ lives.
In the simplest terms, a biography is a detailed description or a complete overview of an individual’s life. It not only involves the basic facts like education, work, career, relationships, and death; it is a thorough portrayal of the person’s experience through these areas of life. You might confuse it as a resume, but there’s a massive difference between them.
While a biography shares the person’s life story and highlights the different aspects of their life, the resume simply outlines the experience and accomplishments of the individual. The bio, on the other hand, provides intimate and personal details which allow the reader to analyze the personality of the subject and understand the intricate details of their life.
Biographical work is mostly non-fiction and is based on truthful facts. However, fiction may also be used to portray certain aspects of a person’s life.
The written style adopted is a third-person account that contains the basic information about the life of the individual. Usually, authorized biography is written with complete cooperation and permission of the person, or if the person is dead, then his heirs are actively involved. Biographies that are written but the subjects themselves are commonly called autobiographies. In contrast, biographies are simply written about a specific person’s life. It is common for famous figures such as athletes, inventors, celebrities, and politicians to have biographies that provide the factual stories of their lives.
What is the purpose of a biography?
The actual purpose of a detailed life story called a biography is not to note down or collect life events and facts around them. The primary purpose is to share the life of an important individual with the audience for some reason. An author may choose to write a biography of a person because they might find their story incredibly interesting or believe that it might garner the interest of the audience and teach them sometimes. Authors also write biographies to provide information about a subject.
These biographical stories are often empowering and inspire readers with a different perspective on life. They not just highlight significant accomplishments of individuals but also provide a detailed review of the struggle and pain that they went through and overcame to be able to rise high. Such biographies are a great way to give readers a sense of encouragement. Sometimes, biographies also serve as cautionary stories filled with warnings.
Features of a biography
Biographies have specific features that distinguish them from other forms of writing. However, these are written in many different ways; these features are shared commonly. If you are wondering how to write a biography, it is important to note some salient features that help you do it the right way.
Good biographies have certain characteristics and are based on authenticity. The objective of detailed narration must be a common good and avoid stereotypes. The function of these narratives is to give a complete account of an individual’s life and should be narrated as actual facts. Care must be taken to determine all facts and events shared are based on truth.
Biographies should also present details of birth, family, education, and overall personality of the person in order to enable the reader to understand his story in a better manner. However, they must not simply narrate events in the life of an individual, making it seem like a timeline.
Thus it is important that all information provided by the biography must be factual and based on truth. It should be accurate, and any alteration must be pointed out to allow the subject to withhold the right to privacy but also enable the reader to know what information is not accurate.
Biographies also commonly explore the personal life of the individual, which includes family situations, early childhood details, and any important events that influenced them. Apart from family events, these tales also explore relevant cultural, political, and other aspects which may have influenced the subject or shaped his life in some manner. Biographies should preferably be written in the present tense.
How to write a biography?
Perhaps you are looking to become a published author, or maybe you wish to compile a biography essay. You might have a professional bio waiting to be completed. Whatever the case is, if you are looking to learn how to write a biography, then you are in the right place. But before you begin reading further, you must ascertain one thing: that writing a biography is not an easy task and requires a lot of care.
Before you pick that pen, it is best to understand that as you begin, you will be writing about someone’s most prized and valued possession- their entire life. Being honest about the craft requires you to understand this before you begin to write a biography.
Once you understand this, you can follow this detailed step-by-step process of how to write a biography.
1. Select the subject
First of all, in order to write a biography, you need to have a subject. Select the subject and determine the necessary details about them. Are they alive or dead? Gather to examine the significant life events, details of relationships, and the kind of impact the subject had on others around him. It is important to note whether the person you are opting for is interesting enough? Do they have inspiring life content that will motivate and impact readers positively? So who can you select as a subject for your biography? Here are some standard selections
● Biography of celebrities
Famous individuals, celebrities, and stars are usually the ideals of thousands and millions of people, making them an interesting selection. If you are, however, selecting a famous celebrity to write about, it is important that you make it stand out from other biographies.
● Biography of an unknown person
If you look around sometimes, you can find an ordinary person with an extraordinary story that can inspire people. This is a great way to explore your subject options. However, when writing the biography of an unknown person, it is important to focus on aspects that will connect with the readers. It might be tough to sell a biography of an unknown person, but if the story is compelling, then it’s on you how you are able to convince people to read about an unknown entity.
● Biography of a dead person
When you are writing the biography of a dead person, you obviously will not have access to their personal views and voice, which makes this a tricky affair. But you can work with their heirs, family, and friends who were with them during the important life events. If possible, you can access personal writings like diaries or journals to get a more accurate view of the subject’s outlook on life.
Instead of writing the biography of some other person when you write your personal story, that is referred to as an autobiography. The steps for writing an autobiography and biography are similar.
2. Get permission to write the biography of the chosen subject.
Once you have selected the subject, it is important to get their permission. If the person is dead, you can gain it from his family. Despite the permit’s importance, plenty of unauthorized biographies have been written about people, especially celebrities. The fact is that a biography that is authorized and based on the subject’s actual conversations with the writer is far more interesting and real than others that are based on the information available in the public domain. As you publish a biography, it is important to ensure that whatever you write isn’t true or hurts someone’s reputation. That would be viewed as slander, and you definitely don’t want to start a legal battle over your biography.
3. Research and study the life of the subject
Once you have been granted permission, the next thing is to research and study the subject’s life in every way possible. Whether it takes you to interview others, go through old newspapers, or published content – do it. That’s the only way to come up with honest and compelling content.
