Could you Write a Biography?

Should you Write a Biography?

pages of aged paper with neat, cursive handwriting on the pages

Have you ever been intrigued and inspired by a person – or horrified by reported activities – prompting you to find out more about them? You may well have turned to a biography in order to discover more. As an aspiring writer, have you ever thought of writing a biography yourself? If you are naturally curious, a good researcher and keen to show a great interest in the motives and experiences of a famous person, then as a writer, this may be a writing genre for you to try.

Writing More than Just Facts

old black and white photographs in a box

Although biographies involve writing about a person’s life, it is more helpful to consider them as a collection of writings about life events. What are the most important events in this person’s life? How do these connect with a central theme or purpose?

Here are some facts about an interesting person:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on 27 January 1756 and died on 5 December 1791). Mozart was a classical composer. Born in Salzburg, he composed music from the age of five and went on to perform before European royalty.

There is no doubt that this information is factually correct – but is it interesting? As readers, we would be intrigued to know how Mozart was able to compose music from such an early age – perhaps what influences and encouragement surrounded him at that time, and whether this preoccupation prevented him from enjoying other aspects of his childhood. That could be the skill of the biographer – to bring these facts to life by researching these human qualities.

What Makes a Person Interesting?

glasses over an old book of opened at a page with a map

Consider some essential features of what makes a good biography. First, you would need to think hard about your potential subject, the appeal of this person’s life, and who would be interested.
You could begin with the question: What interests you about this person? Perhaps if you were considering Mozart, you might think that his abilities to compose music at the age of five draws out great interest and many questions.

Your great aunt may be of huge interest to you, but would other people be interested in her accomplishments? The potential market is a key component of your decision to write the biography or not. Other questions to consider is whether there have been biographies already written about this person. If you can bring a new angle to this person’s life, then it is possible that you can write an additional biography, but you will have to spend much time researching, cross-referencing and digging down to the most obscure details about your subject. You also need initially to find out whether there is enough information available in order to write in depth.

Bear in mind that the most interesting questions may not be about what your subject did, but why. What obstacles did he or she face, and how did he or she work through these?




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