Primary sources that include personal writings and other first-hand information like legal documents, audio, and video recording are quite resourceful and helpful in crafting the biography with all the right information. Primary sources have minimal chance of falsehood so try to base your biography on these as much as possible.
You can also use secondary sources like a review or documentary based on the subject but make sure that you evaluate the credibility of the maker.
4. Choose the format for your biography
Like any good story, crafting the biography with the right format is key to touching readers’ hearts. Since a biography is a nonfiction account of someone’s life, it can get dull and simply seem like a narration of personal events. What makes it interesting is the writer’s ability to develop a theme within these life events. That theme may be about the subject’s resilience or powerful mindset. It could be about his undying passion for something. Whatever it is, keep the narrative interesting and pre-decide the format for your biography.
There are many different types of biographies that are based on different formats. Some are written as children’s books, while others are novels. So make your choice according to the subject and their story.
5. Create an outline of the story and the first draft
Outlines help you include all the important details in the story, which makes it an essential part of storytelling. When you are writing a biography, it is very important to create one; determine the main point and outline how each section of the story will support it. Once you have the outlines of each chapter and know the theme, you will build the story around and create your first draft of the biography.
It is important to present the subject in an interesting yet accurate way. Make sure all relevant details are included and stick to the theme that you have selected. Remember, you are narrating someone’s life, so do it carefully and tactfully. Biographies are known to shape the hearts and souls of the reader, so understand the gravity of the content you are about to create. And make sure you enjoy it while doing it.
6. Edit your biography
Once the first draft is complete, just like any other form of writing, editing takes over. Make sure you stick to the basic principles of writing a biography and have portrayed the subject most naturally and authentically. Also, evaluate from reading your own work whether it is worthy of creating an impact on the lives of the readers. If yes, you are good to go ahead with some editing and, finally, make the final draft.
How to write a biography book?
If you are looking to write the story of a person’s book and compile a book on it, you need a lot more than the basic facts. You must wonder what comprises a good biography?
Well, it’s simple. A good biography consists of everything interesting about a person’s life, like achievements, low moments, and major life events that shaped them as a person. Such narratives encapsulate the person’s life in such a way that it not just engages the audience but compels them to read further and motivates them. Such a biography also consists of important lessons that change the lives of the readers too.
If you want to know how to write a biography book, the drill is the same; choose the subject and get their permission, do your research and then write something that captivates the readers. While biography is required to be based on facts, you can always share your feelings and opinions as a writer.
How to write a biography for kids?
Biography writing is a common activity in school, be it elementary or secondary. Kids can learn a great deal about researching, writing reports, and expressing their ideas through biography writing. It allows the creative juices of young children to flow, which is why primary schools encourage biography writing and include it in curriculums. Biography writing helps students to learn core practical skills such as using factual information and structuring into text, along with the skill of writing in a compelling manner.
Biography writing is also a great way to introduce young minds to important and famous people like historical figures. It introduces them to concepts of other domains like history and science through biographies and makes informational texts accessible to them in a fun and innovative manner. Students can also work on writing biographies of their ideals, and the entire process of research and outlining the structure of the text can help them practice writing and improving it.
How to write a biography essay about yourself?
When you write a biography essay about yourself, that is called an autobiography. Such forms of writing provide a unique view into the personal lives of people, and these accounts are treated as valuable information. It is true that writing about yourself may feel awkward for some, but life requires you to do so numerous times. When you are applying for job applications and research grants, you are required to do it.
Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can get famous, which requires you to write one too. So when such an opportunity arises, and people wish to know about you and what shaped you as the enigma you are, you will need to pen down your story. And who can do it better than yourself? As you are the one who went through each and every experience and knew how it made you feel, you are the best person to write your own biography.
But sometimes, a biography requires a lot more than that. It also requires you to view your life in a third person and critically analyze it without any personal biases. So better be cautious of that and don’t flatter yourself too much.
The process for writing your own biography essay is the same as writing it for someone else. You do your research, look through your life and shreds of evidence, and interview people around to make sure they remember things you might have forgotten. In the end, written content that is based on pieces of evidence and proof makes the best biographies.
Sample of biography about myself
Are you struggling to write your own biography? That is called an autobiography, as the subject is the writer. Such books are based on life stories that depict one’s struggles and successes. If you are looking for a sample biography about yourself, these popular autobiographies can give you unique ideas and enhance your perspectives.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai almost died when she was shot by a Taliban member in the year 2012. A mere school girl, life’s turned upside down, and she rose as a new face of activism—- fighting for the right of girl’s education. The Pakistani girl co-founded the Malala Fund and also received the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest recipient of the award. Her story depicts a traumatic event that shaped the rest of her life. Here is an excerpt from the autobiography;
“I told myself, Malala, you have already faced death. This is your second life. Don’t be afraid – if you are afraid, you can’t move forward.”
Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was a revolutionary leader and the first black head of state of South Africa. His story of the fight against apartheid and racial oppression is full of meaningful details. His autobiography depicts his life from early childhood and throughout the decades of suffering in prison. The book was released the same year he made history by becoming the black president of South Africa.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
A biography is a complete account of someone’s life that is written by someone else. There is a genre that is known as a fictional biography, but some are also nonfictional. The biography provides a detailed account of someone’s life from the earliest days of childhood till the present day or death. It is not a listing of the basic details of their life like hobbies, work, education, relationships, and death but paints a picture of the individual’s life and runs it like a film of words. It is a lot more personal and emotional than other forms of writing. So show extra care and caution while writing a biography; after all, you are writing about a very precious thing —- someone’s life.